Home > General, Research > Does FEAR adversely affect dentists’ clinical decisions?

Does FEAR adversely affect dentists’ clinical decisions?

When I posed this question on the GDPUK site we got a very surprising result – 60% of dentists who replied experienced fear EVERY DAY that they admitted affected their clinical decision making, and only 14% NEVER let their fears get in the way of making a proper decision. A sad indictment, and unintended result, of our increasing litigious and over-regulated society.

I submitted this question to the Shirley Glasstone Hughes Trust web site


and the question came out “top of the pops” for May, which meant it went for Evidence Review by Chris Fox of Peninsula Dental School.

The results of that review make interesting reading. You can access the full pdf file from the web site above by following the link to the review in the blog section, then clicking on the pdf download link.

Three hundred and sixty-eight titles and abstracts arising from the bibliographic and web-based searches were screened. Fourteen potentially-relevant papers were retrieved as full text and reviewed. Ultimately none of these 14 papers provided relevant findings.
We could find no studies that identified the nature and extent of dentists’ fears.
Nor could we find any studies that assessed how dentists’ own fears impact upon clinical decision-making.
It appears that exploration and understanding of fear amongst dentists, and also the mechanisms and degree to which this may impact upon clinical decision-making, is novel territory for primary research.

“Novel territory” is good, as it means nobody else has investigated and reported on this area … which might mean that it could go forward for the £200,000 research grant in 2011.

Comments on how you think fear might be affecting YOU and, in consequence, your patients, would be very welcome and help to provide more evidence to support the need for research. I have a strong feeling that fear is also preventing many from buying existing or starting new dental practices – will this lead into a world where corporate dentistry rules and rural areas will become dentist-free zones?

What do you think????


  1. June 26, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Hi Andy

    I agree about fear, When I am teaching in the dental schools, I have realised that the young ones are taught with the litigous society in mind. The seed of extreme caution is already embedded within them from the start. When they see patients, they spend more time explaining the risks rather than the procedure.
    Next – fear in the dentist is transferred to the patient.

    As for fear of buying practices – I personally would not because of the simple fact that regulation is a nightmare! Do i focus on my patients and my team or the wads and wads and wads of paperwork on the desk. Forget it, someone else can do it…

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