For release researchers Develop Vital Curriculum for Dental Professionals to Address Violence Against Women lexington, Ky.

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CONTACT: Hollye Staley, (859) 323-6363
Researchers Develop Vital Curriculum for Dental Professionals to Address Violence Against Women
LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 17, 2006) Last week, researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry reported on their pivotal research on violence against women during the 83rd Annual Meeting of the American Dental Education Association.

News of their findings and its impact on dental professionals’ ability to respond appropriately is now making its way through dental and domestic violence scientific circles worldwide.

The “Curricular Response to Deficits in Training Related to Domestic Violence” research team included Judith Skelton, Karen West and Christopher Herren, all from the UK College of Dentistry. The UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women funded the research grant for the program.

"This project is an example of the social consciousness for which this College of Dentistry is known,” said Sharon Turner, Dean of the UK College of Dentistry. “Domestic violence is one of the ‘dirty little secrets’ that is not so secret that many know exist but have no idea how to address.”

The impact of domestic violence has been recognized as a health care crisis by organizations all over the world. Twenty-five percent of American women have reported abuse at the hands of their spouses or domestic partners. With proper training, dental professionals have the opportunity to play a pivotal role in detecting and reporting violence against women, as dentists and dental hygienists may be the first or only health care professional to treat a domestic violence victim.

This project examines the training needs of dental professionals and presents practical curricular materials to help them respond appropriately.

Results of a survey of Kentucky dentists revealed that few have had training in recognition of violence against women, and more than half said they needed more training in identification and management of domestic violence victims. Collective results indicated the majority of dentists do not screen for or refer patients who are victims of abuse by an intimate partner.

However, the dentists expressed an interest in and commitment to increased training to improve their ability to respond.

Because of these results, the research team developed a practical, multi-purpose training program to allow dental professionals to know how to respond appropriately. A three-hour educational workshop was developed and presented to more than 300 dentists at the Kentucky Dental Association’s annual meeting. In conjunction with the popular workshop, a toolkit was developed that included reference materials, patient assessment questions, local abuse agency contact information and response guidelines. A CD-ROM training program for office personnel was later created that is now part of the toolkit. Dental school curriculum to address the educational needs of future dentists also is being developed.

“The outcomes from this project give us real approaches to educate current dental practitioners as well as enrolled students in how to recognize the problem and respond appropriately,” Turner said. “The potential impact on abused women is enormous. I am very proud of our College faculty involved in this most important area of research and education."

The initial effort later garnered a grant from the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet to develop a dental screening and referral network for victims of domestic violence.

“We are very grateful for the support we received from the Center for Research on Violence Against Women and applaud UK’s efforts to broaden the research in this area,” said Judy Skelton, associate professor and the project’s lead researcher. “Drs. Chris Herren and Larry Cunningham, two of the initial collaborators, have continued to write grants and receive funding to expand our efforts to involve our students and more dental practitioners in the state with information about how to make assessment and response an integral and routine part of dental care.”

While much remains to be done to educate dental professionals on assessing and referring victims of domestic violence, this research is making progress in assuring adequate care is obtained for women who have faced violence.

"The Center for Research on Violence Against Women was pleased to support Dr. Skelton and her College of Dentistry colleagues with funding for this study through our petit research grant program,” said Carol Jordan, Director of the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women. “Their study is a great example of the growing body of interdisciplinary research on violence against women that UK faculty are undertaking. Studies like this one not only advance the literature in this area, they also translate very directly into the practice field to meaningfully touch the lives of the Commonwealth's women."


In striving to become a Top 20 public research institution, the University of Kentucky is a catalyst for a new Commonwealth – a Kentucky that is healthier, better educated, and positioned to compete in a global and changing economy. For more information about UK’s efforts to become a Top 20 university, please go to

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