Health: Dental checks for child abuse

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Dentists have been given guidelines on how to spot the signs of physical abuse in children through mouth and facial injuries.

According to research published today in the British Dental Journal, approximately 50 per cent of cases of child abuse involve injuries to the face or mouth. Bruises are the most common form of injury to the face in child abuse cases.

Today Richard Welbury, from Newcastle Dental Hospital, and Michael Murphy, from North Tyneside Child Protection Unit, published a list of seven "pointers" which may suggest abuse:

l The story of an "accident" being "vague", varying with each telling and from person to person;

l The child saying something about an injury which is inconsistent with the parents' explanation;

l The account of what happened not being compatible with the injury observed;

l Delay in seeking medical help, if at all;

l The parents' mood is abnormal and may be more concerned than necessary with their own problems;

l Parents' behaviour gives cause for concern, for example they may become hostile and rebut allegations that have not been made, and

l The child's appearance and interaction with parents are abnormal.