Are you effectively communicating as a dental team?

dental team effectively communicatingJasdeep Hall explains how to incorporate effective communication within the dental practice to help both your patients and your team.

Communication is a life skill. One that helps to build strong relationships in both our personal and work life.

Effective communication is key to success and is a fundamental part of professional and lucrative working environments.


As dentists, we engage with a wide range of people in the workplace to get our message across in a professional manner.

Listening is key to enable effective communication. Patients and staff members must be our focus of attention. Listening to them is important for achieving successful treatment.

Giving undivided attention whilst listening to others can build trust and strengthen bonds.

Whilst listening, make notes about what is said, so that you don’t miss any vital information. Therefore it is better to clarify and repeat.

Communication is both verbal and non-verbal. We must be careful with the words we choose when communicating with patients and team members to understand them. Keep an eye out for language barriers.

Simple language and shorter sentences are best. They are easily comprehended by others. Our message should consequently be concise and assured to gain confidence.

GDC principle number six: work with colleagues in a way that is in the patients’ best interest

The level of interaction is essential for teams who work together to achieve a common goal, for example patient care.

Effective teams are built on respect, trust, recognising each other’s efforts, appreciation and the ability to listen to each other.

The combination of these characteristics leads to a healthy working environment. Therefore team meetings are quite purposeful in achieving goals by implementing strategies.

Any adjustments or modifications need discussion, written down and made available to all team members.

Implementing new COVID-19 safe care procedures

Clear objective: risk assessment/new products and approaches.

Input from team members: suggestions, clear over roles;

  • Nurses – decontamination and hygiene procedures
  • Receptionist – phone or face-to-face risk assessment, on arrival temperature checks
  • Dentist – risk assessment, non-AGP/AGP procedures, referrals, records, treatment costs etc.

Precise and clear communication of implementation process: be simple and comprehensible.

Improvements/modifications: if it requires any adjustments or measures to reduce known risks.

Written and signed: beneficial to keep documentary evidence and record.

Review regularly/team meetings: ideally 15 minutes daily to ensure each team member gets a turn.

Checklist for discussion should be focused and solutions noted.

We refer to the regular morning daily meetings as ‘buzz’ meetings. These have proved very successful. It also keeps all team members updated and gives us direction for the day ahead.

Team meetings are a key training tool which improve the communication bond with other staff members. It allows team members to share their experiences and learn from others. It also helps to upgrade standards of the dental team by improving management skills.

GDC principle number two: communicate effectively with patients

One of the most essential tasks of the dental team is enhancing communication techniques with patients.

Building a rapport with the patients makes the working environment friendlier and also less stressful for patients.

As a dental team, we need to address and recognise individual patient needs and provide treatment based on their clinical needs without any personal gain.

At the examination appointment and before starting any course of treatment, clinicians should mention the cost verbally as well as in writing, in notes and FP17 form. They should then cite them again on the day of commencing treatment.

  1. Full dental assessment
  2. Treatment plan delivery
  3. Treatment options
  4. Discuss possible outcomes: risks/benefits
  5. Allow patients to express their views
  6. Informed decision about how to proceed
  7. Clear information in writing – clinical notes, FP17 form
  8. Cost of treatment full information and cost – NHS/private services.

Include a template in every dental practice room, including the reception, with fee structure for both NHS and private treatment. This keeps any treatment costs clear from the beginning.

A clear line of communication with the patient is necessary to avoid any misunderstandings regarding treatment costs.

It is a duty of each team member to do at least two hours of CPD training annually on this subject. This will not only improve their communication skills, but also aid their career progression.

Personal reflection

COVID-19 affected hundreds of thousands of people across the country. It also affected many industries worldwide – and the dental sector is one of them.

Regular contact with staff is key. Listening to staff and taking on board any suggestions keeps all involved and helps to strengthen the bond with the entire team.

Appreciating the staff and praising when due can help boost staff morale. In turn, this keeps momentum going within the workplace.

We regularly carry out audits to ensure the practice is implementing the correct procedures. This allows us to identify areas for improvement.

Our primary aim is to keep colleagues well informed with the ever-changing advice. Regular communication is the most effective way to help our services to adapt.

As a practice principal I make it my responsibility to personally address our colleagues once a week via Zoom.

This personal approach was very well received. As well as updating us all on changes to government guidance, personal protective equipment and our internal policies. Importantly, I remind us all to look after our own wellbeing too.

Effective team communication helps keep our colleagues safe, well and able to keep on providing quality dental care to all of our patients.

We know that colleagues have gone above and beyond to stay updated. By creating so many different formats of communication, we have successfully catered for everyone. We’re making sure that everyone receives the messages.

As we ease lockdown measures we know that all the work we did to bring about change counted then and still counts now.

The pandemic has become business as usual for us. Whilst we look on with hope as the number of cases drop, we are prepared to step up to the plate again if needed.

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