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Abuse and Mouth or Dental Injuries

Abuse is intentional maltreatment. Abuse may result in injuries, especially in children, in vulnerable adults, and among spouses.

Most mouth and dental injuries are not caused by abuse. Mouth and dental injuries are common in children and occur from falls, playground accidents, athletic activities, fights, and automobile accidents.

Suspect abuse when:

  • An injury cannot be explained or does not match the explanation.
  • Repeated injuries occur, including lacerations or abrasions to the mouth, lips, or gums.
  • Explanations change for how the injury happened.
  • A baby or young child has a tear to the piece of skin (frenulum) between the lips and gums or the tongue and the floor of the mouth. This can occur when a caregiver jams an object (such as a bottle or spoon) into the mouth or by sexual abuse.

If you suspect abuse, call your local child or adult protective agency, police, clergy, or a health professional such as a doctor, dentist, nurse, or counselor. If you suspect child abuse, you may also contact the National Child Abuse Hotline and Referral Service toll-free at 1-800-422-4453. You may be able to prevent further abuse by reporting the incident.

If you are a parent or caregiver having trouble controlling your anger with a child in your care, resources for help are available.

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
David Messenger, MD
Last Revised July 20, 2012

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