Dentists, as a member of the health profession team, have the opportunity to assist in the prevention and/or reoccurrence of abuse and neglect of children. This needed assistance is categorized and described below:
- Make sure every member of the dental office team is aware of the signs and symptoms of child maltreatment and committed to recognizing and reporting instance of abuse and neglect.
- Dentists, as health professionals, are mandated to report suspected cases of child maltreatment, with immunity granted to voluntary reporters acting in good faith.
- Reports should be made to local protective services or law enforcement agencies, or through the National Child Abuse Hotline, and should include the name, age, and address of the child, the nature and extent of his or her injury, the person believed to be responsible for the abuse or neglect, and any evidence of previous abuse or neglect.
Dentists can be a major force in the secondary and tertiary prevention of dental neglect through the effective education of parents and children who are either at risk or where it has been determined that dental neglect of a child exists.
- Council parents on the importance of good oral hygiene and routine dental care.
- If financial or transportation obstacles exist, provide information to parents about government-sponsored dental care.
The following education or re-education of dental students and dentists, respectively, should be the focus of dental institutions and local and state dental associations:
- Increase exposure of dental students to the issue of child maltreatment in their undergraduate dental curricula.
- Mandate dentists to submit a proof of completion on a child abuse and neglect continuing education course to their respective licensing boards.