Dentistry isn’t everyone’s favorite cup of tea. Procedures can be invasive, uncomfortable, and even give some people the chills just by talking about dental drills and explorers. Improving our communication with patients can help ease their fears, help them feel comfortable and welcome, and provide a support group that’s ready to face their dental procedures with them. In this article, we have a few ideas to help you improve your communication as a dental assistant with your patients.

Body Language

Positive body language is important to express in a clinical setting, especially when we’re always wearing medical masks. While most can still tell that we’re smiling behind our masks, it’s important our body language is inviting. When we’re standing up tall, making eye contact with our patients, and keeping our arms at our sides, our body language indicates that we’re ready for conversation and to be helpful. If our body language reflects that we’re a little more closed off and non-approachable, it’s hard for patients to strike up conversations, ask questions, and feel comfortable.

Simplify Language

To increase communication, sometimes we need to slow our speech, speak a little louder than usual, and use simple words.


If your patient is young, use age-appropriate words to describe procedures. Some clinics have standardized kid-friendly words to use around the clinic like “sleepy juice” for anesthetic, or “Mr. Bumpy” for drills. These kid-friendly words help kids feel more comfortable in the dental chair because they feel like they have a better understanding of what’s going on. Putting a name to a procedure or tool goes a long way.


Many older patients can be hard of hearing, so speaking clearly, louder than usual, but in a pleasant and happy tone is essential. If your older patients have incorrect assumptions about the procedures due to past experiences with older procedures, it’s okay to correct them, but be very polite, positive, and keep your explanation patient-centric. Patient-centric explanations are geared towards the patient and not the procedure. If you had a patient worried about a root canal hurting, instead of explaining the procedure from a textbook perspective, say something patient-centric like “I promise you won’t feel any pain. Our anesthetics are strong and our doctors are very observant. If you feel any discomfort throughout the procedure, you can let us know.”

Give Your Patients Time to Respond

It’s really easy to get caught up into the motions, especially with explaining the same procedures a few times every day. A great dental assistant is also a great listener. If your patient has concerns about their procedure, listen to their concerns intently, show signals that you’re listening by nodding and maintaining eye contact, and when it’s your turn to respond, then dive into your response. If your patients are understood and feel heard, they’ll feel more comfortable, ready for their procedures, and important in the clinic.

Create a Moment with Each Patient

As a dental assistant, you will have different tasks and responsibilities from day to day, but it’s normal to have days where you get home and can’t remember the specifics of work; it’s all blurred together. If you create a moment with each patient, it will help reduce the blur working days can become.

A moment you’ve “created” with a patient could be nothing more than a conversation. If you remember the conversation at the end of the day, it’s likely that your patient does too. Making patients feel valued through inclusion, compliments, laughter, and even with just eye contact can go a long way. Avoid sensitive topics like politics, family issues, or personal finance and focus more on the patient’s hobbies, professional work, local events, and popular media.

These moments you create are helpful to you in strengthening relationships with patients, but you’ll also help your patient feel more welcome, comfortable, and remembered.

Use Graphics to Explain

Illustrations, x-rays, models, and photographs work wonders when needing to explain procedures. If you have x-rays of your patient’s teeth, definitely remember to pull them up if they have any questions and leave them up if your patient has more questions for the dentist.

Gain Experience through 90 Day Dental Assistant

It’s okay if you’re not the best conversationalist starting out. It’s a skill that is honed through practice. Through the 90 Day Dental Assistant program, you’ll have the opportunity to practice honing your social skills through your externship and interactions with instructors and peers. If you have any questions about our program, we’re more than happy to answer them!