Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking and The Dentists’ Responsibility To Report

Stop Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that occurs in every state. In 2021 (the year the latest statistics are published), the Human Trafficking Hotline received 50,123 calls, texts, online chats, and tips.(

The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) published a feature article, “Human trafficking and the dental professional” in 2012.

Author, Dr. Michael G. O’Callaghan wrote, “Dental professionals are on the front lines with respect to encouraging and identifying potential victims who seek dental treatment. Dentists can combat human trafficking by becoming informed and by maintaining vigilance in their practices.”

These are possible clues that the patient might be a Human Trafficking victim:

  1. Younger than 18 years old

  2. Suspected commercial sex worker

  3. Accompanied by a person who seems controlling

  4. No personal or appropriate identification

  5. Shows signs of neglect or abuse

  6. May be malnourished, have bruises, or cigarette burns

  7. Fearful, submissive

  8. Recently entered the U. S. from Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America

  9. Discrepancy between medical history and clinical findings

  10. “Barcode” tattoo on back of neck

  11. Speaks no or little English – or pretends not to speak English

  12. Understand no or little English – or pretends not to comprehend instructions, such as “open wide.”



The Dentist’s Responsibility

The American Dental Association’s Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct Section 3. E. Abuse and Neglect, states: “Dentists shall be obliged to become familiar with the signs of abuse and neglect and to report suspected cases to the proper authorities, consistent with state laws.” ( The ADA offers free (to members) two webinars on the subject:

  1. “Recognizing and Reporting Child Maltreatment: Child Abuse, Neglect, and Sex Trafficking of Minors” by Debra Schilling Wolfe

  2. “Human Trafficking: What ED Physicians Want Dentists to Know About Identifying At-Risk Patients” by Merle A. Carter, M. D.

Image of Bar Code Tattoo
Dr. Carter said, “As many as 88% of victims report a visit to a health care provider during their exploitation; however, most do not self-identify or report this abuse. Dentists and other health care providers have a critical role in identifying victims and intervening.”



Mandatory Reporting


There are many reasons, including I-25 and highways that cut through Colorado, making “Colorado a hotbed for human trafficking.”  According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, between 2007 and the end of 2020, 4,352 contacts were made to the hotline from Colorado, resulting in 1,078 hotline cases.” (

The 2022 Sunset Review on Human Trafficking Prevention Training key recommendation is to continue human trafficking prevention training for seven years (until 2030).  The training courses are offered  through the Department of Public Safety with the curriculum developed in collaboration with the Colorado Human Trafficking Council.  

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call Child Prtective Services at 844CO4KIDS or the Colorado Human Trafficking Hotline at 720-999-9724. 

It is a Class 3 misdemeanor to fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect.  

To report suspected adult abuse (18 - 69), call the Colorado Human Trafficking Hotline.