505 Patient-Provider Relationships - Does Gender and Attractiveness Consisteny Matter?

Thursday, March 22, 2012: 3:30 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.
Presentation Type: Poster Session
A.R. BERGER, and M.R. INGLEHART, c/o Inglehart, POM, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Objectives: In the 2010/11 academic year, 46% of students in US dental schools were female. This raises the question whether it matters to patients if their dentist is male or female. The objectives were therefore to explore the dental visit-related values and self perceptions of patients in (a) gender-consistent vs. inconsistent patient-provider relationships, and (b) in attractiveness consistent vs. inconsistent relationships.

Methods: Survey data were collected from 297 patients and 291 dental students at a Midwestern dental school. The respondents indicated whether they were in a gender-consistent vs. inconsistent dentist-patient relationship. The comparison between the ratings of their own and their dentist’s attractiveness was used to determine whether they were in an attractiveness-consistent vs. inconsistent relationship.

Results:  A total of 304 respondents were in gender-consistent relationships and 252 were in gender-inconsistent relationships. Compared to patients in gender-inconsistent relationships, patients in gender-consistent relationships valued more that their dentist had the same gender and ethnic/racial background, has a family, is from the same state, and is relatively young and attractive. Gender-consistent respondents perceived themselves as more intelligent, more attractive and more physically fit than patients in gender-inconsistent relationships. Concerning the match of the patients’ self perceived attractiveness with their provider’s attractiveness, the data showed that attractiveness-matched respondents were younger, had more schooling, thought of themselves as being more attractive, more intelligent and more physically fit than the average person, and valued more that their dentist is attractive and in good shape.

Conclusions: Given the change in dentist characteristics over the past decades from being an all white male profession to becoming a profession that reflects the demographics of the US, the question arises how this change affects patients’ expectations and attitudes concerning the providers they search out for treatment. These data showed that gender and attractiveness-consistency matter.

Keywords: Behavioral science, Esthetics, Health services research, Providers and Psychology