Background: Child abuse and neglect (CAN) is a significant public health problem. Dentists are in good position to identify and report cases of CAN.
Aim: The aim of this study was to determine the experience and knowledge of CAN among a group of Nigerian dental residents.
Materials and methods: This was a cross-sectional study carried out among dentists attending a postgraduate update course. Data were collected to assess the knowledge of respondents on the forms of CAN, indicators and risk factors. Respondents' professional experiences were also assessed as well as actions taken and possible barriers to reporting suspected cases.
Results: Data were collected from 179 respondents, with a mean age of 33.1 ± 5.2 years. The respondents demonstrated good knowledge of the forms of child abuse, with an average score of 95.2%. The risk factors for CAN were correctly identified by 153 (85.5%) respondents as children with physical/mental disabilities, 151 (84.4%) as products of unwanted pregnancies, 128 (71.5%) as children from polygamous families and 122 (68.2%) as children from low socioeconomic families. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect were majorly identified as bruises behind the ears, 162 (90.5%); oral warts, 114 (63.7%); poor self-esteem, 158 (88.3%) and untreated rampant caries, 137 (76.5%), respectively. Seventy-four (46.5%) of the respondents did not evaluate children for CAN and only 12 (14.1%) of those who observed suspected cases of CAN reported to the social service. Lack of knowledge of referral procedures and concerns about confidentiality were the major barriers to reporting cases of CAN.
Conclusion: The dentists had good theoretical knowledge of the indicators, risk factors and signs of CAN but lagged in clinical detection and reporting of such suspected cases. There is a need for continuing education and advancement of the postgraduate dental curriculum to improve the educational experiences with regard to CAN.
Keywords: Abuse; child; dentists; knowledge; neglect.