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Child Maltreatment: The Role of a Dental Professional

Course Number: 599

The Dentist’s Role in Intervention

According to the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Principles of Ethics and Code of Conduct, dentists shall be obliged to become familiar with the signs of abuse and neglect and to report suspected cases to the proper authorities, consistent with state laws. In all 50 states, health care providers (including dentists) are mandated to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect to social services or law enforcement agencies. In order to properly comply with the legal mandate for all health professionals to report suspected cases of child maltreatment, dentists must be cognizant of their responsibilities as outlined by the American Dental Association (ADA).6

These responsibilities include:

  1. To observe and examine any suspicious evidence that can be ascertained in the office.

  2. To record, per legal and court rules, any evidence that may be helpful in the case, including physical evidence and any comments from questioning or interviews.

  3. To treat any dental or orofacial injuries within the treatment expertise of the dentist, referring more extensive treatment needs to a hospital or dental/medical specialist.

  4. To establish/maintain a professional therapeutic relationship with the family.

  5. To become familiar with the perioral signs of child abuse and neglect and to report suspected cases to the proper authorities consistent with state law.