Dealing with an amorous patient

Why you should nip inappropriate patient behaviour in the bud.  

Dental professionals may well be presented with gifts such as flowers or chocolates by patients wishing to express their gratitude. In most cases their intentions are wholly platonic. 

However, gifts may escalate to unwanted text messages, letters and phone calls, and in rare instances a patient might imagine a relationship which simply does not exist, and the dental professional is totally unaware - until it is too late. 

GDC guidance

The GDC states in paragraph 9.1.4 of its 2013 guidance Standards for the Dental Team that 'You must maintain appropriate boundaries in the relationships you have with patients. You must not take advantage of your position as a dental professional in your relationships with patients.'

Our advice

It may be tempting to ignore the amorous attentions of a patient but every situation is different. Even the most apparently innocent examples can lead to a complaint or something more serious. 

Most patients recognise that their dental professional is there to look after their oral health and hygiene, and nothing more. The following advice may help you avoid problems if a patient appears to be interested in anything other than a purely professional relationship with you.

  • Avoid giving personal information about yourself. 
  • Politely but firmly say that your role is as their dentist and you are not interested or able to form a personal relationship with them
  • Inform colleagues.  Someone else may be able to take over the patient's care. 
  • Keep a log of contacts. 
  • Contact your dental defence organisation for individual advice if you have concerns about inappropriate patient behaviour.

This guidance was correct at publication . It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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