Attitudes of general dentists regarding the acceptance of gifts and unconventional payments from patients

Kevin I. Reid, Paul S. Mueller, Sunni A. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background. Professional boundaries ensure that a dentist's focus remains on the patient's welfare. Such boundaries may be compromised by accepting gifts from patients. Methods. General dentists attending a continuing dental education conference completed an anonymous questionnaire about professional boundaries and acceptance of gifts from patients. The authors compared subjects' responses to questionnaire items and calculated descriptive statistics. Results. Of the 333 dentists attending the conference, 219 (65.8 percent) submitted a completed or partially completed survey, Of the respondents, 81.2 percent endorsed receiving gifts, 82.5 percent thought accepting inexpensive gifts was acceptable, 79.7 percent would accept a dinner invitation from a patient, 52.1 percent would accept a $1,000 discount from a business owned by a patient and 59.0 percent would fabricate a set of dentures in exchange for house-painting services. More than one-third of respondents stated they would not accept a gift worth $25 to $100, and 51.1 percent would not accept a gift worth more than $100. There were no statistically significant differences in responses stratified by sex, age and years in practice, with the exception that female dentists were significantly less likely to accept a dinner invitation. Logistic regression models revealed that younger dentists and dentists with fewer years in practice were less likely to respond "agree" or "strongly agree" to accepting gifts worth $25 to $100, and female dentists were less likely to respond "agree" or "strongly agree" to accepting a dinner invitation. Conclusion. A majority of dentists endorsed accepting gifts from patients, which may put them at risk of violating boundaries with patients. Practice Implications. Our findings suggest that general dentists should establish policies regarding the receipt of gifts from patients and inform them of such policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1127-1133
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2007


  • Dental ethics
  • Gifts from patients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)


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