Dentists ‘must act to protect children and vulnerable adults’, says GDC

Dentists and dental care professionals (DCPs) are well placed to identify possible abuse or neglect of children or vulnerable adults – and have a responsibility to raise their concerns if they do, the General Dental Council is saying.

All registrants should know who – a local health trust or board, for example – to contact for advice if they have concerns about potential abuse or neglect, it’s outlined in its new statement on child protection.

The GDC points out that dentists and DCPs are well positioned to observe and identify facial and other injuries. Bruising, burns, bite marks and eye injuries could suggest that a concern should be raised.

‘It is the responsibility of all members of the dental team to know what to do if they are concerned about the possible abuse or neglect of children and vulnerable adults,’ says GDC President Hew Mathewson.

‘If you make a professional judgement and decide not to share your concern with the appropriate authority, you must be able to justify how you came to this decision.

‘If you are unsure of the local procedures in your area, you have a duty to find out what they are, whether you work for the NHS or in private practice.’

The GDC considers the term ‘vulnerable adults’ to mean “a person above the age of 18 years who is or may be in need of community care services [including healthcare] by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation” .

The statement on child protection is available now on the GDC website.

The web-based resource Child Protection and the Dental Team was specifically developed as an educational resource for the dental team in 2006.

This resource can assist in identifying a concern regarding child abuse or neglect.

Visit www.cpdt.org.uk for further information.

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