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Two April webinars address identifying signs of abuse in patients

March 25, 2019

By David Burger

Two upcoming webinars can help dentists learn more about identifying and reporting abuse in patients.

The free one-hour webinars with one hour of continuing education credit are:

  • Recognizing and Reporting Child Maltreatment: Child Abuse, Neglect and Sex Trafficking of Minors, April 10, led by Debra Schilling Wolfe, executive director of the Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice and Research at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Diagnostic Signs of Human Abuse, April 24, led by Dr. Lawrence A. Dobrin, chief forensic odontologist in New York City's Office of the Chief Medical Officer.
Photo of Dr. Dobrin
Dr. Dobrin
The ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention is presenting the webinars in response to House of Delegates Resolution 74H-2018, which called for the ADA to provide CERP-accredited courses about identification and reporting of abuse to ADA member dentists as a free member benefit. It also states "that the appropriate ADA agency be encouraged to draft model regulations for the use by each state regulatory board for the purpose of including continuing education for the identification and reporting of abuse of children, people with disabilities, intimate partners and elders in continuing education requirements courses for ethics."

Ms. Wolfe said she had an overarching message to dentists who participate in her webinar. "Not only are dentists mandated by law to report suspected child abuse, they are afforded an opportunity to help vulnerable children and youth whom they see in their practice," she said.

Although the issue of sex trafficking might seem faraway to dentists, they should be concerned about victims appearing in their offices, Ms. Wolfe said. "Sex trafficking happens more frequently and is more widespread than most of us could imagine," she said. "By learning about signs of sex trafficking and who is at highest risk, dentists and dental office personnel can best be prepared to recognize and respond to red flags in their offices.

Ultimately, dentists and dental team members have an obligation to report abuse, Ms. Wolfe said. "Dentists are mandated to report suspected child abuse in all 50 states," she said. "Each state has a specific procedure for reporting suspected child maltreatment. Dentists should familiarize themselves with the procedure in their particular state so that they know who to contact in the event of needing to make a report. Reports should be made as soon as possible. If a dentist feels that a child is in immediate danger, he or she should contact local law enforcement who are prepared to respond immediately. We all have a moral obligation to keep children safe; mandated reporting laws tell us how to do so."

Dr. Dobrin, an ADA member, said dental professionals are often the first or only point of contact for domestic violence victims in a health care setting. By his count, up to three-fourths of physical abuse involves injuries to the head, face and neck areas, and dental team members may be the most capable of recognizing the signs of abuse.

In his webinar, Dr. Dorbin said, all aspects of abuse will be covered — including that of people with disabilities, intimate partners and elders. But most of the injuries that he sees are due to child abuse and/or neglect. "They can't speak for themselves, so they are vulnerable and easy victims," he said.

Distinguishing between accidental injuries and inflicted injury is vitally important, Dr. Dobrin said, and actual cases and visual examples will be discussed in his webinar to drive home the difference.

"Early intervention is the key," Dr. Dobrin said.

To register for Ms. Wolfe's webinar, visit

To register for Dr. Dobrin's webinar, visit

National Child Abuse Prevention Month is an annual observance in the United States dedicated to raising awareness and preventing child abuse. April is the designated Child Abuse Prevention Month in the U.S.