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J Am Dent Assoc. 2001 Jan;132(1):85-93.

Dentists' attitudes and behaviors regarding domestic violence. The need for an effective response.

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School of Dentistry, University of California San Francisco, USA.



The authors examined the attitudes and behaviors of a national sample of dentists regarding domestic violence and the barriers dentists face in intervening to help victims.


The authors surveyed a national random sample of 321 dentists by mail from November 1997 to March 1998 about their attitudes and clinical practice behaviors related to domestic violence. Survey items were developed based on the domestic violence and health care literature. The authors used the Total Design Method to maximize the response rate and analyzed data to determine differences between dentists who had received domestic violence education and those who had not.


Eighty-seven percent of responding dentists never screened for domestic violence; 18 percent never screened even when patients had visible signs of trauma on their heads or necks. Overall, respondents intervened only minimally to help patients whom they had identified as victims. Respondents reported that the major barriers to screening were the presence of a partner or children (77 percent), lack of training (68 percent), concern about offending patients (66 percent) and their own embarrassment about bringing up the topic of abuse (51 percent). Respondents who had received domestic violence education were significantly more likely to screen for domestic violence and to intervene.


Dentists face many barriers to identifying and helping patients who are abuse victims, yet these data suggest that education about domestic violence could help them overcome some of these barriers.


We suggest that dentists follow the AVDR model when approaching abused patients in their practice: Ask about abuse, provide Validating messages, Document presenting signs and Refer victims to domestic violence specialists.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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