Good interpersonal skills are vital in dentistry
Dentists must have a good bedside manner in order to build up trust and strengthen relationships.
Karen Coates, dental advisor at the British Dental Health Foundation, said dentists cannot expect their patients to have total faith in them at the first visit as trust is something that is earned over a number of years.
“You do it with regular visits where you gradually build up that rapport,” she explained.
“I don’t think there is anything a dentist can do to automatically make a patient trust them. You have to do it the other way around.”
She said one of the best reviews dentists can have is a word of mouth recommendation. This implies trust from the off, as one of the new patient's friends or family has told them that particular dental practice is a good place to go.
Particularly with those who are very nervous of attending dental appointments, this can be a huge weight off the mind.
However, she added that there are some personal attributes and behaviours that can help build bonds during every visit.
These can be particularly beneficial for those considering a career in dentistry.
“At the end of the day, it is a caring profession because you are dealing with the public,” she explained.
“You need to have interpersonal skills and creativity.”
Dentists, then, should be patient with those they are treating for the first time, and do all they can to assuage their fears.
Indeed, having compassion for patients can actually make them get better faster and reduce their pain.
Research by NHS Confederation in 2011 found that a good relationship with patients improved their quality of care and increased success rates.
Given that dentistry is often unpleasant and painful for patients, this is important.
However, as Ms Coates explained, this takes patience and a lot of time to develop, so new dentists need must expect a slow improvement in relationships and trust, rather than for it to arrive overnight.