DT Effective Communication for the Dental Assistant
You will receive 1 credit(s) of continuing education credit upon successful completion of this course. The purchase price of this course is $49.00

This course discusses why it is important for dental assistants to develop strong communication skills to help build patient rapport, answer patient questions, ease patient anxiety, promote the dentist’s philosophy of practice, and work well with other team members.

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, participants should be able to do the following:

  1. Explain why it is important to develop good communication skills.
  2. Discuss why developing good communication skills will help their interpersonal relationships with coworkers.
  3. Describe several ways to deal with conflict within the dental team.
  4. Identify ways to enhance your professional appearance.
  5. Identify ways to enhance your listening skills in the dental office.
  6. Explain how body language can enhance/hinder patient communication.
  7. Identify ways to honor diversity in the dental office.
  8. Identify ways to deal with the angry patient.
  9. Identify specific techniques that can help reduce dental office anxiety.
  10. Describe some general ways to educate the patient about dental health.
  11. Explain the importance of a treatment plan and how dental assistants can be instrumental in case acceptance.
  12. Identify some reasons for referring a patient to a specialist.
  13. Identify tactful ways to discuss financial issues with patients.

Dental assistants are in a unique position to interact frequently with patients.  They can educate patients about oral health, answer patient questions, ease patient anxiety, and promote the dentist’s philosophy of practice.  It is essential that dental assistants build positive relationships with patients by listening well, being supportive, and making patients feel comfortable.  Effective communication skills also come in handy when working with other members of the dental team and resolving conflict.  This course describes ways to dress in a manner that communicates professionalism.  Several ways to enhance listening skills are offered as well, because listening well is a critical communication skill.  Body language and knowing when to use technical language or lay terms can help convey the dental assistant’s message as well. Dental assistants need to become familiar with the diverse patient populations they may see in a dental practice, in terms of age, socioeconomic class, and ethnic and cultural background.  This course discusses ways to recognize anger and deal with it effectively.  Ways to ease patient anxiety are also discussed. Sample scripts are offered to help educate patients about dental health and treatment.  Dental assistants play a key role in case acceptance and providing post-treatment instruction.  They can also help the dentist write referral letters and make appointments for patients to see specialists.  Techniques and sample scripts for discussing financial issues with patients are offered.

  1. Introduction

  2. Good Communication Skills

  3. Maintaining Professional Relationships with Coworkers

  4. Professional Appearance

  5. Listening

  6. Body Language

  7. Speaking

  8. Understanding Diversity

  9. Dealing with the Angry Patient

  10. Easing Patient Anxiety

  11. Educating Your Patient

  12. Treatment Plan

  13. Case Acceptance

  14. Providing Post-Treatment Instruction

  15. Referral to a Specialist

  16. Discussing Financial Issues with Patients


1.Gaylor LJ. The administrative dental assistant. W.B. Saunders, 2000:p. 47.
2.American Dental Association, www.ada.org, Communication Between Health Care Providers and Patients: Addressing the Challenges of Limited Oral Health Literacy, http://www.ada.org/prof/resources/topics/science_oralhealth_literacy.asp, accessed April 12, 2006.
3.Shulman ER, Brehm WT. Dental clinical attire and infection-control procedures: patients’ attitudes. JADA 2001;132:508-516.
4.Listening: hear today, probably gone tomorrow. The Business Journal of Phoenix. May 11, 2001.
5.Douglass C, Sheets CG. Patients’ expectations for oral health care in the 21st century. JADA 2000;131:3S-7S.
6.Davidhizar RE. The angry patient. The Dental Assistant, September/October, 1999.
7.American Dental Association. Basic Training I: for New Dental Office Staff. Chicago: American Dental Association Council on Dental Practice; 1999.

American Dental Association is an ADA CERP Recognized Provider.

ADA CERP is a service of the American Dental Association to assist dental professionals in identifying quality providers of continuing dental education. ADA CERP does not approve or endorse individual courses or instructors, nor does it imply acceptance of credit hours by boards of dentistry.