GDC’s Patient and Public Survey reveals satisfaction remains very high

New figures, released by the General Dental Council (GDC), reveal overall satisfaction with UK dental care remains very high among those who visit the dentist at least once a year, at 97%. Perhaps even more encouraging for the sector, within this, the number who say they are ‘very satisfied’ has increased by six percentage points over the last five years to 67%.

However, the findings, which are part of the GDC’s 2017 annual Patient and Public Survey, exposed young people (aged between 25-34) and those over 65 are more likely to be dissatisfied. In addition, patients from an ethnic minority are significantly less likely to be very satisfied with their care than those who are white, at 53% and 69% respectively.

Guy Rubin, Research Manager at the GDC, said: “The results of our research are incredibly useful in helping to better understand public views, particularly in relation to those within different demographics. The data also shows wide variances in perceptions of importance of misconduct in professionals’ private lives, which is very relevant to our ongoing work to better define ‘seriousness’ as a concept.”

Fitness to practise should be reserved for only the most serious of complaints and the GDC is working to more clearly define ‘seriousness’. Misconduct and appropriate regulatory action in situations of poor care or wrongdoing were explored in the survey and this exposed mixed views about the importance of dental professionals’ behaviour in personal time.

However, participants were far more likely to agree that more severe regulatory action should be taken for instances of poor care during treatment which results in serious side effects. For example, more than six in ten (63%) thought that being removed from the register or suspended was the right action where a dentist has prescribed the wrong medication, resulting in hospitalisation, whereas half (47%) thought that no action should be taken against a dental nurse charged with drunk and disorderly behaviour on a night out.

Some behaviour in personal time was viewed differently, however. Nearly half of those surveyed thought that a dentist should be removed from the register or suspended (46%) for posting racist comments on their Facebook page. One survey participant said: “As with any person in a professional role that you place trust in, they are there to treat you and are unable to do that objectively if they are discriminative against certain groups.”

The survey also found that on average, seven in 10 people (69%) visit the dentist each year but that ratio significantly drops for people from social grades D/E (55%). These levels are largely unchanged from previous years.


  • The Patient and Public Survey 2017 aims to increase understanding about patients’ and the public’s experiences and expectations regarding dental care.
  • A total of 1,232 adults aged 16 and over were interviewed face-to-face from across the United Kingdom, between 31st March and 9th April 2017, using a quota sample approach. Data was weighted to be representative of the UK adult population.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all percentages and data are from the total number of participants.
  • Social grades refer to the classification system based on occupation. It was developed for use on the National Readership Survey. Social grade D/E consists of semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers, state pensioners, causal and lowest grade workers and the unemployed with state benefits only.
  • The research was commissioned by the GDC and was carried out by the Social Research Institute at Ipsos MORI.
  • •The General Dental Council (GDC) is the UK-wide statutory regulator of just over 100,000 members of the dental team, including approximately 40,000 dentists and 60,000 dental care professionals. Our primary purpose is to protect patient safety and maintain public confidence in dental services. To achieve this, we register qualified dental professionals, set standards of dental practice, investigate complaints about dental professionals' fitness to practise, and work to ensure the quality of dental education. The Dentists Act 1984 provides the legislative framework for our work. For more information visit

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