The skills needed to be a good practitioner are as much technical as they are personal, John Makin says.

Understanding what a patient wants and values is central to being a good dental practitioner, but do we always get this right?

In my experience, complaints can often arise when there is a mismatch between what a practitioner believes is important to the patient and the reality.

For example, dental professionals might expect their patients to want a dentist who is up to date with the latest techniques and with the technical skills to transform their teeth.

However, patients are often more concerned about good customer service and quality of care.

This is reflected in research carried out by the GDC about patients’ treatment expectations, with 64% of people taking part in the public and patient survey saying quality of care is an important factor when receiving treatment, while just 43% think the dental professional’s level of experience is important.

Also 33% value the dental professionals’ behaviour during appointments; however, this falls to only 7% in respect of behaviour in their personal time.

The pre-treatment information considered to be most important is the cost, nature and duration of the treatment.

Technical versus personal

This shows that patients expect us to be an expert in communicating with them and gaining their trust via an honest and open dialogue, as we are skilled in carrying out a root canal treatment or an extraction.

The GDC’s enhanced CPD has four ‘development outcomes’, qualities, which, in combination, amount to a complete and competent practitioner.

Patients might overlook technical skill or regard it as a given, but they are unlikely to ignore perceived rudeness or lack of empathy.

In the DDU’s experience, the skills needed to be a competent practitioner are not only technical, but also personal.

The ability to help patients to understand and opt for the treatment you think is in their best interests, which may be quite different to that which they first requested, will help to ensure the patient’s experience will be a positive one.


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