The Importance of Effective Communication

Communicating effectively with patients is one of the nine principles in the General Dental Council’s Standards, and as a basic standard, the GDC states that you must:

communicate effectively with patients – listen to them, give them time to consider information and take their individual views and communication needs into account

recognise and promote patients’ rights to and responsibilities for making decisions about their health priorities and care

give patients the information they need, in a way they can understand, so that they can make informed decisions

give patients clear information about costs (GDC, 2019)

This focus on effective communication highlights its importance in the practice of dentistry, but why is it so important, and how can it benefit your practice?

Firstly, effective communication in dentistry is important because it allows for valid consent (another of the GDC’s Standards principles). If a patient doesn’t understand all elements of a potential treatment plan, then they will be unable to make an informed decision, and, therefore, while they may still consent to the treatment, they will be unable to provide valid consent (as defined by the GDC) (GDC, 2019).

Effective communication is also important because, according to an article in Dental Update, good communication between you and your patient is associated with a more accurate diagnosis and improved patient outcomes (Waylen, 2017). In addition to this, effective communication has the potential to reduce the number of complaints that a practice receives. Bradshaw (2019) found that patients often “use a doctor’s bedside manner as a proxy for quality of care”. Although he did not specifically refer to dentistry, it is very likely that these findings can be applied to the field of dentistry. Therefore, if you communicate effectively with your patients, they are likely to feel that they were provided with a higher quality of care, and will be less likely to complain as a result.

Finally, not only is effective communication with patients important, but it is also important to communicate effectively with your colleagues as this has been found to lead to “better personal relationships and a more satisfying working life” (Waylen, 2017).


Bradshaw, P. (2019). Good communication reduces risk of a complaint or claim. The BMJ, 367(l6160).

Evans, S. (2022, January 1). The power of communication in dentistry. Dentistry.

General Dental Council. (2019). Principle Two: Communicate effectively with patients.

Waylen, A, (2017). The importance of communication in dentistry. Dental Update, 44(8).

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