17 March 2009
Q. Is it advisable for a dentist to apologise if a patient experiences pain after treatment?
An apology is not an admission of guilt but is simply an expression of regret. For example, ‘I am sorry you had so much pain after the extraction'. This does not mean that the dentist has done anything wrong but is more an expression of sympathy / empathy and an understanding of the difficulty the patient faced. An apology coupled with an explanation can provide reassurance to a complainant and is often all the patient is looking for.
It is particularly important where a patient has been avoidably harmed; the lack of an apology in these situations is one of the many reasons why patients take complaints further.
Members might like to explore this further by downloading the Risk Management Module 9 on complaint handling from the library here