Communication Tips Dentists Can Use With Patients and Team Members


Do you struggle to communicate effectively with others? Well these days to be a successful dentist, have your patients say yes and support your dental team to do well you must know how to communicate. These communication tips for dentists are designed to do just that.

Do You Struggle To Communicate?


Have you noticed sometimes that your words come out easily, but that what you said and how that then plays out is far from what you intended? Are you often left wondering what went wrong, where did you lose the case acceptance, why did your dental assistant get upset with you and why does your front desk team never follow your instructions?

Communication sounds so easy. Words come out of your mouth. Someone hears them and reacts with more words, and boom: you’ve had a conversation.

You exchanged words. But how much of your intended meaning went with them?

Maybe one of these word exchanges didn’t go as well as you’d hoped — either because one (or both) of you didn’t understand the other’s message or because something else got in the way.

So, how do you make sure to communicate your meaning more effectively next time?

What types of communication techniques do you as a dentist, as a leader of a team need to learn to make your conversations more effective and enjoyable?


What is Effective Communication?

For communication to be effective, both parties need to clearly understand the other’s meaning.

Each participant to the conversation needs also to communicate meaning with clarity — both with words and nonverbal cues — so that the other person will understand it. This is impossible when the words convey one meaning, while nonverbal cues convey another, sometimes contrary message.


Three Types of Communication

An effective communicator consciously develops fluency in all three types of communication:

  • Verbal — using the spoken word (face to face or over the phone)
  • Nonverbal – using body language and facial expressions
  • Written — using the written word


If you find yourself wondering why people just don’t get what you are trying to say, then theses 12 communication tips for dentists are for you.


12 Effective Communication Tips For Dentists


1 Smile

The presence or absence of a smile isn’t the only thing that matters here.

While a genuine smile can immediately convey warmth and openness, another smile might communicate arrogance and contempt.

Smiles that don’t reach the eyes look either forced (to be polite) or manipulative. A genuine smile is felt as well as seen, and so is a fake one.

To communicate effectively, it’s important that you respect the other person enough to be real with them. If they detect falsity in your smile, that lie speaks louder than anything that comes out of your mouth.


If you want to earn the other’s trust, better not to smile than to lie with one.


2 Ask Questions

To better understand the other’s thoughts and their meaning, ask questions — either to learn something new about that person or to clarify something the other has said.

Closed-ended questions are those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Think of the questions asked in a courtroom: “Is it true that…?” We ask these to get the information we need quickly and with minimal words.


Open-ended questions are those the other person can’t answer with a simple yes or no. Answers to these questions take longer and provide more detailed information.


We ask questions out of curiosity and to engage the other person. We also ask to keep a conversation going and to give us another opportunity to pick up on both verbal and nonverbal cues — which leads us to the next communication technique.


3 Listen

Successful dentists, and effective communicators practice active listening: they attend to everything the other is saying and doing during the conversation.

They pay close attention to how the other person is saying the words and what the other’s body language might also be saying.


They do this so they can then respond in a way that shows they understand what the person is saying or that shows the desire to understand it more fully.


4 Observe

How better to learn effective communication skills than to observe skillful communicators and note how they succeed in conveying their message?

If you can place yourself near a group of people engrossed in a conversation, pay attention to what they say and do that conveys meaning and strengthens their connection with the others.

Learn from the best of them the tactics they use to communicate effectively. And practice using those tactics yourself.


5 Give (and Receive) Feedback

Respond in a way that shows the speaker that you’ve been listening and that you understand what they’re saying — whether you agree or not.

Your feedback should tell them you take their words seriously and consider them worthy of a thoughtful answer.

It works both ways, too. It’s just as important to thoughtfully consider the feedback from others and ask direct questions to ensure you understand their message.

Once you decide to take something personally (whether it’s intended to be taken so or not), you stop listening, and communication becomes more difficult.


6 DeStress

If you’re in danger of losing your temper or falling apart emotionally, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation and give yourself (and others) the time to recover

If necessary, walk away and take a moment to breathe and recollect yourself.

Take a deep breath and calm yourself.


7 Empathise

To empathise, you need to be aware of the other’s emotions — most likely from their body language and your own sensitivity to nonverbal cues — and to feel those emotions as if they were your own.

When they’re happy and excited, so are you; if they’re grieving (silently or otherwise), you grieve with them.

If they’re angry about something, your genuine empathy can help them feel less alone and defensive, making it easier for you both to understand and appreciate each other’s meaning.


8 Read

Whether you want to specifically develop your written communication skills, or you’re interested in learning from books written by effective communicators, reading is a powerful way to cultivate your skills in this area.

Whatever your immediate goal, good reading is a potent catalyst for personal growth.


9 Choose Your Words Carefully

Your choice of words can convey empathy and solidarity or the lack of both.

Never underestimate the power of word choice in communication; one word, used in a particular context, can trigger a response that is the opposite of what you intended.

The words you use to describe yourself and others can either foster a sense of fellow-feeling and camaraderie (“we,” “us”) or alienate others with a focus on yourself as one set apart from the rest of them (“I,” “me”).

In some situations, it makes sense to do the latter – particularly when you’re accepting responsibility for something.


10 Show Interest

Let your verbal and nonverbal communication convey an interest in the other’s words.

Active listening is part of this, but you also convey interest with your body language, with a comfortable degree of eye contact, and with relevant, thoughtful questions.

Showing positive interest in something that matters to someone else is essential to building a connection with them, and that connection makes effective communication between you more likely.


11 Keep Your Sense of Humour

Humour can defuse a volatile situation and give the other person the space needed to see the situation from another perspective and to calm down.

Humour is best used as a way to build (and maintain) rapport or to lighten the mood and encourage others to relax. Read the room, though. If it’s not a good time for laughter, avoid it. And leave the dirty jokes in the sewer (where they belong).


12 Remember the Golden Rule

Treat others as you wish to be treated

And now, we come full circle. We already discussed your smile (or lack of it) and how others can often pick up from that whether you’re being honest with them. If you want honesty from others, you need to be upfront with them, too.

So, be authentic. And be kind. Treat others with the same respect you want for yourself.


Why Communication Skills Are Essential For Dentists


Effective communication with your patients and your dental team should be about building trust and strengthening relationships.

If you apply the tips I have shared here, you will be able to communicate your ideas and convictions more effectively. This will help build trust and rapport with your patients which in return sees them saying yes to more treatment. It also helps your team to know what you need and to want to help you.

Like all skills, good communication requires practice and time.

Use you everyday interactions as your training ground to practice these communication tips so that when you really need them, they’ll come more naturally.