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Confrontation and complaints from patients top early career dentist worries

Post date: 17/08/2022 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 17/08/2022

A quarter (25%) of young dentists in the UK say they worry most about receiving complaints from patients following treatment, and 17% worry most about confrontation and disagreements during treatment, according to a Dental Protection survey.

In the snapshot survey of dentists who qualified in the last five years, more than two in five (42%) also say they worry most about making mistakes.

The top 10 worries for early career dentists are:

  1. Making a mistake – 42%
  2. Complaints directly from patients after treatment – 25%
  3. Confrontation or disagreements with patients during treatment – 17%
  4. The impact of Covid-19 on financial security – 17%
  5. The impact of Covid-19 on their mental wellbeing – 16%
  6. Their career choice – 16%
  7. A clinical negligence claim being brought against them – 14%
  8. A GDC investigation into their practise – 13%
  9. Negative media coverage or reputational damage following a case or claim – 9%
  10. Disagreements with colleagues – 8%

George Wright, Deputy Dental Director at Dental Protection commented:

“The chief concern for early career dentists is a fear of making mistakes and this is understandable. This has and always will be at the top of the list of worries as nobody wants to feel responsible for causing harm to a patient. It is also not surprising to see patient complaints and confrontation so high on the list. The restrictions affecting access to routine dental care during the pandemic, and the resulting treatment backlog, are still impacting some dental professionals and there of course are a number of other factors affecting access to care including lack of NHS funding and practices being disincentivised from taking on new high needs patients.

“Handling complaints after treatment or disagreements during treatment can be extremely challenging for any dental professional, however we understand that for those starting out in dentistry the ongoing ‘firefighting’ reality may be particularly stressful.

“We support members in handling complaints and difficult interactions with patients’ day in day out and know it is unpleasant. Now more than ever, early career dentists need to be confident in handling situations effectively to help avoid them escalating. Of course, this makes skills like expectation management, good communication, detailed record-keeping and establishing clear consent critical.

“Dental Protection is always here to offer support and advice. Members are encouraged to contact us as soon as a patient complaint is received so we can offer help and advice from the outset.

“I would also encourage young dentists experiencing work-related stress due to a complaint or difficult interaction, to make use of our counselling service which is a member benefit. This service is delivered by ICAS’ independent, qualified counsellors who are available 24/7.”


Notes to editors

  • The snapshot survey conducted by Dental Protection ran from 18 November 2021- 4 December 2021 and achieved 121 responses from dentists in the UK up to 5 years post-qualification.

For press queries contact: E: [email protected] 

Counselling service

Our counselling service is provided by our trusted partners ICAS, who offer a personalised and professional service tailored specifically to your requirements and delivered by experienced qualified counsellors.

ICAS's telephone counselling provides immediate access to support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and face-to-face counselling sessions can be arranged near to you and at your convenience, all funded by Dental Protection.

About Dental Protection

Dental Protection is a registered trademark and a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.

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