Patient aggression toward dentists

Kimberly A. Rhoades, Richard E. Heyman, J. Mark Eddy, Nicole C. Haydt, Jacqueline E. Glazman, Zachary F. Dispirito, Sammie Jo Fat, Charlotte M. Guerrera, Allison N. Rascon, Mark S. Wolff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Workplace violence toward health care professionals is both widespread and widely overlooked. Only 4 studies of aggression toward dentists have been published—none in the United States—with the prevalence of aggression ranging from 29% through 80%. The purpose of this study was to provide an initial estimate of rates of patient aggression in dental practices in the United States. Methods: The authors surveyed 98 dentists recruited from the faculty and alumni network of a college of dentistry. Participants completed a confidential online survey assessing whether they had experienced any of 21 specific types of aggressive behaviors from their patients. Results: Past-year aggression prevalence was 22.2%, 55.0%, and 44.4% for physical, verbal, and reputational aggression, respectively. Career prevalence was 45.5%, 74.0%, and 68.7% for physical, verbal, and reputational aggression, respectively. Rates did not differ by sex, race, ethnicity, specialty, age, years practicing, or average number of patients treated per day. Conclusions: Participants reported levels of physical, verbal, and reputational aggression at rates comparable with those of other health care professionals in the United States and abroad. Additional research with larger representative samples of dentists in the United States is necessary to confirm these prevalence estimates. Future research should also investigate predictors and outcomes of patient aggression and prevention and intervention strategies. Practical Implications: Substantial rates of patient aggression highlight the need to address this problem in dental practices. The authors discuss implications for the dental profession, including proactive steps that could be taken to reduce patient aggression in dental offices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)764-769
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Aggression
  • dental clinics
  • patient-dentist interaction
  • prevalence
  • prevention
  • workplace violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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