dduThe DDU has advised dental professionals to avoid using dental jargon when speaking to patients and colleagues.

It claims using plain English will help improve communication with patients and avoid misunderstandings that can lead to a complaint.

‘Jargon, acronyms and technical language is common in dentistry,’ Leo Briggs, deputy head of the DDU, said.

‘Because we are using the words day in day out, it’s difficult to distinguish what is and isn’t jargon.

‘For example, dental professionals all understand what composite, amalgam and radiographs are.

‘But they are not words widely understood by patients.

‘By making the effort to communicate clearly and concisely, dental professionals can give patients a greater sense of involvement in their own care.

‘Communication issues are also a regular factor in complaints.

‘Using plain English can also minimise the risk of a simple misunderstanding becoming something more serious.’

Commonly used dental jargon

To help highlight the issue, the DDU has put together a list of commonly used jargon in dental practices.

The list of words commonly used by dental professionals include:

  • Amalgam – a material commonly used to fill teeth, which is silver in colour
  • Composite – an alternative filling material, which is tooth-coloured
  • Restoration – a filling or a crown
  • Radiograph – X-ray
  • Periodontitis/basic periodontal examination (BPE) – gum disease/a screening test to look for the disease
  • Caries – decay in the tooth
  • UL5 (or another number) – the notation system used to identify teeth
  • Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) – a condition affecting jaw movement.

‘It’s not only patients who will benefit from dental professionals adopting a plain English style,’ Mr Briggs continues.

‘Avoiding acronyms and technical language in referral letters and other correspondence with colleagues can also help to avoid misunderstandings and save time in interpretation.’

Advice on writing letters

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) has published advice on writing outpatient clinic letters to patients.

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) believes that, whilst aimed at medical professionals, it can still apply in dentistry.

Guidance from the AMRC says to use plain English wherever possible and medical jargon is only ok occasionally.

Other tips from the AMRC say:

  • Remove redundant words such as ‘actually’ and ‘really’
  • Use shorter sentences
  • Stick to one topic per paragraph.

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