Many dentists have the misconception that they are not mandatory reporters since they are not physicians and think they are unlikely to see signs of physical abuse but dentists, similar to other professionals, are mandated to report certain types of abuse that a dentist may become aware of or observe in a patient. Dentists need to be aware of when they need to make a reporting and who to make that reporting to. Mandatory reporting for dentists generally falls into three categories: 1) elder abuse, 2) child abuse, and 3) the abuse of individuals with a developmental disability.
A dentist is required to report elder abuse if he/she has reasonable cause to believe that an adult over the age of 60 is being abused, neglected, or exploited. The reporting should be made immediately and to the county department of job and family services. A dentist is also required to report that a child under the age of 18 or a person under the age of 21 suffering from a developmental disability or physical impairment has been or is being abused or neglected. This reporting should be made to children services or law enforcement in the county in which the child resides. Additionally, a dentist must report any instance of abuse or neglect suffered by anyone with a developmental disability, regardless of age. This report should be made to either law enforcement or to the county board of developmental disabilities.
Over all, if a dentist has a reasonable cause to believe that a patient who falls into one of these three categories is being abused or has been abused that dentist needs to make a report. Failure to make a reporting when required to can potentially expose the dentist to license issues with the Dental Board.
If you have questions about a patient concern or whether or not an incident should be reported, please contact Thomas Law Group Attorney Chad Hanke to further discuss.