Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

DDU sees increase in aggression against dental professionals

By Dental Tribune International
September 30, 2019

LONDON, UK: Dentists may sometimes encounter patients who are agitated during a dental appointment and who become violent or aggressive. The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has said that there has been an increase in reports of such patients over the years, which is why dental professionals are finding it necessary to seek the support of the union and advice on how to deal with them.

In the period between 2014 and 2018, the DDU investigated 118 cases involving harassment or threatening and aggressive behaviour directed at dental professionals or practice staff. The statistics show that, between 2017 and 2018, 64 cases were reported. Compared with 54 cases in the first three years, this represents a rise of 19%.

The majority of cases involved abusive or aggressive behaviour by patients, such as repeatedly calling the dental practice to harass staff, making frivolous complaints, using abusive and threatening language, and posting allegations on social media channels. In some cases, the dental professionals were concerned for their safety and had to resort to contacting the police.

“Most patients get on well with their dentist but occasionally the professional relationship can turn sour. Sadly, it is not unknown for patients to pose a threat to the well-being and safety of practice staff,” said David Lauder, a dento-legal adviser at DDU.

“While the overall numbers remain low, there has been a slight increase in cases reported to the DDU. This may point to an increase in unacceptable behaviour, but it could also reflect a zero-tolerance approach by dental professionals who rightly want advice about how to protect practice staff and other patients,” he continued.

“It’s important for practices to have a policy in place about how such behaviour will be dealt with and to communicate this to patients and staff. In some cases, it may be necessary to end a relationship with a patient, but it is important to be able to justify this decision and that ethical and contractual obligations are observed. Get expert advice from the DDU if you are in this difficult situation.”

Factors that contributed to violent or abusive behaviour in patients or third parties included dissatisfaction over the process or outcome of a procedure, such as tooth extraction or root canal therapy; alleged failure to treat or manage a condition, such as periodontal disease; disagreements about treatment charges; and appointment availability issues or patients repeatedly missing their appointments.

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