Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Dentistry



First Advisor

Elizabeth Bortell

Second Advisor

Caroline Carrico

Third Advisor

Parthasarathy Madurantakam


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to survey pediatric dental care providers in the United States to evaluate their knowledge in the detection and reporting of child abuse and neglect (CAN). Methods: This study has been modeled as a cross sectional- survey based research study. Email invitations were sent to pediatric dentists, orthodontists, and others who work in pediatric dental practices in the United States through email lists of the American Association of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) and the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). The survey completion page included sample text and the public survey link for providers to use to send an email invite to dental hygienists. The survey completion page allowed the opportunity for the survey respondents to “copy and paste” the survey letter of invitation to their respective dental hygienists. Responses were entered through REDCap hosted on the Virginia Commonwealth University servers.

Results: A total of 440 respondents participated in the survey. The final sample size was 388 after removing those who indicated they do not treat children. There were 236 respondents (86%) who indicated they had reported a suspected incident of CAN. Most correctly identified that dentists in their state are required by law to report both child abuse and neglect (n=309, 80%). However, most were unsure of the consequences of not reporting suspected cases of CAN (n=281, 72%). More than one third of respondents were unsure if dentists are granted immunity from liability for reporting suspected CAN in good faith (n=141, 36%), and most improperly defined failure to seek treatment for visually rampant untreated dental caries as neglect (n=276, 71%), despite the AAPD definition.

Conclusions: Pediatric dentists, orthodontists, and others in the United States feel adequately trained for recognizing abuse and neglect. However, additional training resources and opportunities for dental professionals practicing in the United States are necessary to improve dentists’ knowledge in identifying neglect and the lawful penalties for failure to report suspected cases of child abuse.


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