A new study from New York University has revealed that patient aggression is a growing issue in the United States, with dental professionals being among those most affected. The research, published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, surveyed 98 dentists in the New York City metropolitan area and found that roughly half of them experienced verbal or reputational aggression from patients in the past year, with nearly one in four enduring physical aggression.
In this article, we delve deeper into the research, exploring the prevalence of aggression toward dentists in the US and its potential causes. We also discuss the implications of the findings, and what dental practices can do to address this growing concern.
The First Study of Its Kind
Healthcare settings are known to have a high rate of workplace violence, with law enforcement recording only violent incidents. However, there has been little research conducted into aggression toward dentists, despite their workforce of 200,000 in the United States. This recent study is the first to document the prevalence of aggression toward dentists in the US, shedding light on an issue that has gone overlooked for far too long.
Understanding the Extent of the Problem
The study surveyed dentists who had been working for an average of 17 years, assessing whether they had experienced any of 21 specific types of aggressive behavior from their patients. The results were alarming, with a substantial proportion of dentists reporting experiencing aggression from patients in the past year. This included physical aggression in 22.2% of cases, verbal aggression in 55% of cases, and reputational aggression in 44.4% of cases.
The rates of physical and reputational aggression were similar to those found in a parallel study by NYU researchers of aggression toward dental students. However, practicing dentists experienced less verbal aggression from patients than dental students, suggesting that additional experience may reduce the risk of verbal aggression.
Exploring the Causes of Patient Aggression
The authors of the study suggest that the nature of dental work may be a contributing factor to patient aggression. Dentistry can be an anxiety-inducing experience, with patients often experiencing fear, pain, and vulnerability. This can lead to negative responses and even aggression toward dental professionals.
The study found no significant difference in rates of aggression based on a dentist's sex, race, ethnicity, specialty, age, or average number of patients treated per day. This suggests that patient aggression is a widespread issue that affects dental professionals regardless of their background.
What Can Dental Practices Do to Address the Issue?
The researchers suggest that dental practices should consider implementing training that incorporates strategies for handling workplace violence. This could include measures to prevent patient aggression, as well as techniques for managing or de-escalating aggression when it does occur.
By raising awareness of the issue and implementing appropriate training, dental practices can help to reduce the prevalence of patient aggression toward dentists. This will not only benefit dental professionals but also ensure that patients receive the best possible care in a safe and respectful environment.
Reference: The Journal of American Dental Association