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How a Strong Doctor-Patient Relationship Can Improve Your Smile

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

With many not looking forward to dental visits, it can be difficult to form a strong relationship with your dental professional. We’re here to tell you that having healthy communication with an oral care provider is an integral part of your health. Read on to find out exactly what it means to have an effective association with a healthcare provider and how to establish one.

The Importance of Effective Doctor-Patient Communication

Effective communication is essential when it comes to any relationship. This is especially true with someone you’re trusting with your oral care. Receiving dental work can be a stressful and vulnerable time for many. After all, how many people do you trust to put their hands in your mouth?

Focusing on building a proper relationship with a dental professional is vital to ensure that you’re comfortable, your needs are being met, and you understand treatment options. As a bonus, it’s much less stressful to have an appointment with a provider with whom you have a positive professional relationship. According to the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, more and more dental professionals emphasize their interpersonal skills to provide better care.

Communication is the cornerstone of the professional relationship with your dental provider for various reasons. Each patient brings a unique experience, needs, budgetary requirements, and culture to the table. It’s the dental professional and patient's job to contribute to the relationship to receive the best care possible for your situation and needs.

Some perks that could result from a strong relationship with your dental professional:

  • An ability to be honest about your behaviors
  • Enhanced confidence advocating for your comfort and needs
  • Increased comfort to address any questions or concerns
  • Greater likelihood to leave your appointment with a positive experience
  • Lessening of pre-appointment anxiety

Helpful tip: It’s important to remember that as the patient, you often have the right to choose who you do business with (based on your insurance, location, and other factors). If you feel that a dental professional is not adequately addressing your needs, it’s often within your rights to seek care elsewhere.

Ways Dentists Build Patient Relationships

Flossing can cause discomfort if it hasn’t been done correctly for a while. However, many find that they enjoy flossing, and their routine doesn’t feel complete without it after regular practice. We think that building a strong relationship with your dental provider can feel the same way. It can be difficult at first, but you might find yourself looking forward to professional cleanings (or at least getting less stressed!) thanks to positive communication.

When dental professionals receive training on their technical abilities, they also build skills to communicate effectively with patients. They should be sensitive to your needs, empathetic to your situation, and able to communicate calmly.

What exactly should you expect from your dental team?

The American Dental Association describes 5 points from its code of ethics for dental professionals:

  1. Honor the patient’s individual needs: As the patient, you have a right to be part of your dental decisions and to have your privacy respected.
  2. Do no harm: Dental professionals should respect your safety and comfort.
  3. Provide quality treatment: Your care should be effective and offered in a timeframe that’s manageable for your needs.
  4. Don’t be prejudiced: Dental professionals should not discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity, religion, economic status, or health history.
  5. Be honest: The best professional relationships are built on transparency and trust.

Keep in mind that your dental appointments will often include interaction with a team of professionals, each with distinct roles. Team members will likely collect your insurance, take x-rays, or assist in procedures. We recommend making an effort to build positive communication with all members of your dental team.

How You Can Develop a Strong Doctor-Patient Relationship

Even though it’s a good idea to expect professionalism from your dental team, it can help to remember that relationships are a two-way street. For example, if you’re someone who experiences stress at the dentist or has financial limitations, it’s your responsibility to communicate this so that the dental professional can address your needs.

Some things you can do to contribute to a provider-patient relationship:

  • Be on time and prepared for appointments.
  • Answer questions and fill out forms as honestly as possible to ensure they have accurate data to work with.
  • Write down any questions you have so that you remember to ask them at your appointment. Consider writing down the answers as well to refer to later.
  • Keep your contact, financial, and insurance information up to date for seamless communication and billing.
  • Follow the advice given for your dental care and the treatment of any problems as closely as possible.
  • Communicate openly with your dental professional about your needs so you aren’t left with any unresolved issues after your appointment. The more information you offer, the more they have to work with.

Forming a strong connection with your dental team can help transform a potentially stressful experience into a rewarding one. It takes two for healthy communication, so be sure to offer the same honesty and professionalism that you expect. You now understand what to look for from a dental professional and are prepared to build effective relationships.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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