Houston, do you copy? – Nina Cartwright Carestream Dental

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  Posted by: Dental Design      3rd May 2018

We all know how important it is to communicate effectively with patients in order to help achieve and maintain the highest possible standards of dental health. Only with their patient’s full co-operation can the dental team make the most difference to an individual’s quality of life. Practice management systems can proven invaluable in the quest for improved communication and compliance and here’s why…


Why so important?

A patient’s non-compliance with a professional’s advice is problematic across all healthcare areas, including dentistry. It might involve a lack of adherence to all or part of the recommendations provided, presenting a barrier to effective treatment and affecting outcomes in all types of dental procedures.[i] This is because non-compliance prevents an individual from creating the best possible environment for oral health to be optimised, treatment to succeed or healing to occur.

In dentistry, patient compliance with professional advice regarding home care routines can help them avoid a myriad of preventable dental complications that result mostly from plaque accumulation, including periodontal diseases and caries. ­­­


Why the non-compliance?

There are many different factors believed to affect patient compliance including severity of the problem, general oral health status, understanding of the issues and stressful life events.[ii] Socioeconomic status has also been associated with patient non-compliance, with less privileged survey participants linked to reduced appointment attendance and lower oral health standards.[iii]

Dental fear is another possible reason for non-compliance – affecting around 25% of the UK population to some degree,[iv] it remains a very common problem. It has also been postulated that around 5% of people in Western countries avoid the dentist altogether due to fear,[v] significantly decreasing their compliance with timely recalls and putting their oral health maintenance in jeopardy.

Perhaps one of the most important factors affecting patient compliance that can be controlled by the professional team is communication. Poor communication can result in confusion for the patient as to what they actually have to do, thereby resulting in low compliance.


How can this be improved?

It has been suggested that the initial contact between dentist and patient could have a major influence over the relationship built and therefore the professional’s ability to encourage patient compliance.[vi] Making a good first impression is therefore vital. Beyond this, establishing and maintaining a good rapport with patients is essential to ensuring a foundation for good communication into the future.i Carefully designed practice management software can prove a valuable tool for this, as it can influence delivery of information and improve patient understanding.

It is always necessary to provide the appropriate amount of information to the patient. Too much and they might feel overwhelmed; too little and they won’t be able to comprehend proposed procedures or routines. It’s about educating the patient on the importance of dental health and giving them the knowledge they need to understand how and why the professional recommendation provided will be beneficial for them.

It is also important to consider how this information is conveyed. Explaining proposed treatment or recommendations verbally during a patient appointment provides an opportunity for the patient to ask questions in real time, highlighting the need for a good patient-practitioner rapport.

Similarly, the utilisation of visual aids can be a huge advantage as these may help to explain more complicated processes in a way the patient can understand more easily. The CS R4+ practice management software from Carestream Dental offers an array of features that can help with this, including in-built animations and visual treatment plans that patients can follow during their consultation with the dentist.

In addition to this, the provision of further information – whether leaflets to take away, written instructions sent by email or links to videos or animations to view from home – might be of just as much benefit. One study found that patients do not always remember all the information discussed during an appointment, especially with regards to oral health advice and future actions relating to the consultation. [vii] As this could have implications on their level of compliance with instructions given, it might prove valuable to offer materials the patient can take away with them to remind them of what was discussed and what they need to do. The CS R4+ software can help here too – materials such as the DEPPA questionnaire for Denplan patients can be emailed or printed and given to patients with the simple click of a button.

Patient compliance with professional guidance is crucial while looking to optimise their oral health or achieve the best possible treatment outcomes. The importance of effective communication in enhancing patient adherence to medical treatment or advice is clear,[viii] so successful interaction between patient and practitioner remains paramount.


For more information please contact Carestream Dental on

0800 169 9692 or visit www.carestreamdental.co.uk

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[i] Collins FM. Factoring patient compliances into oral care. The Academy of Dental Therapeutics and Stomatology / the American Dental Association. April 2008. https://www.dentalacademyofce.com/courses/2059/PDF/1103_CEDfpc-compliance_rev1.pdf [Accessed March 2018]

[ii] Ower P. The role of self-administered plaque control in the management of periodontal diseases: motivation, techniques and assessment. Dent Update.2003 Apr;30(3):110–6.

[iii] Lambert MJ, Vanobbergen JSN, Martens LC, de Visschere LMJ. Socioeconomic inequalities in caries experience, care level and dental attendance in primary school children in Belgium: a cross-sectional survey. BMJ Open 2017;7:e015042. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2016-015042

[iv] NHS Choices. Live Well. Fear of the dentist. https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/dentalhealth/Pages/Fearofthedentist.aspx [Accessed March 2018]

[v] Dental Fear Central. Common fears. The impact of dental phobia on daily life. https://www.dentalfearcentral.org/fears/dental-phobia/ [Accessed March 2018]

[vi] Dahiya P, Kamal R, Kumar M, Bhardwaj R. Patient compliance – Key to successful dental treatment. Asian Pacific Journal of Health Sciences, 2014; 1(1):39-41

[vii] Misra S, Daly B, Dunne S, Millar B, Packer M, Asimakopoulou K. Dentist–patient communication: what do patients and dentists remember following a consultation? Implications for patient compliance. Patient preference and adherence. 2013;7:543-549. doi:10.2147/PPA.S43255.

[viii] Haskard Zolnierek KB, DiMatteo MR. Physician communication and patient adherence to treatment: A meta-analysis. Medical Care, 2009 Aug; 47(8):826-834. doi:10.1097/MLR.0b013e31819a5acc.


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