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Maintaining a professional patient-dentist relationship

Do you have a conflict with a patient that you are struggling to resolve? Are you contemplating dismissing a patient from your practice? Have you considered moving beyond a professional relationship with someone you are treating?

These situations are discussed in the Practice Advisory on Maintaining a professional patient-dentist relationship to provide guidance and strategies in navigating these scenarios.

As a dentist, you have an obligation to develop and maintain a professional relationship with your patients and build a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. From time to time, you may find that challenges arise in your treating relationships.

Building professional relationships with patients

  • Consider language barriers or cultural differences
  • Be aware of your patients underlying disability or health conditions (including mental health or cognition issues)
  • Make it easy for patients to navigate/access your office policies
  • Tell your patients who to contact in your office about billing, treatment and insurance
  • Ask your patients if they have any questions before concluding a visit

(Read the Practice Advisory for more examples)

Building a successful relationship with your patients can be achieved through good communication skills, such as:

  • practising empathetic listening
  • making efforts to understand the patient’s point of view
  • providing accessibility accommodations.

The Practice Advisory includes frequently asked questions that address common sensitive topics (e.g. What is a “true” emergency?) and tips on resolving these conflicts.  

There is always a power imbalance between you and your patient.

You have knowledge, experience and expertise that your patient does not have. You are responsible for providing your best advice to help  your patient make decisions about their dental care that best meet their needs.

Every patient and situation is different. Contact the College’s Practice Advisory Service or the Professional Liability Program (PLP) for specific advice, if necessary.