What do the patients think?
Although the NHS have stated that you should use every opportunity to discuss behaviour change with patients, it is important to understand their thoughts and opinions on this. If patients do not feel that dentists should be discussing behaviour changes with them you may risk damaging the rapport you have built, causing more harm than good.
We interviewed patients to try and gauge their thoughts, feelings and experiences of having behaviour change conversations with their dentists. Below are some quotes taken from these interviews, which summarise the responses we gathered.
Question: Do you think that dentists have a role in helping change lifestyle behaviours at all?
“I would think they have a big role because they are a medical expert, so you would treat them – well I certainly would treat them – their information or advice the same as I would with a doctors so if I went to a doctor and I had a heart condition and he told me my cholesterol was high, I would absolutely believe everything he tells me and would work towards changing it. The same kind of thing with a dentist so if I went to a dentist and he give me advice on a) the problem I’ve got and b) where that problem would end up if I don’t change whatever then I would listen to him 100%. I think they have a massively valuable part to play.” (Participant 6)
“Yeah I think that any opportunity that anybody has in front of a health professional, that should be an opportunity to remind them of any health behaviours that they should be addressing.” (Participant 11)
“… If it’s true that there are links between oral health behaviours and wider health behaviours then I think dentists should definitely have a bigger role than they do in helping spot these potential illnesses and helping prevent them in patients.” (Participant 15)
“I don’t think it hurts for dentists to have a role, and I think it’s right that potentially they’re in a very good position to try and give people advice about lifestyle changes and persuade people to adopt new behaviours." (Participant 19)
These interviews suggest that patients do feel comfortable discussing behaviour change with their dentists, and that these conversations would benefit them, particularly regarding behaviours impacting their oral health.
To help you initiate these conversations to ensure they are as effective as possible, we will now describe some unhelpful approaches that you should avoid, and provide you with some helpful techniques you can incorporate into conversations with patients.