Children who are exposed to child maltreatment are at risk of developing physical and mental ill-health and of expressing risk-taking behaviors. International studies describe associations of child maltreatment with caries, head and neck injuries and intra- oral injuries. Similar studies in a Swedish context are scarce, and little is known. The present thesis analyzed associations of oral health and oral health behaviors among children exposed to child maltreatment, as well as among children who were enrolled at the Social Services because of suspected child maltreatment. The thesis studies also describe the clinical management of suspected child maltreatment within dental health services concerning mandatory reports (decision-making, prevalence, and characteristics).
Conclusions: Poor self-perceived oral health, presence of dental neglect, and dental health service avoidance- may indicate broader social problems and possible child maltreatment. Thus all dental health professionals should ask questions about the child’s social situation when dental disease and/or attendance behaviors cannot be reasonably explained. Pediatric dental care at a specialist clinic is a particularly important setting where children and their families’ social situation should be assessed. Dental neglect as a diagnosis or a suspicion should be used more often; it should be documented in the dental records and subsequently reported to the Social Services. A report from dental professionals may help children and their families receive, from other sources, supportive interventions that are unavailable in the dental health services. Furthermore, the Social Services should acknowledge oral health when investigating children’s needs according to the Social Services Act.
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