Dentistry: Your Duty of Care in Domestic Abuse


As a dentist, you’ve probably come across patients who don’t exhibit signs of domestic abuse until your assessments have proven otherwise. As explained by Clinaide.Com experts.

Here’s how you can use dental supplies to assess your patients for fractured teeth, bruises, loose teeth, cuts, missing teeth, lumps, and other signs of domestic abuse:

Extra-Oral Examination

Assess your patient’s face for asymmetry, discoloration, dryness, and lumps.

Ask your patient to slowly open the mouth, then measure it from the upper teeth to the bottom teeth. The measurement should be 30 to 55 mm.

Check if your patient feels pain upon opening and closing the mouth. Ask your patient to move the jaw from side to side, then ask if there’s pain. Assess your patient’s lips for discoloration afterward.

Intra-Oral Examination

With a tongue depressor, assess inside your patient’s mouth. Ask your patient to tilt the head back while looking at the ceiling so that you can easily assess the upper and lower parts of the mouth.

With a 2×2 gauze, grab the tip of the tongue. Gently roll the tongue to the right, then assess the left part of the tongue. When you’re done, gently roll the tongue to the left and assess the right part of the tongue.

If you don’t have gauze among your dental supplies, ask your patient to move the tongue to the right so that you can assess the left side of the tongue, and ask your patient to move the tongue to the left so that you can assess the right side of the tongue.

After assessing both sides of the tongue, ask your patient to lift the tongue and move it towards the back of the mouth. You can easily assess the lower part of the tongue this way.

Check the teeth for any changes in structure and color. Widen the mouth by using your index fingers, then ask your patient to bite down. Check if the upper and lower teeth come together in the correct position while your patient is biting.

Another way to determine your patient’s biting position is to use marks made by an articulating paper. Use gauze to dry your patient’s mouth, then insert a strip of articulating paper between the teeth and ask your patient to slightly bite on it.

Gently pull the strip by tugging it, then ask your patient to open the mouth. You should see marks in between the upper and lower teeth. Insert the strip again in between the remaining upper and lower teeth, then repeat the same procedure.

Spray cold liquid into a plastic cup, then dip your long cotton swab into the liquid. Place the cotton swab on the surface of the tooth for a few seconds, then ask your patient if the tooth feels cold. Dip the cotton swab in cold spray liquid again and do the same procedure with the other teeth.


Your role in dentistry is more than just using dental supplies to assess your patient’s health. If you suspect that your patient is a domestic abuse victim based on your assessment findings, you must report to the proper authorities as soon as possible.

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