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J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2019 Oct-Dec;37(4):316-326. doi: 10.4103/JISPPD.JISPPD_72_19.

Empathy among dental students: A systematic review of literature.

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Department of Public Health Dentistry, Adesh Institute of Medical Sciences, Bathinda, Punjab, India.
Department of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics, Adesh Institute of Medical Sciences, Bathinda, Punjab, India.
Department of Pedodontics, SPPGIDMS, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Surendera Dental College and Research Institute, Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, India.
Department of Public Health Dentistry, HS Judge Dental College, Chandigarh, India.
Department of SPM, Adesh Institute of Medical Sciences, Bathinda, Punjab, India.



Empathy is just as relevant within dentistry, although research is limited in this field and very less is available in the current literature. The demonstration of empathy by dentists has been correlated with decreased dental fear. The authors systematically reviewed the literature to investigate empathy levels among dental students.


A systematic review of the literature was undertaken concerning dental students' empathy, published from November 2016 to June 2018, using manual methods and the PubMed, PMC, PsycINFO, and other databases. Articles not in English and not concerned with dentistry were excluded, and intervention studies intended to enhance empathy, opinion articles, and reviews or reports of nonoriginal research were excluded. Eligible studies were those published from January 1, 2005, to May 31, 2017, in English language. A total of 34 full-text articles were obtained and assessed. Of these 34 papers, only seven publications were considered to have met the inclusion criteria and were directly related to the aim of literature search.


Only seven articles that provided data and evidence describing empathy among dental students were included. Four studies reported that the difference in mean empathy level across the year of study was statistically significant (P < 0.05), and one reported that there was no significant difference in empathy scores between the year levels of study. Three articles reported that males had higher mean empathy score than females, whereas vice versa was found in the remaining four articles.


This article demonstrates that there is only a limited evidence to provide the understanding of empathy among dental students. The results indicated that as patient exposure increases, the empathy level decreases among dental students. Furthermore, it is observed that education in behavioral sciences may be effective in increasing self-reported empathy, and further training may be necessary to maintain high levels.


Communication; dental; dentist; empathy; patient; relationship; systematic review

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