The impact of a formal complaint on Dutch dentists’ professional practice: a survey study

BMC Oral HealthBMC series – open, inclusive and trusted201616:104
DOI: 10.1186/s12903-016-0295-8



A complaint from a patient can have a serious impact on the well-being of dentists. Little is known, however, about the nature and the extent of this impact.


Therefore in 2013 an anonymous survey was conducted among 955 dentists and dental specialists who were involved in a complaints procedure dealt with by the Complaints Committee of the Royal Dutch Dental Association (KNMT) in the period of mid-2008 to mid-2013.


In total 413 (43 %) of these dentists participated in the study. As a result of a formal complaint 71 % of the respondents experienced a considerable impact in their professional practising, while 52 % stated that it had (also) seriously influenced their attitude towards colleagues and patients. Furthermore, 60 % (also) mentioned effects of a complaints procedure regarding their mental and/or physical well-being.


Being confronted with a formal complaint from a patient leads to a considerable impact on dentists’ professional practice and personal well-being. It is remarkable this did not only pertain to a ‘negative’ impact, but also to a ‘positive’ impact. Despite unpleasant feelings, several dentists regarded the complaint as a ‘wake-up call’. Furthermore, given the relatively high number of successful mediation attempts it can be concluded that this form of complaint handling appears to be a successful way of solving problems that have arisen between patients and dentists.


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