Communication 101 for Orthodontists

by Shadi Samawi

“A doctor, like anyone else who has to deal with human beings … cannot be just a scientist; he is either, like the surgeon, a craftsman, or, like the physician and the psychologist, an artist. This means that in order to be a good doctor a man must also have a good character, that is to say, whatever weaknesses and foibles he may have, he must love his fellow human beings in the concrete sense and desire their good before his own.”

W. H. Auden

“With the evolution from a paternalistic to an autonomous (self-rule) perspective of health care delivery, many patients no longer unconditionally accept a doctor’s expert authority to dictate therapy without considering options. The doctor’s communication style must therefore convey an appreciation of the patient’s concerns and complaints, as well as verbal skills that involve the patient in the decision-making process—all in an empathetic, personalized manner.”
– Peter Greco (The Salient Skill. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop 2015;147:301)

The above introductory paragraph from Dr Peter Greco’s article in AJODO earlier this year illustrates the importance of high-level communication skills required by doctors this day and age. Not everyone is a good communicator, although we would all like to believe so about ourselves.

Case acceptance rates as well as clinical success in orthodontic treatment throughout the lengthy treatment period are highly affected by the orthodontist’s communication skills in explaining our diagnosis, treatment plans and the necessary treatment instructions to both patient and/or parent. It is imperative for us as orthodontists to ensure that our communication skills – and those of our team – are at a high level of clarity and consistency along with an empathetic manner that can be re-assuring and confidence-building for our patients.

There are many ways we can build-up our practice and skill in this regards, from books, special courses, etc.. but possibly the best approach would be to observe and learn form Master Communicators in our field. That is the surest and best way to learn any skill.

I encourage you to read Dr Greco’s article in the AJODO below and take action accordingly.

The Salient Skill - Peter Greco - AJODO2015