A patient attended a dentist over a two-year period. His mouth displayed evidence of advanced periodontal disease that was subsequently treated over a number of visits. The patient then changed dentists and was subsequently referred to a periodontist who confirmed the level of bone loss. The patient was concerned that although he had received treatment consisting of scaling over a protracted period, he had not been given details about the nature of the disease or the role he could play in its prevention.
At the outset of treatment, a proper discussion with the patient about the process and outcome of the proposed treatment and the patient's role in it is essential. Such a discussion must include an assessment of the patient's ability to comprehend the information and, when achieved, will help prevent complaints of a ‘lack of understanding'.
When communicating information to patients, it is a good idea to check that they have understood by having them feed back to you some of that information and subsequently to monitor that they have acted on your advice.