Mandated Reporting Requirements

Dentists are mandated reporters of abuse and neglect. However, it's important to remember that under Massachusetts law, mandated reporters are protected from liability in any civil or criminal action and from any discriminatory or retaliatory action by an employer.

With 75% of physical abuse cases resulting in injuries to the head, neck, and/or mouth, the dental community is in a fundamental position to be the first advocates for patients suffering from abuse and neglect.

Studies conclusively state that health care professionals who acknowledge that abuse has occurred have a positive impact on their patients. The dental team's role in combating abuse and neglect includes recognition and referral. By being observant and reporting suspected cases, you can help shield your patients, both young and old, from violence and neglect.

Mandated Reporter Training

The Massachusetts Dental Society's Access, Prevention, and Interprofessional Relations Committee would like to encourage all licensed dental professionals to participate in an abuse and neglect awareness program developed by the Middlesex District Attorney and Attorney General's Offices. 

By law, dentists are mandated reporters and must report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect. As a mandated reporter, you are part of the safety net entrusted with protecting the children in our community and should file a report to make sure the child is safe, protected from harm, and gets any services he or she needs to ensure their future safety and well-being.

Due to the nature of dentistry, you will come in contact with children who may be in trouble, and you may be the first to be told about or see signs of abuse and neglect. Learning to recognize the signs, and then document and report them to the appropriate authorities is vital to preventing serious injuries or even fatalities. 

Child abuse crosses all ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic borders. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report, there were 31,089 children that were abused or neglected in Massachusetts in 2015.  

However, it is important to remember that children are not the only victims of abuse and neglect. Women, the elderly, and patients with disabilities also face higher risk of abuse or neglect, with the unfortunate reality that it often goes unnoticed. As mandated reporters, you must also report any suspicions or signs of abuse and neglect toward women, geriatric patients, and patients with disabilities. The MDS offers resources such as the Guide to Identifying Abuse and Neglect for the Dental Team to help explain your role as a mandated reporter, and guide you and your team on how to identify abuse and neglect toward these vulnerable groups.

While dental hygienists and dental assistants are not mandated reporters, they are still in a unique position to notice signs of abuse. The Access Committee encourages you to share this training with your entire dental team so they, too, can learn about the signs of abuse and neglect and how as dental professionals, they can help to protect their patients.

Abuse: Is Your Patient a Victim?

Abuse of Developmentally & Physically Challenged

Child Abuse and Neglect

Domestic Violence

Elder Abuse

Massachusetts Mandated Reporters Defined

Massachusetts law defines the following professionals as mandated reporters:

  • Physicians, medical interns, hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care, or treatment of people, medical examiners;
  • Emergency Medical Technicians, dentists, nurses, chiropractors, podiatrists, optometrists, osteopaths;
  • Public and private school teachers, educational administrators, guidance or family counselors;
  • Early education, preschool, child care or after-school program staff, including any person paid to care for, or work with, a child in any public or private facility, home or program funded or licensed by the Commonwealth, which provides child care or residential services. This includes child care resource and referral agencies, as well as voucher management agencies, family child care, and child care food programs;
  • Childcare licensors, such as staff from the Department of Early Education and Care;
  • Social workers, foster parents, probation officers, clerk magistrates of the district courts, and parole officers;
  • Firefighters and police officers;
  • School attendance officers, allied mental health, and licensed human services professionals;
  • Psychiatrists, psychologists, and clinical social workers, drug and alcoholism counselors;
  • Clergy members, including ordained or licensed leaders of any church or religious body, people performing official duties on behalf of a church or religious body, or people employed by a religious body to supervise, educate, coach, train, or counsel a child on a regular basis; and
  • The Child Advocate.

If you suspect a patient is in immediate danger, call 911.