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  Posted by: Dental Design      12th February 2024

Effectively engaging with dental patients affords an array of advantages for both the patient and the practice. Individuals will be better educated, more informed and more confident in the services they receive from your practice. The business also benefits from happier and more devoted patients who return to the practice for many years to come. There are several ways to build the patient-practitioner relationship, and modern technologies should be considered in order to assist the process. 

Building rapport

As is the focus in every aspect of dentistry, establishing and developing rapport with patients is important for delivering high-quality care. When patients feel they can be honest with their dental team, a more comprehensive picture can be pieced together, enabling the dentist to more accurately tailor treatment according to their needs. By better understanding a patient’s motivations, fears and constraints, a dentist can also make specific at-home oral hygiene recommendations for more effective results.

Building a positive rapport with patients affords a myriad of benefits for the dental team and practice as well. A US survey[i] found that improved patient relationships led to a significant uptick in income for dental practices. In addition, a strong patient-dentist relationship is associated with increased patient satisfaction and loyalty to the practice,[ii] meaning happier patients that keep coming back.

A major barrier to good dentist-patient relationships is trust, though this is difficult to measure. A Norwegian study[iii] showed that levels of trust and confidence in dental practitioners among older patients were directly related to their oral health-related quality of life. It is widely acknowledged that effective communication is a cornerstone of earning this trust from patients.[iv]

Patient engagement

Research has shown that good patient communication also leads to more patient-centred care, enhanced compliance with treatment plans and better health outcomes.[v] Additionally, it has been proven that good quality communication encourages greater patient involvement in their oral health decision-making.[vi]

Many of the main barriers to patient engagement can be overcome by building rapport and ensuring effective communication, but other aspects require a different approach. For instance, time constraints in the busy dental practice can make it difficult to explain oral health status or treatment procedures in adequate detail to facilitate patient understanding. Therefore, finding ways of streamlining the professional workflow to create more time with the patient will also be hugely beneficial.

Effective communication

For all these reasons and more, it is essential to develop a strong patient-dentist relationship through effective communication. Many patients will require an amalgamation of communication techniques to really benefit, including both verbal and non-verbal tools.

Regarding the former, it’s vital that clinicians use easy-to-understand language when describing a patient’s existing oral health condition. This can be greatly improved with the use of visual aids like images, diagrams and videos. Such resources can also be useful when explaining treatment procedures, which can help to manage patient expectations and support informed consent.

Beyond this, consideration must also be given to how patients are communicated with outside the practice. Maintaining their engagement with oral health between appointments is crucial, and can be achieved by finding effective and convenient ways to interact with them throughout the year. Using appropriate and easily accessible technologies can not only make this part of the patient relationship more effective, but also more efficient for the dental team, saving precious time and other resources across the business.

For example, industry-leading practice management software available in the market today offers a solution for digitalised and automated document management, in addition to improved patient accessibility to their treatment information. AeronaDental software offers an innovative Design & Sign feature, which digitises practices’ documentation processes. Dentists can create templates for frequently used files, saving time and ensuring consistency in formatting. Patients can also access and sign these documents with ease, from the comfort of their own home, with complete peace of mind that the integrity and confidentiality of data is protected.

The foundations of better health

The relationship between patients and the dental team must be carefully curated for high-quality care and patient engagement. Making sufficient time and using suitable tools to do it right will have a substantial impact on both patients visiting the practice and the business itself over time. Patients are empowered to take more responsibility for their wellbeing and comply with professional recommendations for improved oral health. The resulting boost in patient satisfaction is also nothing but good news for the practice, which benefits from a stable clientele, as well as word-of-mouth recommendations.

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[i] McCarthy D, Bass J. New study: better dental patient relationships lead to $74,000 gain. June 2019. Dentistry IQ. [Accessed December 2023]

[ii] Szabó RM, Buzás N, Braunitzer G, Shedlin MG, Antal MÁ. Factors Influencing Patient Satisfaction and Loyalty as Perceived by Dentists and Their Patients. Dent J (Basel). 2023 Aug 28;11(9):203. doi: 10.3390/dj11090203. PMID: 37754323; PMCID: PMC10529870.

[iii] Muirhead, Vanessa & Marcenes, Wagner & Wright, Desmond. (2013). Do health provider-patient relationships matter? Exploring dentist-patient relationships and oral health-related quality of life in older people. Age and ageing. 43. 10.1093/ageing/aft183.

[iv] Yuan, S., John, D., Shambhunath, S. et al. A scoping review to explore patient trust in dentistry: the definition, assessment and dental professionals’ perception. Br Dent J (2023).

[v] Waylen A. The importance of communication in dentistry. Dental Update 2023 44:8, 707-709.

[vi] Timofe MP, Albu S. Quality management in dental care: patients’ perspectives on communication. a qualitative study. Clujul Med. 2016;89(2):287-92. doi: 10.15386/cjmed-532. Epub 2016 Apr 15. PMID: 27152082; PMCID: PMC4849389.

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