The Dental Defence Union has seen an increase in dental professionals wanting advice or support on how to deal with violent or aggressive patients.

In the five years 2014-2018, the DDU supported members with 118 cases involving harassment or threatening and aggressive behaviour directed at dental professionals or practice staff. There were 64 cases in the second two years compared with 54 in the first three years, a rise of 19%.

The majority of cases involved abusive or aggressive behaviour by patients such as calling the practice repeatedly to harass staff, making vexatious complaints, using abusive and threatening language and posting allegations on social media. In a handful of cases the dental professional had contacted the police because they were concerned for their safety or because a confrontation had become violent.

David Lauder of the DDU commented: 'Most patients get on well with their dentist but occasionally the professional relationship can turn sour. Sadly, it is not unknown for patients to pose a threat to the wellbeing and safety of practice staff.

'While the overall numbers remain low, there has been a slight increase in cases reported to the DDU. This may point to an increase in unacceptable behaviour, but it could also reflect a zero-tolerance approach by dental professionals who rightly want advice about how to protect practice staff and other patients.'