According to Child Maltreatment 2014, a report released earlier this year by the Children’s Bureau (Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there was an estimated 702,000 victims of child maltreatment in 2014. To help put that number into perspective, it’s enough kids to pack 10 modern football stadiums. The report also noted that during that same year, state agencies identified an estimated 1,580 children who died as a result of abuse and neglect, which equates to between four and five children a day.
Too many children are suffering in silence. Yet some, like dental professionals, are on the front lines of abuse detection advocating for kids.
Research suggests 65 percent of all physical trauma associated with abuse occurs in the face or neck area. Furthermore, the mouth can be a target for physical abuse. Non-accidental injuries can include burns from scalding hot liquids, fractured or knocked out teeth, bruises on the inner checks or damage under the lip and tongue from food or eating utensils being forced into the child’s mouth. Certain sexually transmitted diseases can also be found in the mouth, signaling sexual abuse.
Dental examinations present the unique opportunity to detect potential signs of physical abuse, as well emotional indicators like unusually high levels of alertness and anxiety. They also have the opportunity to connect with parents and guardians and observe attitudes, behaviors and family interaction. The bi-annual frequency of patient visits also allows dental professionals to recognize patterns and repeated traumas.
In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, take time to learn about child abuse, detection and prevention by visiting https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/.