The art of communication

socialPriya Sharma says that being skilful at the art of communication will allow for an increase in patient satisfaction and successful dental outcomes.

What is communication?

Simply put, communication is defined as the ‘imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium’. Described in such a manner it seems to be a very transparent and uncomplicated process of sending and receiving of information. On the contrary communication is a very intricate dynamic two-way process of interaction.

The role of dental nurses

It possibly would be an understatement to say that the role of a dental nurse has evolved substantially over the years. In fact, a dental nurse is often the first point of contact for patients and as such nurses should be competent, skilful and seamless in the art of communication.

The General Dental Council’s (GDC) Standards for the Dental Team clearly states ‘you must communicate effectively with patients – listen to them, give them time to consider information and take their individual views and communications needs into account’. Clearly communication skills play an integral part in dental practices.

Active listening

Paramount to effective communication is active listening, which is a foundation to a successful interaction. This involves more than passively hearing the message. Active listening is the ability to mindfully make a full effort to understand what a patient is attempting to convey to you. 

A successful communicator will need to consider the full background of the interaction. A patient should be considered as an individual who may have one or more of the following: a past dental experience, assumptions, anxiety, perhaps unrealistic expectations, language or cultural differences, and/or confusion regarding the dental treatment that will either directly or indirectly contribute to the whole experience.

Verbal communication

As the name suggests, verbal communication involves the transfer of information using speech. It is important to have an appropriate tone of voice. It is critical to be aware of your tone and ensure you remain calm, neutral and caring regardless of the situation at hand.

Nonverbal communication

In order to demonstrate that you are focused and paying full attention, maintain appropriate eye contact. Be aware of your own body posture, that is how you stand or sit.

Throughout the encounter it is important to be conscious of your own non-verbal behaviours, such as visual cues including facial expressions and gestures, kinesics is the manner in which various body movements can be interpreted.

Proxemics is the distance that people feel it necessary to put in between themselves and others.

Clearly nonverbal communication will without doubt have a greater impact than the spoken word. In addition, it is imperative to keep both verbal and nonverbal communication in line with each other.


This brief article attempts at highlighting the various strategies one can use to be a successful communicator. The extent of various elements utilised will vary on what is actually being communicated. Being skilful at the art of communication will indeed allow for an increase in patient satisfaction and successful dental outcomes.

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