The Importance of Patient Education and How to Enhance It.

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  Posted by: Dental Design      13th December 2021

All clinicians have faced a patient that expresses nothing but confusion when attempting to educate them. The gap between clinician knowledge and patient understanding becomes even wider when terms such as periodontal disease, calculus, and inflammation are used. However, patient education is key to sustained oral health and professionals are well aware that this is part of their duty, therefore, the concern for effective patient education has become far greater. There are often leaflets available for all patients containing treatment details, for example, but if they alone were effective in patient education this concern would not currently exist. One barrier for patients and clinicians is the literacy capability of the patient. A core premise of healthcare literacy is that patients are able to process the information given to them, which should “extend not only to an individual’s ability to comprehend messages received… but also healthcare provider’s delivery of comprehensible messages”[1]. There are, however, some ideas currently being discussed by professionals in how to tackle this issue.

Simplifying the educational process is one way in which clinicians can start to educate their patients. Teaching while you work is a great approach because it means that you can utilise the limited amount of time you have with your patients. While you are exploring the mouth, you can make it clear that you are going to use this time to teach them about their oral health and hygiene. An example of this would be to vocalise when any issues are present, or even when there aren’t any. This technique may prompt questions from a patient which is fantastic because questions show engagement and therefore learning.

Utilising a patient’s senses is another way a clinician can simplify and enhance the education provided. The aim is to take them on an oral journey. This method relates to a learning theory pioneered by Lawrence Baines where “students [whom] invoke more than one sense, simultaneously or over a period of time…tend to interact with the material more intensely and thereby retain what they have learned for longer periods of time”[2]. In relation to dentistry a clinician could, for instance, focus the patient’s attention to what inflamed gingiva may feel like compared to a healthy area; following this up with an explanation of what they’re feeling, what caused it, potential problems it could cause if left untreated, and how to tackle it would incorporate the multisensory learning theory. As well as this, using relatable comparisons to keep things simple and realistic for a patient can also enhance their education. Simply, a clinician could compare plaque to limescale that builds up in a bathroom over time. Most patients, from personal experience, will have an understanding of how difficult limescale is to tackle and therefore should be able to apply the same context to the plaque on their teeth.

More recently, technology has been introduced for the enhancement of educating patients and a study3 was carried out to assess the effectiveness of this method. “Apps for smartphones and tablets have the potential to actively educate patients by providing them with timely information through the use of push notifications” and the results of this study look promising. Twenty-one randomised controlled trials were carried out with 4106 participants: overall effectiveness was clear in 69% of the outcomes, increasing to 82% when used for less than a month, and 78% when the app provided “at least one push notification per week”. This demonstrates that patients can be educated through their smartphones or tablets in order to improve their levels of knowledge over time and maybe technology-based education is the way forward in enhancing the education of patients in dentistry. In addition, patients can also be educated on optimum products to use in order to maintain good oral health; a product such as the CS 5460 can be highly effective for many patients as it is hard on plaque but gentle on teeth and gingiva.

It is clear that enhancing patient education is something that the majority of clinicians consider to be an integral part of sustained oral hygiene and patient care. Over the last decade, studies and methods have been developed surrounding the issue to promote effectively educating patients when needed and there seems to be some advancement in the field.


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[1] Baines, L. A. 2008. Teacher’s Guide to Multisensory Learning. Washington, D.C. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), p: 10-12. Available at:[Accessed 20 September 2021]

[2] Baines, L. A. 2008. Teacher’s Guide to Multisensory Learning. Washington, D.C. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), p: 10-12. Available at:[Accessed 20 September 2021]

3 Timmers T, Janssen L, Kool R, Kremer J. 2020. Educating Patients by Providing Timely Information Using Smartphone and Tablet Apps: Systematic Review. Available at: [Accessed 20 September 2021].

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