Many responsibilities come with being a medical professional. They need to stay up-to-date on their industry’s latest treatments and innovations. Building rapport and trust with their clients is something they spend every day focusing on. They also have the health and welfare of their patients to concern themselves with. This last aspect can include a lot more than many people may expect. One specific element is the requirement to watch out for the abuse of their most vulnerable patients.
How Dentists Watch For Child Abuse Through Oral Health
There is another responsibility that comes with being a medical professional. That responsibility is being classified as a mandatory reporter. Social workers, guidance counselors, and medical professionals from every industry fall into this category, including dentists. Mandatory reporters must communicate suspicion that children or the elderly are being abused or neglected. Dentists are uniquely positioned to identify certain signs that may not be visible to other health professionals. Some of the signs they watch for include:
- Physical Abuse – Physical abuse is often the easiest for anyone to catch. There is typically clear evidence of bruising, busted lips, and other physical signs. However, dentists can identify a few identifiers that may not be visible to other practitioners. These include teeth that have become fractured or broken, splits to the inner cheek, or damage to other soft tissue in the mouth.
- Sexual Abuse – There aren’t many signs of sexual abuse that a dentist may catch. However, there is one that occurs fairly commonly in sexual abuse victims. They’ll watch for the appearance of sores around and inside the mouth. These sores may be indicators of peri-oral and oral gonorrhea.
- Neglect – Neglect can be tricky to identify but often appears in the form of poor oral hygiene. In addition, neglect victims may have dirty clothes and unaddressed medical issues. If the dentist suspects this is due to neglect, they’ll have to file a report.
- Emotional Abuse – Emotional abuse can be the trickiest form of abuse to identify. These individuals don’t have outward physical signs to reveal their suffering. However, there may be behaviors that reveal their plight. These include taking age-inappropriate responsibility for young children or throwing temper tantrums. They may also suck their thumb and nearly panic if they think they’ve done something wrong.
These four indicators rank as the most commonly identified by dentists. It’s important to note that mandatory reporters do not require proof of suspected abuse. They must report any instance where they believe that abuse may be happening. Failure to do so can result in significant fines for these individuals due to their mandatory reporter status.
Get Help If You Suspect Abuse Is Happening
If you believe you may know someone being abused, help is available. You can call child protective services in situations where children are involved. There are also departments responsible for tracking the health and welfare of elderly patients, especially those in care facilities. Don’t let the abuse go unanswered; call and get help today!