3.3 Child Abuse and Dental Neglect
Documenting and Reporting Suspected Abuse or Neglect
Physical abuse, sexual abuse, and dental neglect can be manifested on
the face or in the mouth.
Oral health professionals should document oral health history, clinical findings, and recommended follow-up in the child’s health record. In most states, oral health professionals are required to report suspected child abuse and/or neglect.
If child abuse and/or neglect are suspected, the first step is for the
oral health professional to decide whether to discuss the suspicion
with the parents. If this decision is made, it is important not to be
judgmental or to make accusations. Rather, the oral health professional
may refer to the legal obligation to report suspected cases of child abuse
and/or neglect. In some cases, the oral health professional may need to
hold a confidential consultation with the child’s primary care health
professional to determine whether a report needs to be made. Case
managers or social services workers can be particularly helpful
in recognizing and managing suspected dental abuse or neglect.
If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, state laws
require that you call your child protective services agency.
Each state is responsible for providing its own definitions of
child abuse and neglect
that meet federal minimum standards found in the Child Abuse
Prevention and Treatment Act. The U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, Administration
for Children and Families' Child Welfare Information Gateway
provides an array of publications related to state civil laws
on child abuse and neglect. See the
state statutes Web page at http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/state/.
Assistance is also available from the Childhelp USA National
Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 422-4453.