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Brazilian Oral Research

Print version ISSN 1806-8324


AZEVEDO, Marina Sousa et al. Child maltreatment: a survey of dentists in southern Brazil. Braz. oral res. [online]. 2012, vol.26, n.1, pp.5-11. ISSN 1806-8324.

Child abuse is a serious public health problem and affects the victims' physical and mental health and development. The aims of this study were two-fold: to assess the attitudes and perceptions of dentists regarding child abuse, and to investigate professional characteristics associated with the identification of suspected child abuse. A questionnaire was sent to the 276 dentists of Pelotas, RS, Brazil , and 187 (68.0%) were returned. Demographic characteristics and profiles of the dentists, and information about their knowledge and attitudes regarding child abuse were collected. Descriptive analysis was performed, and associations were tested by chi-square and Fisher's exact tests. From all dentists surveyed, 123 (71.9%) reported providing treatment for children. Most dentists believed they could detect cases of child abuse (78.7%), but 85.7% had never suspected it. Among those who did suspect, 76.0% did not report the cases to authorities. No differences were observed between sexes, years of graduation, types of licenses, and the frequency at which children were treated. A higher proportion of dentists working at university had suspected child abuse. Even though dentists considered themselves able to identify suspicious cases, only a small percentage reported those suspicions, indicating a lack of awareness by these professionals in the adoption of protective measures for victims of aggression. It is necessary that dental professionals receive interdisciplinary training to enhance their ability to care for and protect children.

Keywords : Child Abuse; Violence; Child; Dentistry.

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