Assessing the Patient Safety Culture in Dentistry

JDR Clin Trans Res. 2020 Oct;5(4):399-408. doi: 10.1177/2380084419897614. Epub 2020 Jan 10.


Objectives: Medical errors are among the leading causes of death within the United States. Studies have shown that patients can be harmed while receiving care, sometimes resulting in permanent injury or, in extreme cases, death. To reduce the risk of patient safety incidents, it is imperative that a robust culture of safety be established. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the patient safety culture among providers at 4 US dental institutions, comparing the results with their medical counterparts in 2016.

Methods: This cross-sectional study uses the Medical Office Survey on Patient Safety Culture that was modified for dentistry and administered at 4 US dental institutions during the 2016 calendar year. All dental team members were invited to complete electronic or paper-based versions of the questionnaire.

Results: Among 1,615 invited participants, 656 providers responded (rate, 40.6%). Medical institutions outperformed the dental institutions on 9 of the 10 safety culture dimensions, 6 of the 6 overall quality items, and 8 of the 9 patient safety and quality issues. The surveyed dental institutions reported the strongest average percentage positive scores in organizational learning (85%) and teamwork (79%).

Conclusion: These findings suggest that the patient safety culture progressed over time. However, there is still heterogeneity within safety culture among academic dental, private (nonacademic), and medical clinics.

Knowledge transfer statement: Patient safety is the first dimension of quality improvement. Administering the Medical Office Survey on Patient Safety Culture within dental clinics represents a key measure to understand where improvements can be made with respect to patient care safety.

Keywords: dental education; dental public health; educational methods; health services research; practice management; preventive dentistry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dentistry
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety*
  • Quality Improvement
  • Safety Management*
  • United States