Child Abuse And Neglect: Assessment Of Pediatric Dentists, General Dentists And Oral Surgeons' Attitudes
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In all 50 states, dentists are mandated reporters of child maltreatment (abuse or neglect). The purpose of this study was to compare the attitudes and self-reported knowledge of Pediatric Dentists (PDs), Oral Surgeons (OS), and General Dentists (GDs) in Illinois and to determine the factors which may influence their likelihood to report a suspected case of child maltreatment. A survey and cover letter were mailed to the 746 subjects from the Illinois Society of Pediatric Dentistry, the Illinois Society of Oral Maxillofacial Surgeons, and the Illinois State Dental Society, and responses were not tracked. The participants were asked questions regarding demographics, educational experience, experience in reporting child maltreatment, attitudes about recognizing and reporting child maltreatment, and their decision on whether to report hypothetical cases of child abuse and neglect. Data analysis revealed that PDs had significantly more experience in suspecting and reporting child maltreatment and in continuing education in child maltreatment than Oral Surgeons and General Dentists. There was no difference between PDs, OSs, and GDs, and their decision to report the hypothetical cases of child abuse or child neglect. Confidence in recognizing child abuse or neglect predicted reporting the hypothetical cases. The belief that reporting child maltreatment could benefit the family in the long run predicted reporting the hypothetical case of abuse. Participants who reported receiving continuing education on child maltreatment, reported more confidence in recognizing child maltreatment. PDs were more likely than OSs and GDs to report confidence in recognizing child maltreatment, knowledge about the protocol of reporting, and understanding the law on mandated reporting. They were also more likely to say that they have an equal role as other mandated reporters to report suspected cases of child maltreatment. Participants were more likely to suspect and report the hypothetical case of child abuse than the case of child neglect. Increasing knowledge about how to recognize child maltreatment through continuing education may increase the likelihood of a dentist to report suspicious cases. Studies are needed in order to discover effective methods to educate dentists on recognizing child abuse and neglect and on understanding protocol of reporting.