Relevancy of Learning


In order for learning to be relevant to the patient, it is essential to adapt education to the immediate problems or concerns of the adult learner. Dental providers should encourage patients to work as a partner in setting the educational agenda. An emerging approach to this is called health coaching. It is defined as supporting and enhancing the resources, skills and knowledge of the patient.5 One way to do this is to work together to decide what topics are of immediate concern to the patient and which can wait until later appointments. In most dental settings patients will be seen for continuing care and those appointments can be used to cover additional information.

Focus on ‘must know’ information. Adult learners want information and skills that can be applied in their everyday lives. It may be helpful to compare and contrast new information with what the patient already knows. When you teach a new procedure, compare it to tasks the patient is already familiar with.

Questions the dental provider might ask the patient to gather information include:

  • “How do you see what we have talked about today fitting into your daily schedule?”
  • “Tell me how you think ______ daily will affect the bleeding gums that you have been noticing?”
  • “What do you feel that you need to know more about in order to start ______ regularly at home?”
  • “How do you think using the Interdental brush to clean between your teeth will compare to using a toothpick?”