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Abstract

Mandatory reporting of child protection concerns was introduced in Ireland in December 2017 for certain professionals and individuals including all dentists. Previous to this date, Irish dentists only had an ethical obligation to report. International literature indicates that dentists see themselves as having a role in child protection. However, there appears to be a significant gap between those dentists who suspect child abuse and neglect (CAN) in a given case, and those who refer the case to the relevant authorities. The aim of this study was to investigate, prior to the introduction of mandatory reporting in the Republic of Ireland, the reporting of CAN by salaried primary care dentists and to identify any barriers to reporting. Two cross-sectional surveys using web-based anonymous questionnaires were sent to all Salaried Primary Care Dental Managers (N=17) and Senior and General Dentists (N=239) in Ireland in March 2017. 64.7% (n=11) of Managers and 28% (n=67) of dentists returned questionnaires. It was found that although, 30.8% of dentists had suspected at least one case of possible CAN over the previous 12 months, only 8.1% of the HSE dentists had formally reported at least one case of concern over the same period. There were clear barriers identified to the reporting of concerns. These barriers need to be addressed if Irish dentists are to meet their legal obligations of mandatory reporting of CAN.

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