Assessment of the Knowledge of United Arab Emirates Dentists of Child Maltreatment, Protection and Safeguarding
Al Hajeri, Hind
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Child safeguarding, governed by international, national and local laws, is the responsibility of all members of society. Members of the dental team are in a unique position to recognize Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) in dental practice and in the wider society. The objective was to assess the awareness of dentists in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with regards to child maltreatment, child protection and child safeguarding. A cross-sectional survey of 381 UAE dentists was conducted. Questions related to the knowledge and practice of CAN and related safeguarding issues were tabled and cross tabulated against demographic variables. Statistical analysis was carried out using Chi-square, t-test, ANOVA and Pearson’s correlation test. Statistical significance was set as p <0.05. 39.4 % (n=152) of the participants had suspected CAN (mean 1.3 CAN cases in the last 5 years); male dentists suspected more CAN than female dentists, however, orthodontists, paediatric dentists (p=0.000) and female dentists (p=0.001) were more knowledgeable about diagnosing CAN. Paediatric dentists attended more CAN-related postgraduate training (p=0.000) than other specialties. Amongst other results, 53.5% (n=204) were not aware of child protection guidelines, 58.1% (n=224) and 54.1% (n=206) had undergraduate and postgraduate training about CAN issues respectively and 90.8 % (n=346) believed that CAN should be addressed. Barriers to dentists referring CAN cases for child protection were; fear of family violence (59.6%, n=227), lack of knowledge of referral process (60.2%, n=228) and lack of diagnosis certainty (54.9%, n=206). UAE dentists qualified in Western and Asian countries had significantly fewer barriers for child protection (p=0.022) than the Arab and Gulf Cooperation Council qualified dentists. The UAE dentists surveyed witnessed CAN with an average of 1.3 cases in the last 5 years. Many variables (such as gender, specialty, and country of qualification) affected the dentist’s knowledge of CAN and the practice of child safeguarding. Despite agreeing that CAN is an issue that should be addressed, a majority were not aware of the local child protection guidelines and had perceived barriers preventing them from arranging a child protection referral. Female dentists, orthodontists and paediatric dentists scored significantly higher in recognizing CAN cases compared to male dentists and other specialties (general dental practitioners, restorative dentists and oral surgeons). Training and practice recommendations were made. Knowledge of CAN did not necessarily mean more practice of child protection. There was no correlation between those who scored high in CAN knowledge and the CAN practice scores.