Background and purpose: Child abuse has serious physical and psychosocial consequences which adversely affect the health and overall well-being of a child. However, in a developing country like India there has been no knowledge of the extent, magnitude and trends of the problem. This study reviews the overall scenario of child abuse in India as well as the role of the dentist in recognising and thereby combating this problem.
Results: Among health professionals, dentists are probably in the most favourable position to recognise child abuse, with opportunities to observe and assess not only the physical and the psychological condition of the children, but also the family environment. The high frequency of facial injuries associated with physical abuse places the dentist at the forefront of professionals to detect and treat an abused child. Screening for maltreatment should be an integral part of any clinical examination performed on a child. Although many injuries are not caused by abuse, dentists should always be suspicious of traumatic injuries. The dental professionals role in child abuse and neglect is to know the current state law regarding reporting child abuse and to follow the law. Awareness, identification, documentation and notification should be carried out by the dentist.
Conclusion: Paediatric dentists can provide valuable information and assistance to physicians about oral and dental aspects of child abuse and neglect. Such efforts will strengthen the ability to prevent and detect child abuse and neglect and enhance care and protection for the children.
Keywords: child abuse, dentist, neglect