New tip sheet guides dental clinicians in handling abuse

Search Dental Tribune

The integral role of dental practices in recognising and responding to abuse and neglect

Maintaining vigilance, fostering open communication and coordinating effectively with broader health and social care systems are essential to identifying and supporting those affected by abuse and neglect. (Image: Aaaarianne/Shutterstock)

DUNDEE, UK: The complexities and under-reporting of abuse cases in society make it crucial for healthcare providers to remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding the well-being of their patients. As key points of contact, dental practitioners are uniquely positioned to observe signs of abuse and neglect, making their role in identification and intervention critical. A recent tip sheet published in the British Dental Journal aims to consolidate key recommendations and practices that can empower dental practices to fulfil their safeguarding duties effectively.

Training and awareness

Dental practitioners are encouraged to maintain up-to-date training relevant to their role and to familiarise themselves with common safeguarding terminology and signs of abuse, ensuring that they are well equipped to recognise and respond to potential cases of neglect or maltreatment. This extends to understanding and being alert to the various forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse.

Recognising signs of abuse and neglect involves being observant of physical injuries, changes in patient behaviour or any indicators that suggest a patient might be suffering. For instance, injuries in areas unlikely to be accidentally harmed or inconsistencies in the explanation of injuries may signal physical abuse. Emotional and psychological signs are equally important, as victims may exhibit low self-esteem, withdrawal or fearfulness, among others.

Appropriate interactions

Effective communication and a non-judgemental approach are key in encouraging patients to open up about their experiences. Creating a safe and trusting environment can significantly increase the likelihood of disclosures, which are essential for providing the necessary support and intervention.

It is essential for dental practises to recognise and respond to signs of abuse through fostering a trauma-informed care environment in addition to having clear safeguarding policies.  This approach acknowledges the potential impact of trauma on patients and adjusts care practices to avoid re-traumatisation, ensuring a supportive and empowering experience for those who have suffered abuse

Clinic policies and preparedness

Detailed documentation and inter-organisational coordination are critical aspects of safeguarding. Keeping thorough notes and being aware of the key contacts for each patient can facilitate timely and coordinated responses to safeguarding concerns. This includes having contact details for care workers, general practitioners and any social support services involved.

Furthermore, it is imperative to understand the specific legislative frameworks and safeguarding policies within one’s working region, as these can vary significantly across different areas. Awareness of local safeguarding procedures and legislation ensures that practitioners can navigate the system effectively to protect their patients.

The document, titled “Top tips: Adult and child support and protection for the dental practice”, was published on 23 February 2024 in the British Dental Journal.

To post a reply please login or register