The survey was conducted between July 16th and July 25th via email and among dentists in the Chicago Dental Society's Facebook Fan Page.
In addition to the dentists who said their patients regularly text in the dental chair, 46 percent said this habit hampers their ability to provide care. The high number of dental chair texters is also surprising, given that 32 percent of the dentists indicated they have a cell phone/mobile device policy posted in a visible location in their office.
"We have signs up in the waiting room and directly in front of where the patient sits stating that they need to turn off their phones but most simply ignore them," said one respondent. Another dentist indicated texting or answering calls can be a real barrier to delivering care because "many times the patient sits up during treatment to answer a call or text."
But not every dentist views texting as a societal evil. Dr. Cissy Furusho, a pediatric dentist in Chicago, said her young teen patients have mastered texting to the point that they don't even have to look down at their phone keyboard during treatment.
"This may surprise people, but most of my younger patients are very polite about using their cell phones in the chair," she said. "The kids never answer their phone while getting treatment."
Even dentists who don't have a stated policy against texting say it can still interfere with communication between dentist and patient.
"It's more difficult to communicate with a patient about recommendations," one respondent wrote.
Niles, Illinois dentist Dr. Alice Boghosian said that there is a time and place for most things but texting or talking in the dental chair is a breach of etiquette.
"I'm not militant about it because I know that there are parents with kids in school who need to be in touch with their kids at times," she said. "However, one young patient of mine had to interrupt me when his phone was buzzing in his pocket." Dr. Boghosian said she was also surprised when a member of the clergy kept answering his phone even though he admitted the calls were not urgent.
"When patients insist on answering their phone or sending a text message, it does interrupt dental care," she said.
For those who must text or talk on their cell phone while in the dental chair, the Chicago Dental Society provides these tips:
* If a dentist has a written policy against texting, respect it. Doing so may be in the best interest of your oral health
* If no policy exists and you must text, ask the dentist if it will interfere with treatment.
* Arrange to have an agreed-upon signal with the dentist if you must respond to texts.
* Or, keep temptation at bay and leave your phone with the receptionist for safekeeping. Your messages will be there for you to reply to after your appointment is over.
About the Chicago Dental Society
The Chicago Dental Society is an association of more than 4,000 dentists in the metro Chicago area and organizes the annual Midwinter Meeting, one of the largest dental tradeshows in the country. The society is an advocate for improving oral health for all.