Cleaner teeth and better oral health are the obvious benefits of children making regular dental visits. But when some kids sit in the dentist’s chair, a more troubling problem than cavities may come to light – physical abuse.
The focus of the P.A.N.D.A. (Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness) program is to train dentists to recognize and report suspected cases of abuse or neglect in their young patients. A study in the mid-1990s found that dentists were responsible for identifying less than 1% of all reported suspected child abuse cases.(1) So Delta Dental of Missouri partnered with the Missouri Bureau of Dental Health to found the first P.A.N.D.A coalition, and the program has since grown to include 46 states and seven countries.
“When properly trained to spot signs of child abuse, dentists can be an important ally in identifying potential neglect and preventing further abuse,” said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental Plans Association’s vice president of dental science and policy.
More than 124,000 children were reported as being physically abused in 2012.(2) Studies have indicated that dentists are five times as likely to report suspected abuse if they receive proper training in this area.(3) All states have laws requiring health professionals, including dentists, to report concerns of child abuse and neglect to appropriate authorities.
Injuries to the head, face, and neck account for an estimated 65% of injuries in physically abused children.(4) A check-up gives dentists the unique opportunity to uncover potential signs of abuse. Signs of physical child abuse can include (but are not limited to) unexplained cuts, welts, or bruises, and unusual alertness or anxiety.
Dentists and dental staff members who suspect child abuse or neglect can file a report to both Child Protective Services and local law enforcement officials (depending on the state). Dental professionals who would like more information about the P.A.N.D.A. program can visit http://bit.ly/1dULL3s.
1. Putting Teeth in Public Health. Dr. Lynn Mouden. http://sph.unc.edu/putting-teeth-in-in-public-health/
2. Child Maltreatment 2012. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Administration for Children and Families,
Administration on Children, Youth and Families; Children’s Bureau. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/cm2012.pdf
3. The PANDA Program. Delta Dental of New Jersey. https://www.deltadentalnj.com/company/panda.html
4. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Chapter 3: Diseases and Disorders. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/datastatistics/surgeongeneral/sgr/chap3.htm