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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Dental professionals can learn to recognize, report abuse through PANDA program

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Awareness: Many physical abuse cases involve injuries to the head, neck and mouth, said Dr. Lynn Mouden, founder of the PANDA program.

Washington—National Child Abuse Prevention Month—observed each April—serves as an important reminder for dental professionals that many physical abuse cases involve injuries to the head, neck and mouth, said Dr. Lynn Mouden, director, Office of Oral Health for the Arkansas Department of Health.

Founder of the PANDA program (Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness) and a consultant to the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations, Dr. Mouden has presented more than 350 seminars nationwide since 1995 to help dental professionals recognize and act on suspected cases of child abuse and has been an advocate for child abuse prevention for more than three decades.

PANDA programs in 44 states as well as 14 other countries around the world work to make sure that providers in all areas know the correct reporting procedures and contact numbers for protective services agencies, he said.

“While we continue to see that more than 75 percent of physical abuse involves injuries to the head, neck and mouth, we know that many dental professionals are not trained on recognizing these injuries,” said Dr. Mouden. “Worse yet is that even when abuse or neglect is suspected, the provider may not know what to do. Reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect, as well as elder abuse and neglect, is required of dentists in every state.”

The PANDA program deals with family violence issues, he added.

“Reporting requirements are often different for cases of domestic violence,” said Dr. Mouden. “For that reason, it is just as important for dentists to know the appropriate intervention for adult victims.”

Federal agencies have observed Child Abuse Prevention Month annually since 1983 and there is a wealth of information and materials, including tip sheets and activity calendars, resource guides and more online at www.childwelfare.gov.

According to Childhelp, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect (www.childhelp.org):

  • A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.
  • Almost five children die everyday as a result of child abuse. More than three out of four are under the age of 4.
  • An estimated 60-85 percent of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
  • Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.

To learn more about PANDA or to schedule a seminar, contact Dr. Mouden at lynn.mouden@arkansas.gov, or call 1-501-661-2595.

ADA policy adopted by the House of Delegates in 1996, Abuse and Neglect: ADA Efforts to Educate Dental Professionals in Recognizing and Reporting Abuse and Neglect (1996:683), supports educating dental professionals to recognize abuse and neglect, not only of children, but also “women, elders, people with developmental disabilities, the physically challenged and any other person who might be the object of abuse or neglect, and encourage training programs on how to report such abuse and neglect to the proper authorities as required by state law.”

Recognizing and reporting abuse and neglect is also addressed in the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct. The information can be found in Section 3 of the Code and online at www.ada.org/1381.aspx.