One third of dentists experienced abuse from patients during pandemic

Dentists say they are 'routinely' experiencing verbal abuse from patients – with half (48%) saying they feel pessimistic about the futureDentists say they are ‘routinely’ experiencing verbal abuse from patients – with half (48%) saying they feel pessimistic about the future.

In addition, 45% feel their mental wellbeing has worsened since the onset of COVID-19.

Key sources of anxiety include health of family and friends (60%), financial worries (58%) and adapting to new guidance (50%).

This is according to new research carried out by Dental Protection.

Speaking anonymously, a number of surveyed dentists spoke out about their experiences.

  • ‘I am routinely verbally abused when unable to offer out of hours treatment to other practice patients who are still not open, or from patients not registered with any practice’
  • ‘I often receive verbal abuse in nearby shops from irate patients’
  • ‘People are very angry in general, short tempered and impatient. They lack understanding of the protocols we have to follow. It is very draining.’

Added challenges

One third (33%) report an experience of verbal or physical abuse from patients or their relatives. The main reason cited was not being able to offer an appointment soon enough.

Additionally, a further 5% said they had experienced verbal abuse outside of the surgery.

‘Dental professionals have faced a range of challenges throughout this pandemic,’ said Raj Rattan, dental director at Dental Protection.

‘Many have returned to practice in equally challenging circumstances; working in different ways, adapting to additional PPE, worrying about their health and that of their families, staff and patients, and facing a backlog of patients with outstanding treatment due to the unavoidable delays in recent months.

‘Many dentists express their frustration about guidance. They believe it lacks a strong evidence base. In particular, they have commented that guidelines are not always easy to decipher and adhere to and are having an adverse impact on the operating capacity of the practices.

‘The design, capacity and internal configurations means some practices are more impacted than others.’

Source of anxiety and stress

He added: ‘Dentists continue to care for their patients and provide high quality treatment in these difficult times. However, many patients have had their care and treatment delayed and not all are equally understanding of the circumstances.

‘We are starting to hear about patient complaints. As shown in our survey, some patients express their anger more directly towards dentists and the team. Their zone of tolerance may, of course, be exacerbated if they are in pain or discomfort.

‘Such delays frustrate and create stress for clinicians who may feel they cannot act in their patients’ best interests for reasons beyond their control. This presents yet another source of anxiety for dentists at a time when many have expressed concerns about their mental wellbeing.’

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