Your dental office communication system isn't one single thing. It's a series of interconnected tools and processes designed to support seamless communication among your team and with patients. Some of those items may have been around since your practice opened; others are new and not fully integrated into your process. Good, seamless communication is the cornerstone of a well-run practice. Here are some tips that you can use to improve your dental office communication systems.

Good, seamless communication is the cornerstone of a well-run practice
Good, seamless communication is the cornerstone of a well-run practice.

The Six-Step Communication Standard

Much of how patient communication happens is instinctual. Your team depends on their years of experience to explain complex procedures to patients, but what if they don't have that experience? Many dental practices have high turnover rates and regularly bring new team members in. These individuals may not be familiar with the standards to communicate with patients effectively.

In a recent study of another high-turnover field, oncology nurses, researchers found that standardizing clinical communication was vital in helping those new to the field to develop skills. The study broke communication down to a six-step process.








Use preferred terms and pronouns.

Start the interaction positively.

Provide clear information.

Seek consent before proceeding.

Be attentive and patiently address concerns.

Conclude politely and leave a positive impression.


When using this process in the hospital, the team improved nurse training. It also indirectly increased self-efficacy, which is key to retention in any role.

This process is easy to adapt for dental practices, from the first patient interaction to scheduling follow-up. Every member of your team takes ownership of a part of it before passing the next stage onto a coworker. Every step must also be accurately documented and shared so everyone has the right information. With a solid dental office communication system, you can seamlessly incorporate the highest standards into your practice.

6 Steps to a Better Dental Office Communication System

A dental office communication system is about more than just technology tools. It is all the processes you put into place to ensure communication flows seamlessly from one step to the next. Here are six steps to help streamline your practice.

#1: Assign clear roles with training guidelines.

While communication is the responsibility of everyone on your dental team, how it is conducted changes from position to position. By breaking down the roles in your dental practice into the six steps to effective communication, you can also establish a training outline for each.





Position: Dental Receptionist


Politely greet patients and their families using their preferred names and pronouns.

Establish a welcoming and respectful atmosphere.

Ensure a smooth check-in process, collecting essential patient information.

Position: Dental Assistant


Introduce themselves to the patient, clearly stating their role and responsibilities.

Explain the upcoming procedure or treatment in a reassuring manner.

Answer any initial questions or concerns the patient may have.

Position: Hygienist/Dentist


Provide clear and detailed information about the treatment plan, its duration, and potential impacts.

Use patient-friendly language and visuals to enhance understanding.

Ensure the patient is fully informed and comfortable with the treatment.




Position: Hygienist/Dentist


Obtain informed consent from the patient before initiating any procedure.

Ask about the patient's specific dental health concerns or any preferences.

Continuously check with the patient during the procedure.

Position: Hygienist/Dentist


Actively address any questions, concerns, or discomfort expressed by the patient.

Provide additional information or reassurance as needed.

Ensure the patient feels heard and supported throughout the procedure.

Position: Dental Team


Collaboratively and politely explain the next steps to the patient.

Ensure that the patient is comfortable and informed about what comes next.

Conclude the visit with a polite and friendly goodbye from the entire team.


Of course, there will be an overlap between roles. That is why it's essential to train your dental team in all stages of effective communication, with supplemental training on the steps they will most often handle. This ensures that your dental team is prepared to communicate with your patients and guide them through care.

#2: Document your processes and interactions.

Your communication process should include documented Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that your team can refer to when they are uncertain. These procedures should outline key steps, best practices, and expectations for communication. Guidelines for documentation should also be covered.

When documenting patient communication, be sure to include:

  • Date and time: Record the date and time of the interaction for accurate tracking.
  • Patient information: Include the patient's name, date of birth, and contact details.
  • Purpose: Describe the reason for the interaction.
  • Questions and concerns: Document any patient questions or concerns.
  • Responses: Record the healthcare provider's responses to patient questions or concerns.
  • Medications and treatments: List prescribed medications, treatments, and procedures discussed.
  • Follow-up plan: Outline recommendations for follow-up appointments, tests, or procedures.

All this information should be tracked in a streamlined patient record that anyone in the team can refer to in the future. In step three, you use that information inside of an integrated system for continuity of care.

#3: Support continuity of care with your dental office communication system.

Technology is an essential component for the seamless operation of dental office communication. It plays a vital role in connecting all the moving parts within the practice. Technology streamlines various aspects of dental care, from helping patients schedule appointments online to driving communication between the front desk, dental team, and patients.

Electronic Health Records (EHRs) provide quick access to patient records, ensuring that the dental team is well-informed and equipped for each patient's visit. Appointment reminders sent through automated messages help reduce no-shows and late cancellations, improving overall scheduling efficiency.

One significant advancement is telehealth and teleconsultation, allowing for remote consultations and assessments, which can save patients and dental professionals time and effort. Patient portals offer a secure means for patients to access their records, view treatment plans, and communicate with the practice.

Practice management software serves as the hub that brings all these communication tools together, creating a unified ecosystem for dental office operations. It enables efficient scheduling, integrates EHRs, automates reminders, and fosters direct communication with patients, all while maintaining the highest standards of data security. By incorporating practice management software, dental practices can achieve a seamless and patient-centric communication system, elevating the overall quality of care.

#4: Empower your patients with knowledge.

Communication is not just about how your team shares information in your practice but also how well your patients comprehend what you're telling them. Very often, there is a disconnect between what the dentist conveys and what the patient understands. For every patient, following the six-step process that helps you connect and build a relationship is crucial, but that's only half the battle.

Individuals typically don't retain new information the first time they hear it. An adage known as the "Rule of 7" estimates that it takes at least seven exposures to new information for someone to retain it. Studies have supported this idea and even suggested that retention may be even lower in today's information-overloaded world. That's why providing your patients with information they can review at their own pace is important. This might involve traditional brochures or app-driven instructional videos that explain procedures or dental conditions. Offering these resources allows patients to enhance their understanding of what your team communicates, improving dental outcomes.

#5: Continuously improve through collaboration.

Communication is a collaborative process. By encouraging your team members to share their insights, experiences, and ideas openly, you create an environment where effective communication flourishes. You also make it possible to improve. Effective communication is never done; it is a continuous journey. You should regularly solicit feedback through structured channels, foster open dialogue, and adapt your communication practices to evolving needs and challenges.

As the care you provide to your patients improves, your communication strategies should improve with it
As the care you provide to your patients improves, your communication strategies should improve with it.

Your dental office communication system is more than just software; it is how your team communicates effectively, from scheduling appointments to follow-up care. This system connects your team members, patients, and interactions, while allowing you to keep historical records that support continuity of care. As the care you provide to your patients constantly improves, your communication strategies should improve along with it.