The impact of domestic violence has been recognized as a health care crisis by organizations all over the world. Twenty-five percent of American women have reported abuse at the hands of their spouses or domestic partners.
With proper training, dental professionals have the opportunity to play a pivotal role in detecting and reporting violence against women, since dentists and dental hygienists may be the first or only health care professional to treat a domestic violence victim.
During the 83rd Annual Meeting of the American Dental Education Association, a research team from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, reports on a project that examined the training needs of dental professionals and presents practical curricular materials to help them respond appropriately.
Results of a survey to Kentucky dentists revealed that few have had training in recognition of violence against women, and more than half said that they needed more training in identification and management of domestic violence victims. Collective results indicated that the majority of dentists do not screen for or refer patients who are victims of domestic violence. However, the dentists expressed an interest in and commitment to increased training to improve their ability to respond.
Because of these results, the research team developed a practical, multi-purpose training program to allow dental professionals to know how to respond appropriately. A three-hour educational workshop was developed and presented to more than 300 dentists at the Kentucky Dental Association's annual meeting. In conjunction with the popular workshop, a "tool kit" was developed that included reference materials, patient assessment questions, local abuse agency contact information, response guidelines, and a CD-ROM training program for office personnel. Dental school curriculum to address the educational needs of future dentists is also being developed.
Subsequently, the initial effort garnered a grant from the Kentucky Department of Justice to develop a dental screening and referral network for victims of domestic violence. While much remains to be done to educate dental professionals on assessing and referring victims of domestic violence, this research is making progress in ensuring that adequate care is obtained for victims of domestic violence.