e-mail Print Share

Group highlights dental role in reporting abuse

April 11, 2016

By Michelle Manchir

What do you do if a child's parent in your office smells strongly of alcohol? Or if you suspect the young girl brought to your office for veneers could be a victim of trafficking?
These are real scenarios some dentists have faced, said Sue Camardese, a dental hygienist and president of the Mid-Atlantic Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness (P.A.N.D.A.) Coalition, which serves Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

Ms. Camardese

Dr. Mulreany
As president and founder of the coalition, Ms. Camardese has heard many of these types of stories and she works — along with about 50 other volunteers associated with the group — to help dental teams recognize suspected cases of abuse and to report them appropriately.    
It's a topic dental teams ought to consider. Dentists are among the health care workers specifically designated to report suspected child abuse and neglect to authorities in most states.
Understanding the potential importance of the dentist's role in recognizing abuse, Dr. Lynn Mouden, now chief dental officer for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Centers, co-founded P.A.N.D.A. in 1992. Today, some states like Maryland have their own chapters of this program, offering training and workshops for dental teams.
The Mid-Atlantic coalition is among the most active chapters today, Dr. Mouden said. In addition to facilitating CE and holding education workshops related to recognizing and/or preventing abuse and neglect, the group trains trainers who visit other states and communities to educate others.
"If you don't recognize it, you can't report it — that's a piece we really try to highlight in the training," said Dr. Melissa Mulreany, who oversees a healthcare consulting firm in Maryland and is vice president of the Mid-Atlantic P.A.N.D.A. Coalition.
Dentists in many states are also mandatory reporters of intimate partner violence and other forms of neglect and abuse, like human trafficking. Trafficking is an issue that seems to have become a bigger problem for the area the Mid-Atlantic coalition covers, Ms. Camardese said.
In 2015, 5,544 human trafficking cases were reported in the U.S., according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Most involved reports of sex trafficking (as opposed to labor trafficking) and the states with the highest number of cases were California, Texas, Florida, Ohio and New York. Territories that the Mid-Atlantic P.A.N.D.A. covers, Maryland and District of Columbia, were in the top 24 states with the highest reports of trafficking cases.
Dr. Mulreany acknowledged suspected abuse and trafficking are not easy topics to broach. That's why it's so important to be properly trained and become educated on the topic, she said.
"You can make a difference in someone's life because you simply took the time to educate yourself. That's a pretty powerful motivator," she said.
While not every state has active P.A.N.D.A. chapters, Ms. Camardese said she welcomes dental teams to access information and resources from the Mid-Atlantic chapter's website, www.midatlanticpanda.org. The coalition's training sessions are also available online at no cost. This can be accessed on the group's homepage by clicking on "Sonicare" on the bottom right of the page. On that page, click on "Mid-Atlantic P.A.N.D.A Session one and Two."
Ms. Camardese also welcomes questions from groups and states that may want to recharge or begin their own chapter. Email midatlanticpanda@ymail.com for more information.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. For tip sheets and other resources related to child abuse prevention from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, visit www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth.