Objective: To investigate patients' perceptions of dentists’ interpersonal skills related to communication, trust, control and ethical behaviour.
Method: Randomly selected patients at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry completed a questionnaire asking for their thoughts and feelings about dental treatment. It included the Revised-Dental Belief Survey (DBS) which assessed patients' perceptions of dentists’ behavior (25 questions scored 1(never)-5(almost always). Level of dental anxiety was also assessed using the Modified Dental Anxiety Scale (MDAS) and Dental Fear and Avoidance Scale (DFAS).
Result: 281 patients participated (60.2% female; mean age 55.3 years; range 14-86 years). Reported communication issues ranged from 13.5%-24.8%, mean(sd) 1.90(0.95) - 2.40(1.15); ethical issues from 16.85-38.8%, mean(sd) 1.51(0.87) – 2.40(1.38; trust issues from 14.95%-20.6%, mean(sd) 1.48(0.87) - 1.71(0.90); and lack of control issues from 19.6%-23.8%, mean(sd) 1.78(0.99) – 1.89(1.13). 39.1% of subjects (n=110) reported dental anxiety based on the MDAS (score >15) and DFAS (scoring >5 for fear and avoidance) with significantly higher (p<0.05) mean(sd) scores and percentage reporting communication, trust, control and ethical issues for the majority of questions with the exception of 3 ethical questions related to being provided with information to make a good decision, the reluctance of dentists to correct unsatisfactory work, and dentists not taking the time to talk to patients.
Conclusion: A variety of dentists’ interpersonal skills appear important to all patients, whether they are anxious or not. A significant issue related to a concern that dentists do not provide all the information needed to make good decisions for treatment. This should be noted by educators to ensure inclusion of the development and evaluation of interpersonal skills in the dental curriculum.
Keywords: Behavioral science and Education research