One of the most important stops on the road to success in your dental practice…communication

Communication is the key to success of any dental practice. But do the team members know how to really listen—to each other and to their patients? Here are some communication and listening tips from the ADAA president.

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“Communication, the human connection, is the key to personal and career success.”—Paul J. Meyer

Success. We all want it in our personal lives and careers. We want success as we begin a new job and take on a new position in a group. One of the keys to success in any part of our lives is communication.

Communication does not just involve what is spoken or written. It also involves the use of nonverbal gestures, body language as well as listening skills. The use of all of these tactics is vital to successful communication.

Let’s break this down. Verbal communication is speaking clearly, staying focused with eye contact, and speaking calmly and respectfully. All are crucial.

Non-verbal communication is facial expressions, the tone and pitch of voice, gestures expressed through body language, and the physical space between those communicating. All this conveys implicit messages, whether intentional or not.

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Listening has been said to be the most important of all communication skills. Listening is not the same as hearing. To listen effectively a person needs to practice.

The 10 principals of listening as recommended by many communication professionals are: 1) stop talking, 2) prepare yourself to listen, 3) put the speaker at ease, 4) remove distractions, 5) empathize, 6) be patient, 7) avoid personal prejudice, 8) listen to the tone, 9) listen for ideas, not just words, and 10) wait and watch for nonverbal communication.

Following these principals, practicing them, and using them will ensure that you will learn to listen effectively. These techniques can be used in all facets of your life—at home, in your office with your team members, and with your patients.

To ensure success in the office when communicating with patients, dental assistants need to keep in mind that we should talk with our patients and not at them. Don’t overuse medical jargon, and leave time for patients to ask questions.

Communicating with other team members is also vitally important to the success of each day. Being open and honest is important when fostering relationships with coworkers.

Being aware of your actions—verbal, non-verbal and using your listening skills—will help dental assistants on the road to success.


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“Communication is a tricky skill that can constantly be improved on. Knowing what not to do, however, is just as crucial as knowing what to do. By eliminating bad habits and poor communication methods, styles, and channels from your practice’s plans, you’ll be more likely to successfully connect with, and to treat, your patients.” Adam Nelson, cofounder and COO of Hability

The American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) has proudly been the recognized voice of dental assisting for over 90 years. It remains committed to promoting quality dental health care to the public and enhancing the public image and stature of the dental assisting profession. For more information on the Association, visit adaausa.org.

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