Dos and don'ts for patient communication: Help inexperienced patients understand oral health

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It's easy for dental professionals to forget that some of their patients may have extremely low dental literacy. Individuals who have rarely or never seen a dentist can't be expected to understand what you're doing or why. They may also be apprehensive about what's about to happen to them while they're in the treatment chair. You should make the effort to inform and reassure them, even though doing so calls for a little more time and effort.


Use simple, reassuring language. Patients with little or no experience dealing with dental practices deserve special treatment. Assume they understand nothing about oral healthcare. Explain everything in simple terms, avoiding technicalities as much as possible. Also, if they're facing the prospect of treatment, they may be subject to fear of the unknown. Do what you can to ease their anxiety.


Don't talk down to these patients. The fact that these patients are uninformed about dentistry does not justify any degree of disrespect. Rather than talking down to them, talk up the importance of having excellent dental care.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the chairman and CEO of practice management consulting firm Levin Group. You can connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (@Levin_Group) to learn more strategies and share ideas. Also, check out Dr. Levin's free practice management videos at

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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