What Does This Mean For Us As Dental Professionals and Clinicians?

Are there strategies that we can implement now that will help to improve professional-patient communication to improve oral health outcomes?

Think for a moment about how you would respond to the following situations:

  • Patricia Olsen, a 42-year-old woman, is being seen for her semi-annual prophylaxis. When you ask Patricia if she has taken her antibiotic premedication she initially says “Yes”, she then hesitates and says, “Actually, No, I didn’t. Tell me again why I’m supposed to take that medication.”
  • Mitzie de Quesada, a 56-year old married woman who has recently moved to your city, has been referred to your office by her neighbor and current patient of yours. When reviewing Mitzie’s medical history, she tells you that she is taking several medications; however, she cannot seem to remember the names of her medications or to be able to tell you what she is taking the medications for.
  • Wenjun Wei is a 33-year-old man who has come in for a hygiene appointment. It has been two years since he was last seen in your office. When you begin to examine his teeth you notice pronounced “notches” worn into the proximal surfaces of virtually all of his teeth. When questioned, Wenjun says, “Well, you told me to use a see-sawing motion with the dental floss for 10 seconds on each tooth.”
  • Paul Thomas is a 71-year-old retired plumber who is being seen in your office for the first time. When the receptionist gives him several forms to complete, he says to her, “I forgot my glasses; I’ll fill these out when I get home.”

We’ll come back to each of these scenarios a little later in the course.

The following information will assist you in recognizing behaviors that might indicate health literacy challenges and advice on implementing standard operating procedures that will assist all patients to more fully appreciate both verbal and written information oral health information.