The “neglected” relationship between child maltreatment and oral health? an international scoping review of research

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Globally, the oral health needs of children who have, or are suspected of having, experienced abuse or neglect has become a focus of concern. It is thus valuable and timely to map the contemporary nature of the research landscape in this expanding field. This review reports the findings of a scoping review of the international empirical literature. The aim was to explore the relationship between child maltreatment and oral health and how this complex issue is addressed in contemporary dental, health, and social work practice. The review identified 68 papers, analysis of which identified three themes: (1) There is a relationship between poor oral health and child maltreatment that is well evidenced but conceptually underdeveloped. (2) There are discrepancies between the knowledge of members of the dental team about child maltreatment and their confidence and aptitude to identify and report child protection concerns. (3) There are areas of local-level policy and practice development that seek to improve working relationships between dentists and health and social work practitioners; however, there is widespread evidence that the oral health needs of this group of vulnerable children are not consistently met. To orientate critical discussion and planning for future research and practice, we present the Patterns, Advances, Gaps, Evidence for practice and Research recommendations (PAGER) framework. The review’s findings are likely to be of interest to researchers, practitioners, and policy makers working across dentistry, health and social work.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalTrauma, Violence and Abuse
Early online date1 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 May 2019


  • child malreatment
  • child neglect
  • inter-professional practice
  • oral health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Applied Psychology


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