The dental practitioner and child protection in Scotland

Br Dent J. 2005 Oct 22;199(8):517-20; discussion 512; quiz 530-1. doi: 10.1038/sj.bdj.4812809.


Objectives: To identify from general dental practitioners: undergraduate and postgraduate training experience in child protection; numbers of suspected cases of child physical abuse; reasons for failing to report suspicious cases of child physical abuse; knowledge of local child protection protocols and procedures for referral.

Materials and methods: Postal questionnaires were sent to 500 randomly selected general dental practitioners in Scotland, with a further 200 sent to a random sample of the original 500 to increase response rate.

Results: Sixty-one per cent (306) of the original 500 questionnaires, and 35% (69) of the second random mail shot of 200 questionnaires were returned. Only 19% could remember any undergraduate training and 16% had been to a postgraduate lecture or seminar in child protection. Twenty-nine per cent of dentists had seen at least one suspicious case in their career. Only 8% of suspicious cases were referred on to the appropriate authorities. Reasons for failure to refer revealed that 11% were concerned about a negative impact on their practice, 34% feared family violence towards the child, 31% feared violence directed against them, and 48% feared litigation. Only 10% of dentists had been sent a copy of the local child protection guidelines on commencing work and only 15% had seen their Area Child Protection Committee (ACPC) Guidelines via any route.

Conclusions: Due to lack of training or clear guidelines for dentists in Scotland, most practitioners were unsure what to do in the event of a suspicion of child abuse. Twenty-one per cent of dentists had encountered suspicious cases but failed to take any action. Dentists overwhelmingly requested appropriate training. This training should address dental competence in assessment of suspicious indicators and involve dentists in inter-agency child protection training.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dentists / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Dentists / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandatory Reporting*
  • Middle Aged
  • Scotland
  • Surveys and Questionnaires