Unconscious Racial Bias May Affect Dentists’ Clinical Decisions on Tooth Restorability: A Randomized Clinical Trial

N. Patel*, S. Patel, E. Cotti, G. Bardini, F. Mannocci

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Methods: In this single-center cross-sectional survey, 57 dentists were given a clinical scenario in combination with a patient’s relevant clinical photographs and radiographs depicting either a Black or White patient presenting with a decayed tooth and associated symptoms of irreversible pulpitis. Explicit bias was measured through a questionnaire, which evaluated participants’ course of treatment, strength of recommendation, and their perception of patients’ dental cooperativeness. Implicit bias was evaluated through brief implicit associate tests. Results: Recommendation for root canal treatment (RCT) in the White patient condition was significantly higher than in the Black patient condition (χ2 = 4.77, P < 0.05). Overall, participants were significantly more likely to recommend root canal treatment to White patients (t = 2.46, P = 0.0172) and significantly more likely to recommend extraction for Black patients (t = 3.03, P = 0.0034). In total, 91.23% and 78.95% of all participants displayed high Brief Implicit Association Test race and cooperation scores, respectively, showing a pro-White bias in both categories. This trend was shown to be irrespective of the patient condition. Conclusions: Dentists’ decision making was affected by the race of the patient, resulting in a greater likelihood of extractions (less RCT) for Black patients presenting with a broken-down tooth and symptoms of irreversible pulpitis. Knowledge Transfer Statement: The results of this study can be used by clinicians to understand the impact that unconscious racial bias may have on their treatment planning decisions. This information can create awareness, thereby reducing the impact that potential biases can have on the treatment patients receive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-28
Number of pages10
JournalJDR Clinical and Translational Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • behavioral sciences
  • caries treatment
  • decision making
  • endodontics
  • operative dentistry
  • restorative dentistry


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