Dentists experience high levels of patient aggression, study finds

About half of U.S. dentists have experienced verbal or reputational aggression from patients in the past year, according to a study published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Researchers at the NYU College of Dentistry surveyed 98 practicing dentists in the New York City area who had been working in the field for an average of 17 years. They completed an online survey asking them if they had experienced 21 different types of aggression from patients, including physical aggression, verbal hostility, posting insulting comments online and litigation threats.

When asked about behaviors they have encountered in the past year, 55 percent of respondents said they had experienced verbal aggression, 44 percent said they experienced reputational aggression and 22 percent said they experienced physical aggression. The rates were higher when dentists were asked to recall experiences from their entire career, with responses revealing 74 percent had experienced verbal aggression, 69 percent had experienced reputational aggression and 45.5 percent had experienced physical aggression.

The study noted that the rate of experiencing aggression did not differ by dentists' gender, race, ethnicity, age, specialty, years practicing, or average volume of patients treated.

“Dentistry is rife with situations that can elicit strong negative emotions, such as fear, pain, distrust, and anger. Many patients also experience high levels of anxiety and vulnerability, which may increase negative responses or aggression,” Kimberly Rhoades, PhD, the study's lead author said in a statement. "Establishing that aggression toward dentists is a problem and how often it occurs can help us develop interventions to prevent aggression in dental practices."

Dr. Rhoades and her team noted that dental practices may need to consider establishing training sessions to educate staff about strategies to de-escalate and manage patients' aggressive behavior.

More articles on dental:
12 dentists making headlines
The DSO landscape in 2021 and beyond: 3 experts weigh in
2-year-old hospitalized after routine dental cleaning, parents sue

© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2020. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies by clicking here.