Early career dentists share fears over complaints

23 June 2022
1 min read

According to a Dental Protection survey, 88 per cent of young dentists in the UK believe their generation of dentists will receive more patient complaints and legal cases throughout their careers.

In the survey of dentists who qualified in the last five years, two in five (41 per cent) of those surveyed went on to say they feel worried about receiving complaints directly from patients after treatment.

Just over half (56 per cent) said they feel confident in their ability to resolve complaints from patients. 

George Wright, deputy dental director at Dental Protection commented, “We support members with complaints day in, day out, and know being on the receiving end of one is unpleasant for any dental professional. Due to higher patient expectations, and a more prevalent complaints culture over the years, it is understandable that early career dentists feel the prospect of a complaint is greater than it was for the previous generation of dentists.

“Periodic restrictions affecting access to routine dental care during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the resulting treatment backlog, has also increased the volume of complaints and indeed this has been a common advice query to Dental Protection. While this is a challenging environment for any dental professional, many of those starting their careers in the last few years may feel the ‘firefighting’ reality of general dental practice is not in line with their expectations.

“Now more than ever, young dental professionals need to be confident in handling complaints effectively to help avoid them escalating, and where possible minimising the risk of complaints occurring. This makes skills such as good communication, expectation management, detailed record-keeping and establishing clear consent invaluable.

“We know facing patient complaints on top of a plethora of other pressures can be stressful, and we are always here to offer support and advice. Members are encouraged to contact Dental Protection as soon as a patient complaint is received so we can help from the outset.

“I would also encourage young dentists experiencing work-related stress due to a complaint, 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.”