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Can North Carolina dentists help prevent domestic violence?

When domestic violence gets serious, it can result in numerous physical injuries. With slapping and punching, one of the first body areas to be affected are teeth.

Domestic violence victims become especially good at covering bruises with makeup, hair, sunglasses and hats. However, you can't simply ignore a broken tooth and expect it to heal, especially when you're a dentist treating a patient. Furthermore, dentists could notice other signs of abuse. This is why dentists can serve as one of the first lines of defense against domestic violence.

Dentists often notice the signs of domestic abuse first

Patients ideally visit their dentists twice a year for routine cleanings and checkups. For that reason, dentists tend to see their patients more than regular doctors do. Because dentists work with the teeth and the face, they're likely to notice the signs of domestic abuse when working with a patient.

Imagine, for example, that a patient gets hit in the face and it results in bloody gums, a bruised face, a black eye and a chipped tooth. The dentist will notice these issues immediately. Dentists may also witness the signs of abuse in children.

Dentists should report abuse when they find it

Many dentists will not take action to report abuse, even if they notice the signs of it. Several groups are hoping that this is going to change with new legislation.

According to PANDA (Prevent Abuse and Neglect Through Dental Awareness), North Carolina and other states are already considering the creation of requirements for dentists to report the signs of abuse. The BMJ (British Medical Journal) further drives this need home by saying that physicians and other health care workers need to focus less on finding new cases of domestic abuse and more on making sure that the known victims get help.

Don't wait for your dentist to help: Take action now

Sometimes the only way to make domestic violence stop is to call the police, submit an application for a restraining order and start the process of separating from your abuser. If you are in an abusive situation of any kind, a North Carolina family law attorney can help you take appropriate action to protect yourself and your family.

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