Patient Abuse

For decades, dentists have made a living cleaning teeth, filling cavities, and performing root canals. But lately, they've been increasingly able to detect signs that their patients have been physically abused.

Most of us see our dentist every six months, if not more frequently. And many of us build a special relationship with the person we trust with the well being of our teeth and gums. It's for that reason dentists have become more apt to find patients of all ages that have been abused.

Broken facial bones, black eyes, and cut lips are just a few of the telltale signs of physical abuse. Lately, dentists have been able to detect some of the less obvious signs. They say if a spouse or significant other always accompanies a patient to the office, insists that the patient cannot be seen privately, and if the spouse refuses to let the patient speak. Those are subtle tip-offs that abuse is taking place. It's a serious and growing problem, and one that dentists say they have no tolerance for.

Doctor Donald Barrett, a dentist in Byron, says documenting suspicions of abuse is critical, as many times, abuse is not just an isolated incident, but rather an occurrence that's often repeated. Dentists say documenting every instance of abuse strengthens their case once it's passed along to authorities.