Harness the Language of Health

February 17, 2018 Pankey Gram

Many dentist-patient interactions operate under the assumption of limited time on our part and limited ability to accurately explain on theirs. After engaging in hundreds of pre-clinical interviews and conversations during appointments, you will have naturally developed your own preferred style for questioning. But how well does it really serve you?

If you feel something is lacking in your patient care, yet your clinical skills and execution seem immaculate, the problem might be about language. When you communicate with your patients, do you get the sense that they feel limited, misunderstood, or unsatisfied? This could be a direct result of using language to discuss ‘disease’ rather than ‘health.’

Use the Language of Health to Connect With Your Patients

Getting out of the rut of a traditional hygiene appointment starts with how you communicate. Even minor shifts in your word choice can have a profound effect on the patient’s sense of comfort. Open up a discussion about their health to connect with their needs.

A great way to follow this path is to abandon the typical impersonal medical jargon. Instead of asking if there have been changes to the patient’s medical history, pose a question about how their health has been since you last saw them.

Right out of the gate, you are presenting yourself as empathetic rather than turning into the classic brusque medical professional. Ask about how they are feeling, whether they have been taking care of themselves, and what changes they have made in their lifestyle.

These types of questions capitalize on expressive language to make the most of your time. Having the patient rattle off changes in their medical history without knowing how they feel about those changes isn’t as useful. People will generally open up when they are given a safe, non-judgmental space to discuss their health. After all, it is often one of the central preoccupations of our interior lives.

What questions do you think are most productive during appointments? 

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