Domestic Violence and its Relation to Dentistry: A Call for Change in Canadian Dental Practice
• Tracey J. Hendler, BA •
• Susan E. Sutherland, DDS, MSc •
A b s t r a c t
Domestic violence (DV), now a national health concern, has pervasive effects at both the
individual and societal levels. Women are the primary victims of DV; their lifetime prevalence has been reported to be 20%–53.8%. The sequelae of violence include increased acute and chronic health care utilization, psychological harm and a wide range of physical injuries. Head and neck injuries are the most common result of violence, and many women seek dental treatment following abuse. Dentists are in a unique position to identify abused victims and intervene. However, they are not well trained to identify victims of DV, and they lack appropriate resources to manage identified victims. Moreover, of the many health professionals surveyed, dentists feel the least responsible for intervening in cases of DV, and interventions by dentists are minimal. Barriers to screening for DV occur at the patient, provider and system levels, but they can be overcome with increased education. DV education, assessment and management should be a priority, so that dentists can help improve the lives of the many women faced with abuse.
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