Choose Understandable Language When Talking with Dental Patients

One of the challenges consistently faced by dentists and teams is trying to guide patients to do what’s best for them.  And one of the reasons this is such a challenge is the failure to communicate.

George Bernard Shaw, the famous writer and former Nobel Prize winner, once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  Too many times there is an illusion about what was communicated to dental patients.


Through the many years I have had the opportunity to help dentists and teams I have observed many of them build their case for the need for treatment.  Much like a diligent student taking an exam, dentists in particular, and teams following the dentist’s example, provide a thorough rationale for everything they recommend.  But what may seem appropriate for a term paper is unfortunately not for most dental patients.

What course of treatment do you recommend?  This is the most important statement of all, and if you want to guide patients appropriately, this statement needs to appear early in the conversation and again at the end.  And most importantly, the direction you give must be communicated in plain English, free of all clinical terminology.  The simpler the better.

Then patients need an understanding of why treatment is needed.  Again, communicate in plain English using phraseology anyone can understand.

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Finally, patients want you to give them a timeline for treatment.  When do you recommend the patient schedule?  Consider phrases such as “as soon as you can” or “sometime in the next month.”

Communication is about more than just talking.  Paying careful attention to what you say and how you say it will ensure your message is delivered effectively.

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