Top five reasons for dental complaints revealed by DDU

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has revealed the top five areas of practice which lead to the most complaints about dental treatment.

Over a recent five-year period, the DDU assisted dental professionals with more than 9,000 patient complaints.

The DDU examined a sample month of complaints to identify the significant causes, with concerns about unsatisfactory treatment or examinations topping the list. The top five reasons for complaints.

  1. Unsatisfactory clinical treatment or examination – allegations of poor technique, adverse incidents, poor treatment outcomes or treatment outcomes not meeting the patient’s expectations.
  2. Delayed diagnosis – alleged failure to spot obvious signs of decay, gum disease or oral cancer.
  3. Communication problems – misunderstandings surrounding treatment advice or possible complications.
  4. Fees/ charges – confusion over the cost of treatment, whether it was being provided on an NHS or private basis.
  5. Staff attitude/ behaviour – allegations of rudeness or an unsympathetic manner.

Alison Large, DDU dento-legal adviser carried out the analysis and said:

'Nobody wants to receive a complaint, but they are part of everyday practice and, if well-handled, can be a worthwhile experience for you and your patients.

'It's difficult not to take a complaint to heart, but it's important to realise that, in our consumer driven world, a patient complaint provides you with an opportunity. Not only can you offer a remedy directly to the person complaining to avoid matters escalating to the Ombudsman or GDC, but you can also increase your standing by handling concerns calmly and professionally.'

John Makin, head of the DDU continued:

'Complaints are the most common reason for dental professionals to call the DDU’s advice line. However, the good news is that, in the DDU’s experience most complaints are successfully resolved in house.

'Although it may seem counter-intuitive, a well-publicised complaints procedure operated by a well-trained dental team avoids issues escalating. Complaints successfully resolved at a local level can actually enhance your reputation. Your dental defence organisation can provide you with objective advice.'

The DDU is beginning a series of articles on complaints handling in the latest issue of Dentistry. The DDU's website has a free online learning module for members on complaints. 

This page was correct at publication on 16/03/2020. Any guidance 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.