Improve Oral Health Outcomes with Better Communication

How would you describe your relationship with your dentist? Do you think he/she is approachable? Easy to talk to? Friendly? Unfortunately, many dentists have a reputation that is less than stellar, simply because of their profession.  Whether caused from personal experience or societal stereotypes, many individuals believe that their dentist isn’t very friendly.  Ironically, it has recently been shown that oral health outcomes can be drastically improved if a dentist communicates effectively.  If a dental professional helps their patients understand their oral health status and recommendations for improvement, patients are more likely to comply.  In other words, if you’re able to have a clear, concise conversation with your dentist about your oral health, you’re much more likely to achieve your oral health potential.  That could be difficult to do if you’re visiting a dentist that you believe isn’t very nice.  And it turns out, majority of dentists don’t actually communicate effectively, which has some experts calling for more college coursework and postgraduate continuing education offerings to help dentists master the art of patient communication.

A new study was recently published in the Journal of the American Dental Association and involved a national poll of dentists, pediatric dentists, dental hygienists, family physicians, and nurse practitioners about their use and knowledge of communication skills related to caries prevention.  According to a recent Dr. Bicuspid article, The American Medical Association and health literacy experts suggest using 18 techniques to improve patient communication in order to positively impact health outcomes.  These 18 techniques were grouped into 5 domains, including interpersonal communication, teach-back method, patient-friendly materials and aids, assistance, and patient-friendly practice.  A 2011 survey, in the form of a mailed 30-item questionnaire, showed that routine use of these techniques among dental professionals was low, with general dentists using approximately 8 of the 18 techniques regularly.  In addition to the techniques themselves, the study authors also believe that the content of what is communicated is equally important.  While almost all of the participants claimed that they regularly provide caries-prevention education, only 45% said they provide education about community water fluoridation and pit-and-fissure sealants. Researchers also found, to no one’s surprise, that dentists who had taken a communication skills course at some point in their careers were more likely to use more of the techniques than those who hadn’t.

The facts and figures of this study are very interesting, but what I find most fascinating is that if you like your dentist and have a good running dialogue about your oral health, you are much more likely to have positive health outcomes.  In other words, find a dentist you trust and respect and who openly communicates with you! The dental professionals at Miami Dental Sedation Spa pride themselves on the relationships they build with their patients.  It is their mission to completely identify and understand their patients’ wants and needs as well as to develop an appropriate treatment plan, side-by-side.  If you are unhappy with your dentist in the Miami area, contact our office and discover the value of working with a friendly, professional dental team.

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