Trust between dental professionals and patients: a scoping review

Siyang Yuan, Deepti John, Shambhunath Shambhunath, Gerry Humphris

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review

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Background: A trusting dentist-patient relationship is pivotal in providing person-centred care through effective communication. Lack of trust can affect patient satisfaction, increase anxiety, result in poorer compliance to dentist recommendations and a poorer patient health outcome. This scoping review aims to identify how trust is defined, measured in the dental literature and how trust is valued by dental professionals in the dental setting.

Methods: A scoping review methodological framework informed by Arksey and O'Malley was adopted, following the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses: Scoping Review). A search strategy was developed using MeSH terms and key words. Medline/PubMed, EMBASE, psychINFO and CINHAL were searched. Two reviewers read the abstracts of all articles, excluding duplicates and those did not meet the inclusion criteria. Full-texts of the articles were then studied. Data were synthesised using thematic analysis.

Findings: Fifteen studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review. The studies were predominantly quantitative primary research. Very few studies (n=4) provided a definition of trust, which was mostly adapted from medical or a general context. Many of the studies used either Dental Trust Scale or Dental Beliefs Survey to measure dentist-patient trust, although other studies developed their own items to measure trust. Regarding how trust is valued by dental professionals, we found that dental professionals acknowledged the importance of effective communication to build trusting alliance with patients.

Discussion: The review found in dentistry there was no consensus on the definition of trust, nor on the assessment tool to measure dentist-patient trust. In the available tools, communication is a key aspect of measuring trust. Little research has explored dental professionals’ views of patients’ trust, although communication was appreciated by dental professionals as important to build trusting relationship with patients.


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