Child Abuse Fo

Hearing the silent cry for help: recognizing the signs of child abuse

May 16, 2014
According to Linda Blackiston, RDH, BS, many dental professionals tend to deal with child abuse and neglect with an attitude of denial although they are on the forefront of saving children’s lives.  She provides clues to help dental professionals in recognizing the signs of child abuse.
Dental professionals are on the forefront of saving children’s lives. Recognizing the signs of abuse and neglect can help a child escape a dangerous or fatal situation. Many dental professionals tend to deal with abuse and neglect with an attitude of denial, that it doesn’t happen in their community or dental practice. Most signs of abuse occur in the head and neck area, therefore the dental community is well suited to recognize it.(1) Dentists and dental hygienists are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect in all 50 states. Child abuse happens across all socioeconomic and educational levels. Chipped or cracked teeth, bruises around the ears, finger marks on the neck, a black eye or bruises in different stages of healing are a few of the indicators that a child may have been abused. Any of these occurring repeatedly or in combination may indicate abuse. If you believe you are treating an abused child, whether currently or in the past, call the local authorities or call The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). The Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors. The Hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous and confidential.(2)
It has been shown that the issue of education for healthcare providers is particularly important, as it increases the rates at which clinicians report suspected abuse.The overall findings of research shows, in general, all healthcare professionals have low rates of reporting. However, clinicians with more education on the matter suspect abuse more often.(2) Most physicians receive minimal training when it comes to oral health or the oral cavity, therefore, they may not notice the oral aspects of abuse or neglect. Dental offices may want to consider collaborating with local physicians to increase the detection and prevention of this tragic event.(3)
P.A.N.D.A. (Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness) is a program that was founded in Missouri by Dr. Lynn Mouden.(4) The purpose of this program is to train dental professionals and other healthcare providers on recognizing and responding to cases of abuse and neglect in patients. Philips Oral Healthcare has partnered with Mid-Atlantic P.A.N.D.A. Philips offers two successive one hour continuing educations courses online to educate the dental community on the Philips Learning Center.(5) Philips is an approved AGD/PACE Program Provider. The webinars include information on recognizing child, spouse and elder abuse along with education on recognizing human trafficking. The combination of the two courses will satisfy the continuing education requirement for this topic in many states. Even if you are not required to take the course for licensure, the education received may help you to save a child’s life. The intent of this article is not to completely educate someone on the signs of abuse and neglect, rather, it is meant as an encouragement to seek out education on the subject.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. Children in trouble may be screaming for help; hear their silent cry. Be part of the solution, be aware, report. Please don’t ask "What if I’m wrong," ask "What if I’m right."

* * Editor’s Note: April is National Child Abuse & Prevention Month. However, this issue deserves our attention everyday throughout the year. Kudos Linda!

RELATED | Dental professionals are important allies against child abuse

1. Mouden LD, Bross DC. Legal issues affecting dentistry’s role in preventing child abuse and neglect. J Am Dent Assoc 1995;126:1173-80.
2. Tilden VP, Schmidt T A, Limandri B J, Chiodo G T Garland, M J, and Loveless P A. Factors that influence clinicians' assessment and management of family violence. Am J Public Health. 1994 April; 84(4): 628–633.
3. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect; American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry; American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Council on Clinical Affairs. Guideline on oral and dental aspects of child abuse and neglect. Pediatr Dent. 2008-2009;30(Suppl):86-89.
4. Delta Dental P.A.N.D.A. MidAtlantic P.A.N.D.A.

Internet resources
4. Philips Learning Center.

Linda Blackiston, RDH, BS, is a manager of Professional Education for Philips Oral Healthcare. She volunteers with Mid-Atlantic PANDA (Prevent and Abuse Neglect Through Dental Awareness) providing courses on recognizing and reporting cases of abuse and neglect. Linda serves on The Samaritan Women board of directors; which is a long-term restoration program for victims of human trafficking. She also volunteers educating the community on human trafficking issues.