Decreasing the Impact of Bias
By Emily Ludwig, RDH, MSDH, Jessica Suedbeck, RDH, MSDH and Susan Lynn Tolle, BSDH, MS
While dental professionals should practice with the intent of providing competent care to all patients, individual attitudes and behaviors influence the delivery of care and may contribute to health disparities. The National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Agency found that African-Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics continue to receive lower quality health care than Whites. The report suggests that both explicit and implicit bias may impact the quality and equity of care patients receive. While cultural and ethnic minorities are particularly susceptible to implicit bias, health care providers need to be aware of their personal biases that may further disadvantage vulnerable populations such as women, older adults, sexual minorities, those economically disadvantaged, and the overweight. Hence, awareness and understanding of both explicit and implicit bias are important in fostering a professional oral health practice environment that embraces inclusion and diversity and assures all patients are treated with dignity and respect.