Dental experts are sought out for vital information and advice regarding oral care. On top of being knowledge keepers, however, it is essential they act as educators as well. Many hygienists and dentists know there is no “one size fits all approach” to patient education and therefore must develop a unique methodology. To ensure oral health is taken seriously outside of the office, dentists must consider every patient’s individual needs and learning style.
Simultaneously adapting your communication style and technical knowledge to address a variety of personalities with different oral health concerns can be immensely challenging.
That’s why we wrote this article. Instead of telling you “what” to say, we are going to focus on maximizing your communication skills.
On top of a dental expert, you’ll become a top-notch motivator and health care provider.
So let’s get to work!
Know Your Patient’s History
Before meeting with a patient, you should review their dental history. Assessing charts from previous visits and preparing to address any long-term problems can save you time when they arrive. Preparation is quickly noticed and can establish a heightened sense of trust between you and your patient.
Knowing some personal aspects, such as family or career details, also illustrates patient prioritization. Some dentists take the time to write brief notes on their patient’s hobbies and lifestyles. If you won’t see them again until their next recare visit, it’s not a bad idea.
Make a Good First Impression
First impressions are important. Strive to emit a warm, professional, genuine aura. One’s reputation as the world’s smartest dentist, who doubles as a comedian and professional athlete, ultimately means little if their primary concern isn’t the well-being of their patients. When getting started with a patient, get to know them. How is the family? How’s school or work? Dig in, showing genuine interest.
When possible, try to build off of details from previous conversations. Was Mr. Smith fawning about a new puppy the last time he visited? Ask him how Fido is doing, how big is that pup now?!
The Proper Approach to Knowledge Transfer
Every educational opportunity, to learn and to teach, should be approached with a sense of care and even a bit of caution. Being sensitive to your patient’s situation, be it health-oriented or personal, is vital in proper communication.
By putting yourself in their shoes, it’s nearly impossible to come off as condescending or inattentive. In more dire situations, don’t let an informative tone be confused with negativity. Throwing positive lingo into a serious conversation can motivate the patient to change oral habits or better understand the situation.
Of course, patients should always be informed when their health is severe or in danger. Still, starting with a positive outlook or compliment can help heighten the rational and influence of the upcoming discussion.
Education Requires Individualized Delivery
Do you have a script you follow with your patients? If so, toss it out. Every conversation with your patients should be organic and 100% tailored to the individual. Their healthcare needs and wants will be unique to their situation. In turn, your advice and communication style should mesh to fit theirs.
Encourage your patients to ask questions. Gently prod their knowledge in areas critical to their personal care. Eventually, you’ll gain insight into their oral comprehension and continuously reinforce to the patient how much you care.
Motivation Is Vital
Teachings become implemented in everyday life when information is paired with motivation. Simply telling patients what to do isn’t enough. As you talk to your patients, figure out what motivates them. While some want to avoid toothaches, others want to keep their bills low. Whatever their motivations are, appeal to them while sharing knowledge.
Sharing stories is another great motivator. If you helped a previous patient with a similar issue, confidently share their process. From the initial severity of a diagnosis to the healthy outcome, knowing someones shared an experience is an excellent motivator in bettering personal health.
Education is a Must & Requires Effort
Dental care experts are immensely powerful in their abilities to impact and better peoples lives. Education is as important an asset in helping patients as actual cleaning and care. Fact is, most patients won’t see a dentist more than twice a year. In between these visits, patients need to know how to properly care for their teeth. In conclusion, patient education is essential.