Summary of Key Points

  • Patient education is a vital part of any dental appointment. It involves teaching patients about oral hygiene, diet, nutrition, overall oral health, and the dental treatments they may undergo during their appointments.
  • The purpose of patient education is to encourage patients to take an active role in improving and maintaining their oral health. However, patient education is also an excellent way to help patients relax by helping them feel informed and in control before various procedures.
  • Common patient education duties for Canadian dental assistants include demonstrating how to brush and floss properly, providing instructions on how to care for different dental devices, and explaining the importance of regular check-ups or follow-up appointments.
  • Essential skills for dental assistants who want to excel at patient education include oral and written communication, active listening, empathy, flexibility, and cultural competence. Risio can help you improve these skills in a safe environment with experienced mentors.

Patient education is one of the most important parts of going to the dentist. It helps patients understand the work that needs to be done during their appointments, and provides them with information they can use to improve their oral health at home. As a dental assistant, you’ll have a key role to play in this process—but what exactly will you be expected to do, and how can you make sure you’ll succeed?

Don’t worry; Risio has you covered. Patient education factors heavily into the curriculum for our Dental Assistant Distance Diploma Program, and we’re happy to take this opportunity to share some of our knowledge with you. Read on to learn about what kinds of tasks dental assistants routinely perform as part of the patient education process, as well as the skills involved and what you can do to master them!

What Is Patient Education?

Patient education in dentistry involves teaching patients about:

  • Oral hygiene
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Overall oral health
  • Dental treatments and procedures

The goal of patient education is to empower patients to take an active role in their oral healthcare and to prevent future dental problems. However, it can also be a valuable way to improve a patient’s experience during their dental appointment.

Dental assistant talking to patient during appointment
Via Adobe Stock.

How Patient Education Helps Patients Relax

Patient education plays a substantial role in helping patients feel more comfortable during their dental appointments. Patients who understand what to expect during a dental appointment are more likely to feel calm and relaxed. Providing patients with the information they need to understand the treatments or procedures they’ll be receiving can reduce fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

Patient education can also improve patient comfort by addressing any concerns or fears they might have about dental treatments or procedures. For example, if a patient is anxious about a certain procedure, a dental assistant can provide information on the steps involved, the expected outcome, and any potential risks or side effects. This can help the patient to feel more informed and in control, which can give them more confidence in the work and help them relax.

Finally, patient education often helps a patient feel more comfortable by addressing any misconceptions or misunderstandings they may have about oral health. For example, if a patient is under the impression that a certain treatment is painful, dental assistants can provide information on pain management techniques and explain how the procedure will be performed in a way that minimizes discomfort.

Dental assistant explaining flossing and mouthwash to patient
Via Adobe Stock.

Common Patient Education Duties for Dental Assistants

Dental assistants in Canada are often expected to help provide patient education in a number of ways. Here are a few common examples:

  • Demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques
  • Explain the different type of toothbrush and how to choose the right one
  • Provide information on diet and nutrition and its impact on oral health
  • Explain the different type of dental procedures and treatment options available
  • Provide instructions on how to care for dental prosthetics such as dentures or bridges
  • Provide information on the importance of regular dental check-ups and the prevention of oral health problems

Dental assistants may also help to provide patient education by preparing and maintaining educational materials, such as brochures and handouts, for patients to take home. Additionally, dental assistants may be involved in community outreach programs, providing oral health education to groups such as schools and senior centers.

Dental assistant smiling with clipboard in exam room
Via Adobe Stock.

What Skills Help Dental Assistants Excel at Patient Education?

Dental assistants need certain skills to be truly effective at patient education. Some of the most important are:

  • Written & Oral Communication: Dental assistants must be able to effectively convey information to patients and answer their questions or concerns. The dental assistant should be able to explain procedures, treatments, and oral health concepts in a clear and easy-to-understand manner.
  • Active Listening: Dental assistants should be able to understand a patient’s concerns, questions, and needs. This allows them to provide accurate information and resources that can help patients feel more comfortable during their dental appointments.
  • Empathy: Dental assistants should be able to empathize with patients, understanding their fears, concerns, and anxieties, and responding in a compassionate manner. This helps put patients at ease and build trust.
  • Flexibility: Dental assistants should be able to adapt their teaching style to suit the needs and learning style of different patients. This requires the ability to adjust the language, tone, and format of the information provided to match the patient’s level of understanding and comfort.
  • Cultural Competence: Dental assistants should be able to understand and appreciate the diverse cultural backgrounds of patients, and should be able to adapt their communication and teaching style accordingly. This helps to ensure that patients from different backgrounds receive the information they need to make informed decisions about their oral health.

Build Your Patient Communication Skills with Risio

The information here is a great overview of what patient education is and what it requires—but to develop the required skills yourself and learn how to apply them consistently, you’ll need practice. Get the training and opportunities you need, plus mentorship by experienced professional dental assistants, when you join Risio Institute’s diploma program. Contact Risio now for more details or to speak with someone who can help you apply.