Communication is the cornerstone of a successful practitioner-patient relationship. Dentists and registered dental hygienists hear this principle repeated throughout their education.
However, in most dental appointments, the practitioner does most of the talking.
If you’re a patient, these are vital questions to ask on your next dental visit. If you’re a practitioner, this list should help open the door to more productive communication with people for whom you care.
There is a strong connection between a person’s oral health and the state of their health overall. Not only does the mouth offer clues to what’s going on in the rest of the body, but it can affect the body in ways patients often find surprising.
By examining teeth and gums, dentists can see early evidence of nutritional deficiencies, general infections, and even systemic diseases like diabetes. Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and inflammation plays a role in certain diseases, including cardiovascular disease.
Given the connection between oral health and overall health, it is vital patients know where they stand. The appointment should not focus solely on the most pressing problems. Take time to discuss the state of the patient’s oral health as a whole.
Patients in the dentist’s chair should never be shy about what’s bothering them. Even minor concerns can point to bigger oral health issues that should be addressed. Be sure to bring up everyday issues like swollen or bleeding gums, bad breath, loose teeth, and snoring.
This discussion should include cosmetic concerns. Studies recognize the link between how someone perceives their dental aesthetics and their social and psychological wellbeing. The appearance of teeth and gums certainly has an affect on a patient’s day-to-day life.
Part of a dental practitioner’s job is to ensure patients have the facts they need to make well-informed decisions about their oral healthcare.
Some treatments are necessary, while others are beneficial but optional, or purely cosmetic. It’s important that patients understand the urgency of a procedure and the possible consequences (if any) of not moving forward.
Many dentists are generalists, but some specialize in a particular area of dentistry. For certain treatments, patients may benefit from a referral to a specialist in areas like endodontics, orthodontics, or periodontics.
A dental specialist in the United States is a member of a Dental Specialist Organization recognized by the American Dental Association; in Canada, a specialist has completed specific postgraduate training and passed a Royal College of Dentists exam.
Assuming the problem is not an urgent one, it may be better to postpone treatment until a later date. Many people have a limit on the total cost of dental care their insurance covers each year; performing different steps of treatment over a longer period can help the patient maximize their dental benefits.
We write about communication between patients and dental practitioners on this blog often. In this post, we aimed to help facilitate the process with questions every patient should ask (and which dentists and hygienists should encourage).
Check out the Sable Industries blog for more information on dental equipment and resources for practitioners.