Child Abuse: A Dentist's Guide 2019
You will receive 2 credit(s) of continuing education credit upon successful completion of this course.

A collection of information to assist the dentist to observe and report child abuse.

H. Edward Lyon, DDS

H. Edward Lyon, DDS, served as a member of the oral health practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry after a career as a commissioned officer in the Division of Hospitals of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). He is a graduate of the Indiana University School of Dentistry and completed an advanced general practice residency at the USPHS Hospital in New York City. Most of his professional career has been directing or serving as attending faculty...

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Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, participants should be able to do the following:

  1. be familiar with the federal and state statutes about child abuse, including those that govern the dentist’s obligation to report suspected abuse.
  2. be able to recognize the subtle signs of child abuse.
  3. be aware of what children are more at risk to be abused.
  4. be more familiar with the incidence of abuse.
  5. be knowledgeable in how to document suspected abuse.
  6. be knowledgeable in how to report suspected abuse

Each year millions of children are abused and hundreds of children die from abuse.  Early intervention is the key to breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect of children, and dentists have the opportunity to identify and report suspected cases of child maltreatment.  Most physical trauma associated with abuse occurs in the face or neck area.  Abused patients often continue their dental maintenance appointments in the same dental practice, and it is essential that the dentist and the dental staff recognize subtle signs of abuse.  It is critical to consider the age of the child when evaluating injuries.  The age at which a child can crawl or start to walk will often dictate the type of injuries one would expect to see.  Multiple bruises or abrasions and bruises of varying colors indicate various stages of healing and should raise suspicions, especially when they occur in unusual areas such as the back of the legs.  Inappropriate clothing for the weather conditions should be noted because the clothing may be used to conceal bruises or injuries.  It is important to document signs of abuse, and usually this is done by photographing the abused areas.  Reporting suspicions to proper authorities can protect a child from continued abuse or neglect.  Reporting suspicion of abuse is a call for help, not an accusation.  If there is suspicion and evidence, the dentist is mandated to report the case.



ADA CERP Disclosure: The author of this Continuing Education Activity receives ongoing financial consideration from DrBicuspid.com for preparation of these CE course materials.   Author has disclosed that they do not have any real or perceived conflict of interest in preparing this educational activity, nor does this activity discuss any unlabeled or unapproved drug or device.



  1. Introduction
  2. Statutes
  3. Definitions
  4. Incidence of Abuse and Neglect
  5. Behavioral Results of Child Abuse and Neglect
  6. Risk Factors
  7. Obligation to Report
  8. Signs of Child Abuse
  9. Differential Diagnosis
  10. Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect
  11. Documentation of Abuse
  12. Role of Social Service Agencies, Law Enforcement and Legal Services
    1. Child Protective Services
    2. Law Enforcement
    3. Legal Services

  13. Dental Treatment for Adults who were Victims of Child Abuse
  14. Conclusion
  15. Appendix (list of state agencies)
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  6. Statutes at-a-glance.  National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information.  May 2000.    
  7. Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.  PL104-235, 1992.
  8. Pediatric Dentistry Special Issue: Reference Manual.  American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.  1995.
  9. National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse (NCPCA):  Current trends in child abuse
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    health professionals on family violence. Washington: National Academy Press; 2002.  
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    childhood sexual abuse. JADA 2005; 136:1277-81. 
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Release date: February 6, 2019
Review date: February 1, 2019
Expiration date: February 1, 2022
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