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April awareness month highlights dentists' role in reporting child abuse

March 31, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and an apt time for dentists to consider their role in reporting child abuse, neglect and other forms of maltreatment.

In 2015 nationwide, there were a reported 683,000 victims of child abuse and neglect, including 1,670 deaths, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dental professionals in all 50 states are required to be aware of and report instances of child abuse and neglect to the state authority, according to an article published in The Journal of the American Dental Association in 2012. The same laws also protect clinicians in this duty, the article states.

The ADA supports educating dental professionals to recognize abuse and neglect across all age groups and reporting such incidents to the proper authorities as required by state laws, according to House of Delegates Resolution 89H-2014.

Dental professionals can learn more about their role and responsibilities on this matter through an on-demand, no cost online course from the Mid-Atlantic Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness Coalition, which serves Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

Sue Camardese, a dental hygienist and president of the coalition, said dentists are not mandatory reporters of intimate partner violence in most states, but are required to report other forms of neglect and abuse, such as human trafficking: which is also a crime and requires contacting local authorities or the FBI.

The online course addresses these topics. Users can access it by clicking on "Sonicare" on the bottom right corner of www.midatlanticpanda.org and clicking on "Mid-Atlantic P.A.N.D.A. Session One and Two - Complete Course with Assessment Test" halfway down the page. Course participants will have to register with the website at no cost.

Those interested in learning more can also register for an educational program Nov. 17 in Columbia, Maryland, hosted by Mid-Atlantic P.A.N.D.A. It is designed to train dentists, dental hygienists and other professionals to recognize and report or refer suspected cases of abuse and neglect. While this training is designed for those interested in helping train other professionals in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia to recognize abuse, Ms. Camardese said the information will be useful for dental professionals from any state.

Email midatlanticpanda@ymail.com for more information or to register for this program.

For tip sheets and other resources related to child abuse prevention from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, visit the website.