Knowledge, experiences and attitudes of dental health professionals towards reporting child abuse in Western Australia

S. Kugananthan, T. Nguyen, J. Patel, R. Anthonappa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Up to 50% of child abuse (CA) victims exhibit evidence of traumatic facial or intraoral injuries. Dental health professionals (DHPs) are therefore well-positioned to detect and report incidences of CA. This study aimed to assess the knowledge and attitudes of Western Australian DHPs towards identifying and reporting CA. Methods: General dentists, specialists, hygienists and oral health therapists completed an online questionnaire which assessed their knowledge and experience in identifying and reporting CA. Results: A total of 228 participants completed the questionnaire (representing 7% of DHPs, 60% of paediatric dentists and 11% of all dental hygienists and therapists in Western Australia). The majority of participants (66.2%, P < 0.05) felt that they were unlikely to recognize a patient with physical abuse, or detect signs of sexual abuse (90.8%, P < 0.001). Uncertainty around diagnosing abuse was a barrier towards reporting cases (86.4%, P < 0.05) and most participants (78.0%, P < 0.05) felt that they did not have adequate safeguarding training to report CA. Conclusions: Self-reported confidence in identifying and reporting CA cases was low; with the majority of the dental professionals participating in this study unlikely to recognize signs of CA. Inadequate training and knowledge around correct reporting protocols were identified as barriers, which warrants an appropriate change to improve child safeguarding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-200
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Dental Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


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