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Oral and dental signs of child abuse and neglect.

AIM: The aim of this report is to identify the main oral and dental aspects of physical and sexual abuse and dental neglect in childhood, contributing to the precocious identification and diagnosis in a dental practice.

METHODS: The oral and dental manifestations were divided and classified according to the type of child abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect.

PHYSICAL ABUSE: Several studies in the literature have shown that oral or facial trauma occurs in about 50% of physically abused children; the oral cavity may be a central focus for physical abuse. Oro-facial manifestations of physical abuse include bruising, abrasions or lacerations of tongue, lips, oral mucosa, hard and soft palate, gingiva, alveolar mucosa, frenum; dental fractures, dental dislocations, dental avulsions; maxilla and mandible fractures.

SEXUAL ABUSE: Although the oral cavity is a frequent site of sexual abuse in children, visible oral injuries or infections are rare. Some oral signs may represent significant indications of sexual abuse, as erythema, ulcer, vescicle with purulent drainage or pseudomembranus and condylomatous lesions of lips, tongue, palate and nose-pharynx. Furthermore, if present erythema and petechiae, of unknown etiology, found on soft and hard palates junction or on the floor of the mouth, can be certainly evident proofs of forced oral sex.

DENTAL NEGLECT: Oral signs of neglect are easily identifiable and are: poor oral hygiene, halitosis, Early Childhood Caries (ECC), odontogenous infections (recurrent and previous abscesses), periodontal disease, aptha lesions as a consequence of a nutritional deficiency status. Moreover, it is analyzed the assessment of bite marks because often associated with child abuse, the identification and collection of clinical evidence of this type of injury.

CONCLUSION: A precocious diagnosis of child abuse, in a dental practice, could considerably contribute in the identification of violence cases and in an early intervention.

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