OAK BROOK, Ill. – Cleaner teeth and better oral health are the obvious benefits of children making regular dental visits. But when some kids sit in the dentist’s chair, a more troubling problem than cavities may come to light: physical abuse.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Delta Dental member companies are proud to support their local P.A.N.D.A. programs. The focus of the P.A.N.D.A. (Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness) program is to train dentists to recognize and report suspected cases of abuse or neglect in their young patients. A study in the mid-1990s found that dentists were responsible for identifying less than one percent of all reported suspected child abuse cases.1 So Delta Dental of Missouri partnered with the Missouri Bureau of Dental Health to found the first P.A.N.D.A coalition, and the program has since grown to include 46 states and seven countries.
“When properly trained to spot signs of child abuse, dentists can be an important ally in identifying potential neglect and preventing further abuse,” said Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental Plans Association’s vice president of dental science and policy.
More than 124,000 children were reported as being physically abused in 2012.2 Studies have indicated that dentists are five times as likely to report suspected abuse if they receive proper training in this area.3All states have laws requiring health professionals, including dentists, to report concerns of child abuse and neglect to appropriate authorities.
Injuries to the head, face and neck account for an estimated 65 percent of injuries in physically abused children,4so a check-up gives dentists a unique opportunity to uncover potential signs of abuse. Signs of physical child abuse can include (but are not limited to) unexplained cuts, welts or bruises and unusual alertness or anxiety.
Dentists and dental staff members who suspect child abuse or neglect can file a report to both Child Protective Services and local law enforcement officials (depending on the state). Dental professionals who would like more information about the P.A.N.D.A. program can visit https://bit.ly/1dULL3s.
About Delta Dental Plans Association
The not-for-profit Delta Dental Plans Association (deltadental.com) based in Oak Brook, Ill., is the leading national network of independent dental service corporations. It provides dental benefits programs to more than 60 million Americans in more than 111,000 employee groups throughout the country. For more oral health news and information from Dr. Kohn and DDPA, subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter.
 Putting Teeth in Public Health. Dr. Lynn Mouden. https://sph.unc.edu/putting-teeth-in-in-public-health/
2 Child Maltreatment 2012. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families; Children’s Bureau. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/cm2012.pdf
3 The PANDA Program. Delta Dental of New Jersey. https://www.deltadentalnj.com/company/panda.html
4 National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Chapter 3: Diseases and Disorders. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/datastatistics/surgeongeneral/sgr/chap3.htm