Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Study shows dentists may underdiagnose when under time pressure

By Dental Tribune UK
April 09, 2019

PLYMOUTH, UK: Though dentistry can be a highly stressful field to work in at times, little research has been done into how time pressure can affect a dentist’s performance. A new study led by researchers at the University of Plymouth has sought to correct this somewhat by showing that dentists can miss important details in radiographs when short on time.

Forty dentists from the south-west of England participated in the study, in which they examined and provided a radiographic report on a set of dental radiographs, both with and without time pressure. When given limited time for assessment, the study participants missed 67 per cent of bone loss and 40 per cent of dental caries in their given sample radiographs.

All 40 of the dentists were, on average, able to correctly diagnose all the pathologies related to bone loss and caries when not faced with time pressure.

The research was led by Anastasios Plessas, National Institute for Health Research Academic and Clinical Fellow in General Dental Practice at the Peninsula Dental School of the University of Plymouth, in collaboration with the School of Psychology at the university.

“I conducted this research as there are no other studies out there evaluating the performance of dentists under time pressure, and it’s a really important issue,” said Plessas.

“This work showed a significant deterioration of dentists’ diagnostic performance when examining X-rays under time pressure. Diagnostic errors may put patient safety at risk. Underdiagnosis may lead patients to be needing more complex treatment in the future or even extraction of teeth unnecessarily. This study shows that we shouldn’t be cutting appointment times in order to fit more people in, but looking at other ways to meet the patient needs,” Plessas concluded.

The study, titled “Impact of time pressure on dentists’ diagnostic performance,” was published in the March 2019 issue of the Journal of Dentistry.

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