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Abuse and Neglect Signs Dentists Watch For in Children

Complete health may be our long-term goal, but our immediate priority is the patient comfort. We do our best to facilitate a relaxing and non-threatening office environment you’ll want to return to again and again. This includes the implementation of multiple techniques to prevent treatment discomfort and minimize anxiety.

Working as a medical professional comes with numerous trials and tribulations. Among them is the responsibility for protecting the world’s most vulnerable patients. This number includes the elderly and the very young. Both groups are open to exploitation and harm. For this reason, medical professionals are classified as “mandatory reporters.” This classification requires them to report any suspicions they may have of neglect or abuse of these individuals. 

Abuse and Neglect Signs in Children Dentists Watch For

Mandatory reporters aren’t limited to dental providers. The classification includes numerous medical professionals, social workers, and school staff. As a member of this classification, dentists are legally obligated to report any observed abuse or neglect of vulnerable individuals such as children. As they have a vested interest in the health of their patients, most of them would do so anyway. However, as mandatory reporters, they can be fined or penalized for failing to report suspected child abuse. While they are not required to know that abuse is taking place, there are signs they are taught to watch for.

  • Physical Abuse – Other medical providers often miss more common physical abuse signs. This is due to these signs appearing within the oral cavity. While anyone may catch a split lip, Others can easily overlook a cut to the gums, inside the cheek, or fractured tooth. A dentist will notice this kind of damage throughout a standard exam.
  • Sexual Abuse – There aren’t many outward signs of sexual abuse that a dentist can identify. However, there is one, in particular, that might stand out to them. Gonorrhea of the perioral or oral region frequently appears in victims of this kind of abuse. Its most visible symptom is sores that form around these areas.
  • Neglect – One of the prominent indicators of abuse or neglect is poor oral hygiene. Your dentist may notice the presence of advanced gum disease and tooth decay. These signs are even stronger when a child is malnourished, unwashed, or has dirty clothes. Untreated medical conditions are another significant sign that dentists watch for.

Emotional abuse is perhaps, the most challenging form to identify. It generally lacks any physical indicators but can be identified by certain behaviors. Age inappropriate behaviors such as thumb-sucking or temper tantrums are a primary sign. Rocking when under stress or taking responsibility for younger children at a young age are also causes for concern.

Ask Your Dental Provider For More Guidance

As medical providers, your dentist will have plenty of advice to help you identify if someone you love is being neglected or abused. While they cannot report for you, they can help you decide if the signs you see merit your intervention. Another resource you can use is Child Protective Services and child abuse hotlines. These are both great places to learn whether your concerns are founded and what to do in the event they are. Together we can take steps to put an end to the abuse of vulnerable individuals in our communities.