Building a strong doctor-patient relationship should be a top concern for both the patient and the provider in a dental practice. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, the soft skills of a dental professional, such as personality, friendliness and social grace, are just as important as their clinical knowledge and skills. Each caring professional in the dental office — the dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, patient coordinators and administrative team — are there to help the patient feel welcome. By learning more about what your dentist does each day to make you feel comfortable in their office, you can contribute to a strong, lifelong doctor-patient relationship.
The Importance of Effective Doctor-Patient Communication
One challenge for a dental provider is creating a pleasant and comfortable environment in which patients can receive care. According to an article in the Journal of Dental Problems and Solutions, during any discussion with the patient, the dentist should remain focused on them and empathetic while listening to their concerns. This not only makes the visit more pleasant and personable, but it also creates an open line of communication to ensure that the patient receives the proper care for any health issues they are facing. Forming a positive doctor-patient relationship is the first step toward building the trust necessary for safe and enjoyable dental care.
Ways Dentists Build Patient Relationships
A good doctor-patient relationship can ease the concerns of patients who experience anxiety or dental phobia, according to a study published in BMC Medical Education. The study highlights the value of dental professionals using effective communication strategies, such as active listening, and handling patients' emotions sensitively. It also emphasizes that these skills help encourage patients to maintain healthy habits.
The dental team completes many practical sequences before, during and after each dental visit to develop strong patient relationships. This includes reviewing the patient's medical history, identifying the patient's dental concerns, taking diagnostic X-rays, asking questions about their dental habits and creating a dental treatment plan to improve their oral health. According to the Journal of Dental Problems and Solutions study, the dentist should involve the patient in the diagnosis process, as well as any decision-making that goes into the creation of their treatment plan. This makes the patient equally responsible for their care and encourages them to have an active, enthusiastic role in managing their health.
The American Dental Association (ADA) outlines five principles of care in the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct to help dentists foster positive, effective doctor-patient relationships:
- Respect the wants, needs and privacy of each individual patient.
- Provide care to patients without doing harm to them, while keeping skills up-to-date.
- Complete quality treatment in a timely manner to maintain health and protect the public from disease.
- Maintain fairness of care without exhibiting discrimination or prejudice toward patients regarding their age, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity or other health conditions.
- Preserve honesty in terms of diagnoses, treatment planning and financial payment for services.
Dental providers should look to these principles to maintain professionalism and guide their decision-making as they provide care, and patients can expect their dentists to abide by these promises.
How You Can Develop a Strong Doctor-Patient Relationship
It's important that dentists make their expectations for patients clear — but you, as the patient, are also an important part of the doctor-patient equation. Being on time for appointments, maintaining an updated financial account and completing care as agreed in written treatment plans are all ways that a patient can meet the expectations of their provider.
To provide safe and comfortable treatment, dental professionals work to be empathetic listeners who seek out the patient's concerns, assess the patient's known and unknown needs and provide only necessary, optimal care. By having an active and engaged role in your dental visits, you not only foster a strong relationship with your dental provider, but you become a better advocate for your own oral health.