Apr. 19, 1999 CHICAGO -- General dentists last year identified and reported more signs of child abuse, according to a 1997 American Dental Association (ADA) Survey, than when surveyed by the ADA in 1994.
In the 1997 ADA survey, the number of responding general practitioners indicating they had noticed signs of child abuse rose 20 percent when compared with the number recorded three years earlier.
Topics covered in the "1997 Survey of Current Issues in Dentistry: Dentists' Efforts to Identify and Prevent Child Abuse" report include dentists' formal training in the recognition and prevention of child abuse, percentage of dentists who ever noticed child abuse signs, and actions taken by dentists who detected child abuse.
In 1997, more than two-thirds (68.9 percent) of those dentists who detected signs of child abuse talked to the patient's parent or guardian, a jump of nearly 48 percent compared with less than half (46.7 percent) of the dentists in 1994. The percentage of dentists who reported child-abuse situations to appropriate authorities increased to 73.1 percent in 1997 from 1994's 62.2 percent.
The report also showed that 76.3 percent of dentists made notes in the patients' files and evaluated the patient during the next visit in 1994. However, 1997 data revealed that approximately nine out of ten dentists (89.6 percent) are taking the same action.
Between 1994 and 1997, the report showed the percentage of dentists who reported completion of formal training related to recognizing signs of child abuse increased to 61.8 percent in 1997 from 1994's 47.5 percent.
"Dentists are in an ideal position to help detect signs of child abuse because 65 percent of all physical trauma associated with abuse occurs in the face or neck area," said ADA President S. Timothy Rose, D.D.S. "We are pleased that the ADA resolution passed in 1994, encouraging dental schools and state dental societies to develop programs that help train dentists to detect signs of child abuse, is having an impact. The ADA code of ethics recognizes that dentists have an ethical obligation to become familiar with signs of child abuse and report suspected cases. Our children are our future and they must be protected."
Data in the survey were collected from 2,983 responding dentists in late 1997 and early 1998 from a random sample of 6,300 dentists. Both ADA members and non-members (general practitioners and specialists) were included in the sample, and the final adjusted response rate was 57.2 percent.
For more information about oral health care, go to the ADA's website: http://www.ada.org.
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