Education helps engage patients in the oral care process

February 10th, 2014

Having dental insurance seems like a good reason to go to the dentist. However, according to an article in News Medical, a recent American Journal of Public Health study found that patients don't necessarily feel that way.

Researchers looked specifically at older, uninsured Americans who don't usually use dental care, according to the article. They found that patients, even when provided with insurance, don't fully realize the value of their particular coverage.

"You can't just hand people coverage and say, 'there, that's better,'" Dr. Richard Manski, the report's author and chief of dental public health at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, was quoted as saying in the News Medical article.

Researchers discovered that the barrier between having dental insurance and appreciating the benefits of such coverage is a lack of overall outreach and education. The study's authors suggested that patients tend to misunderstand how oral health affects them. However, these mindsets are not static, and dentists can influence and even change attitudes by leveraging the advancements of innovative dentistry technologies, like dental academic software, to help engage and educate potentially apathetic patients.

The foundation of any good doctor-patient relationship is communication, including more than one appointment reminder every six months. By creating an open portal for interaction – a feature available through dental school software – dentists can involve patients in their own dental care, allowing them access to interactive Web tools to schedule appointments, consult records and request prescription refills.

By keeping patients abreast of test results and other information relevant to their oral care, clinics can help patients realize the advantages of dental insurance and overall oral care. However, a study from Pediatrics reminded health care professionals to focus on communication quality over quantity. Researchers found that patients repeatedly attributed a lack of warmth and friendliness as significant contributors to overall dissatisfaction with their care provider.

Gauge patient knowledge 
Patients often come in to clinics with comparable backgrounds, maybe suffering from similar afflictions. However, it's important for dentists to remember that they are still individuals, and as such, require individualized attention.

When a patient visits a clinic, even as a preemptive measure, dentists should do their best to gauge the patient's personal knowledge on his or her own oral care situation. Through dental software, staff can take notes during appointments and expel fears of forgetting to document the information later. Once dentists have created and filled-out patient profiles, they can then begin to design care and disseminate educational materials based on need, effectively streamlining the process.

Connect on a variety of media
Dentistry students have likely grown up with technology at their fingertips, so becoming familiar with a comprehensive system such as dental school software isn't an especially difficult task. However, not every patient is privy to such a background, which is why connecting through multiple channels is paramount to keeping patients engaged in their oral care.

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