24 Mar

England’s chief dental officer urges dental teams to help protect women

England’s chief dental officer, Dr Sara Hurley, has urged dental teams to do their bit to protect women in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard. 

As figures suggest that the number of women receiving help from NHS Sexual Assault Referral clinics has halved since the start of the pandemic, the chief dental officer has encouraged dentists to use their position to support and assist women who may be experiencing abuse or physical violence.

Dentists are well-placed to spot potential warning signs of abuse and injuries as they see patients regularly and their examinations focus on the face and head. Dentists can use their training and knowledge to identify injuries or symptoms that could be linked to violence or assault, paving the way for female patients to get the assistance they need. 

Dr Hurley said that dentists and dental nurses are likely to see patients who have facial injuries and broken teeth, which puts them in a position to be able to take further action. The CDO wants dental teams to provide support for patients who may be suffering and to be able to bridge gaps for those who are worried about taking the next step and seeking help or advice. Speaking about the issue, Dr Hurley said, “Combating domestic abuse is not just a medical mission. It’s a moral mission too and dentists are determined to play their part.”

The news headlines have prompted an outcry for more to be done to protect women after Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman, was murdered on her way home from a friend’s house in South London. After an extensive search operation to find Sarah, her body was located in woodland in Kent. A serving police officer has been charged with her murder. Sarah’s tragic case has triggered an urgent call for safer streets, protection for vulnerable women and investment in support services for victims of assault, physical and verbal abuse and violence.