Dental Clinics: What do patients value?

Background

Dentistry combines a business and healthcare service, that is, most patients pay for tangible dental procedures such as fluoride applications, dental radiographers, dental numbers, crowns and dentures among others. There is evidence that patients ask questions about the behaviors and attitudes of dentists during a dental visit when these very technical procedures are carried out. However, little is known about how patients receive dental care as a whole. This paper shows the results from a recent qualitative study in general dental practice. It focuses on patients’ experience of dental care, in particular the relationship between patients and dentists in the provision of preventative care and advice in general dental practices.

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Methods

Seventeen patients were interviewed. Data analysis consisted of coding transcripts, detailed memo writing, and interpretation of data.

Results

Patients described their experiences when visiting dental practices with a structured preventive approach, as well as historical, biological, financial, psychosocial and experiential routines. Potential barriers to preventative activities and prevention facilitators were also outlined. The offer of preventive dental care and advice was an excellent demonstration for this group of patients as they realized that dentists could practice teeth without drilling and filling. All patients, regardless of their practice or level of clinical risk of developing dental caries, appreciated that they were a caring and respected dentist who listened to their concerns without them. “blame” their oral health status. These patients adhered to and supported the preventive care options because their dentists were “treated as a non-patient”. Valuable patients from patients who informed them of existing preventive options gave them education about how to maintain healthy mouths and teeth, and were often supported and reassured during visits.

Conclusions

Patients had respect for a supportive and caring dentist and dedicated dental staff. The experience of a dedicated, supportive and caring dentist helped patients to control their oral health. These dentists and dental teams have made huge changes to patients’ procedures for oral health care, but also how patients have considered their own oral health and the role of dental professionals.

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