Skill Development in Patient Motivation and Compliance

Realizing the influence of a patient’s values is important when providing education. Getting to know the patient is necessary to assess individual literacy, knowledge and values. Once the provider understands the patient’s level of dental health literacy, communication should be tailored to the appropriate level. Next, it is important to understand the knowledge base, so patient instruction can be provided in a way that matches their level of dental understanding. The instruction should be provided in a manner that is congruent with the dentist’s treatment plan. Understanding what motivates a patient and his/her inherent values, will aid in developing a plan for education and promotion of daily oral hygiene behaviors.2

Many suggest the implementation of motivational interviewing, which can be defined as a collaborative, person-centered form of guiding to elicit and strengthen motivation for change.8-10 Motivational interviewing is a communication strategy that includes a series of open ended questions to help assess patients’ feeling about certain behavior, such as flossing around a newly-placed crown. Using motivational interviewing techniques are valuable, because they allow the patients to participate in coming up with a solution to the problem. This can help patient education to be more participatory instead of paternalistic in nature. In a participatory environment, the patient is actively involved in the learning process. In a paternalistic environment, the provider tends to impart his/her knowledge to the patient and dictating the desired patient behavior.