15: Communication

Chapter 15


By the end of this chapter you should be able to:
1. Define communication and quote the three rules of communication.
2. Describe the aspects of effective communication.
3. Recognise and break down communication barriers.
4. Define paralinguistic communication and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).
5. Recognise the role of the media and IT in patient communication.


For the oral health educator (OHE), communication involves sending information to a patient in a way that they can easily understand, remember and act upon. It is vital that patients receive the same message that is sent.

Being able to communicate messages to a variety of patients (some of whom want to hear it, and others who do not) is tantamount to success for the OHE, as is breaking down communication barriers that may exist.

Most patients will have experienced occasions on leaving the surgery of a doctor, dentist or other health professional feeling annoyed, confused or even more nervous than when they arrived. The onus to put the patient at ease, answer questions truthfully and explain points clearly and concisely lies with the professional. It is not the patient’s fault if a message is not understood. It is therefore important for the OHE to know a little communication theory.

It is normal to feel nervous and apprehensive when talking to a patient. However, once you have talked to the person, found out a little about them and planned what steps are required, the second visit (or patient) will not nearly be as intimidating. Remember that the patient may be more nervous than you.

Always greet patients warmly, introducing yourself with a smile, and invite them to remove outdoor clothing and take a seat (preferably in a comfortable chair in a setting free of dental equipment, noises and smells). However, this is not always possible – most hygienists and therapists carry out their sessions along with their clinical work, often with the patient in the dental chair. It is the educator’s attitude, body language and knowledge that put the patient at ease and helps achieve the desired results.

The three rules of communication

Remember! The three rules of communication:

Tell me………….I forget

Show me……….I remember

Involve me……..I learn


As mentioned, the responsibility for good communication lies with the professional and forms the basis of a good relationship between a dental professional and a patient.

Communication takes place at two levels:

1. Cognitive (understanding) – getting the oral health message across.
2. Emotional (related to feelings) – how the message is conveyed.

In a dental situation, the latter is often more important.

Effective communication

Effective communication makes it easier for patients to discuss problems and devise solutions.

There are three main aspec/>

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Jan 4, 2015 | Posted by in General Dentistry | Comments Off on 15: Communication
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