The Scottish dental practitioner's role in managing child abuse and neglect

Harris, C. M., Welbury, Richard orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-9322-2440 and Cairns, A. M. (2013) The Scottish dental practitioner's role in managing child abuse and neglect. British Dental Journal, 214 (9). E24-E24. ISSN 0007-0610

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Background: In 2005 Cairns et al. published a paper (Int J Paediatr Dent 2005; 15: 310?318) examining the role of the general dental practitioner (GDP) in child protection (CP) in Scotland. This involved a questionnaire sent out to Scottish GDPs in 2003. Subsequently in 2006 all UK dental practices were sent Child protection and the dental team, a manual detailing roles and responsibilities with regard to CP. During this time the profile of CP within dentistry increased. There has been no published research since 2006 investigating whether the gap between the proportion of GDPs who suspect child abuse/neglect in their patients and those who refer cases has changed. Aim: The aim of this research was to investigate whether this gap has changed between 2003 and 2010. Method: A postal questionnaire based on that used by Cairns et al. was sent to 50% of GDPs in Scotland in March 2010. Results: The response rate was 52% (53% male). Some 29% and 55% of respondents had received undergraduate or postgraduate training in child protection respectively. Over two thirds (37%) had suspected child abuse/neglect in one or more of their paediatric patients but only 11% had referred a case. The most common factor affecting the decision to refer was 'lack of certainty of the diagnosis' (74%). Some 77% thought that abused/neglected children had an increased caries increment and 73% of dentists were willing to get involved in detecting neglect. Conclusion: Dentists in Scotland appear to be suspecting and referring more cases of child abuse/neglect than previously. The vast majority are willing to get involved in detecting neglect.

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