SIG – Communication in oral healthcare

SIG – Communication in oral healthcare

The literature shows that effective doctor-patient communication plays a key role in achieving improved health outcomes (1), whereas limited communication research was conducted in an oral healthcare setting (2-5). As dentistry is far different from medicine due to its large proportion of surgical work and special requirements of precision on clinical work, we cannot simply duplicate the research findings from doctor-patient communication in a dental scenario. Furthermore dental anxiety has been shown as a prevalent unfavourable experience for many dental patients when they attend for dental treatment (6). Increased dental anxiety may in part be responsible for the reports of many patients regarding reduced satisfaction with care provided and perceptions of unpleasant communication experience. It has been suggested that this could have the potential to jeopardize the patient’s trust in their dentist and dental hygienist. It is the opinion of this Group that to provide quality patient-centred care, dental health professionals, in general, and especially dentists should take it into account the effect of dental anxiety upon communication and be more aware of the importance of provider-patient communication. Increased awareness would allow dental health professionals to, for example, identify and respond with empathy and objectivity to their patients’ felt needs and expressed concerns about their oral health. Therefore we propose to create a new Special Interest Group within EACH, focused on investigating communicative aspects of oral healthcare.

Important areas of research in communication and oral healthcare include (but are not limited to):

Dentist-patient interaction during a communicative intervention;
Impact of empathy upon the dentist-patient communication and their relationship and impact of interaction between dentists and patients on empathy development and subsequent patient satisfaction and trust;
Patient-centred care in relation to dental anxiety and the impact of management of emotional cues/concerns of patients on patient centred care;
Creation and validation of a consultation model for use in dentistry;
Inter-professional communication in providing quality oral healthcare;
Key factors in dentist-patient communication that affect the decision-making process;
Tailoring of oral health education within a patient-centred approach to enable behaviour change;
Communication between dentists and special patient groups such as child dental patients, patients with special needs and families of patients involved in the communication process.
Oral healthcare communication research will enable the exploration of key factors that facilitate effective communication and improved experience of dental care for patients and dentists. Other factors exist in the dentist-patient communication that are associated with success in negotiated treatment plans, patient treatment adherence, patients’ adoption of favourable oral health-related behaviour, increased patient satisfaction and reduced dental anxiety. Moreover, evidence-based research in the area of oral healthcare communication will inform curriculum development of dental undergraduate education, continuing professional development and evidence-based training in communication skills for oral healthcare providers.

The establishment of this special interest group will contribute to:

promoting the evidence-based research on patient-centred oral healthcare communication;
facilitating the dialogue on shared evidence-based knowledge, skills and ideas among SIG members;
strengthening the link with members with special interests of oral healthcare communication.
1. White, R.O., Svetlana, E., Wallston, K.A., Kripalani, S., Barto, Shari., Shintani, A., & Rothman, R.L. (2015). Health communication, self-care, and treatment satisfaction among low-income diabetes patients in a public health setting. Patient Educ Couns, 98:144-149.
2. Wright, A., Humphris, G., Wanyonyi, K. L., & Freeman, R. (2012). Using the verona coding definitions of emotional sequences (VR-CoDES) and health provider responses (VR-CoDES-P) in the dental context. Patient Educ Couns, 2012. 89(1): p. 205-8.
3. Zhou, Y., Cameron, E., Forbes, G., & Humphris G. (2012). Development of a novel coding scheme (SABICS) to record nurse-child interactive behaviours in a community dental preventive intervention. Patient Educ Couns, 88(2): p. 268-76.
4. Zhou, Y., Forbes, G.M., Macpherson, L.M.D., Ball, G.E., & Humphris, G.M. (2012). The behaviour of extended duties dental nurses and the acceptance of fluoride varnish application in preschool children. British Dental Journal, 213(12): p. 603-9.
5. Jones, L.M. & Huggins, T.J. (2014). Empathy in the dentist-patient relationship: review and application. N Z Dent J. 110(3): 98-104.
6. Freeman, R. & Humphris, G. (2006). Communicating in dental practice: remaining stress free and improving patient care. London: Quintessence Publishing Co Ltd.


Brendan Young
Aengus Kelly
Lode Verreyen
Bob Cvetkovic
Claire Mustchin

2017 Annual Report

We would like to report to the chair of rEACH committee about the following achievements since the establishment of SIG in March 2016:

[1] Blog
We have successfully established a blog within EACH website for sharing and exchanging news and discussions of research activities, current research evidence and future opportunities of communication research in oral healthcare.

[2] Group news letters
Since our establishment earlier last year, we set up a group email for group new letters and correspondences. Eight news letters were circulated up to now.

[3] SIG Meeting during ICCH 2016
In the ICCH conference of 2016, a SIG lunch meeting open to all EACH conference participants was held and well received by meeting attendees. Themes surrounding dental communication, teaching and workplace performance were discussed;

[4] SIG symposiums:
A series of symposiums were organized in University of Dundee. SIG members were invited to Dundee Dental School to give a presentation or provide a workshop for sharing their expertise and experiences communication skills teaching and communication research in oral healthcare. Details of the Symposiums with invited speakers are as follows:

June 2016: Jorun Torper (University of Oslo) came to Dundee to observe the activities of communication skills teaching and gave on-site feedbacks to the teaching staff. She also provided a talk to the dental faculty on her 20 years experiences of communication skills teaching. Professor Gerry Humphris was invited to deliver a speech on his communication research.
September 2016: Professor Satu Lahti (University of Turku) was invited to deliver her presentation on the teaching curriculum of dental communication in Finland. Discussions were followed with the dental teaching staff and clinicians who had interests in communication teaching.
March 2017: Professor Barry Gibson was invited to Dundee Dental School to provide a full-day training workshop on Grounded Theory.

[5] SIG (external) invited lectures:
Dr Siyang Yuan (Chair of SIG) was invited to School of Dentistry, Nanjing Medical University in July 2017. A two-day dental communication workshop was provided to dental undergraduate and postgraduate students. The first day included theories and research evidence of communication in healthcare. The second day was comprised of role-play session with a trained SP on site. Students shared their reflections during the training session and provided a very positive post-session feedback.

[6] External Links: collaboration established with China
External links was established with School of Dentistry, Nanjing Medical University (NJMU) in China after Siyang’s visit. Nanjing is aimed to develop their faculty team of dental communication skills and seek opportunities in grant application and research cooperation in communication in oral healthcare. Up till now, a collaborative research grant application was submitted for a small research project on a communication skills teaching intervention. Following research and teaching exchanging activities are in the planning stage.

[7] External links: collaboration with ADEE
An informal link was built after the SIG officer Professor Satu Lahti’s attendance of the Association of Dental Education in Europe (ADEE) conference in 2016. Satu was in the meeting of the SIG of communication in dentistry of ADEE and introduced SIG (EACH) during the meeting. Correspondences were established with a couple of members of the ADEE SIG thereafter.

[8] SIG members:
Since the establishment of SIG, two additional members joined the group: Dr Alison Dougall (Trinity College Dublin) and Dr Aengus Kelly (University of Central Lancashire). Inquiries from other EACH members were made since 2016.

[9] BDJ newsletter
A newsletter of the establishment of SIG was published on British Dental Journal in 2016.


Future planned projects:

[1] To strengthen close links within our SIG and also to share the expertise of the current available SIG resources, the School of Dentistry (University of Dundee) will invite Professor Myriam Deveugele to visit Dundee Dental School in January 2018 for a meeting with the faculty for sharing her expertise in developing communication/patient management component of new curriculum and Myriam will provide a ‘train the trainers’ workshop to the teaching staff on communication skills training. Date has been set.

[2] A successful strategic collaboration was established with the Nanjing Medical University (NJMU) for future collaborations on dental communication teaching and research. A research grant proposal of dental communication research was submitted to the Ministry of Education in China in September 2017, which could be regarded as an initiation of the collaboration between SIG and NJMU. Following teaching and research collaborative activities are planned for training the dental faculty for communication skills teaching and the next round of research grant application is in the progress of planning.


How to build close links and encourage group members’ engagement of SIG. I would like to seek advices and ideas on:
[1] how to engage SIG members and work with them more closely;
[2] ideas of opportunities of future collaborations.

How can EACH help?

[1]Provide a platform for research members to exchanges on communication research, something such as the summer event. I am wondering if it is possible to establish an additional research event in addition to the summer event and run by SIGs in rounds on an annual basis with a theme. It could be workshops, seminars or symposiums. Venues should be accessible for most SIG members.
[2]Mentoring scheme: I also want to seek opportunities for a mentoring scheme on developing leaderships of running working groups such as SIG. This could be opportunities of peer-support group (working in partnerships with other SIG leads) or mentoring scheme working with an allocated chair/senior staff for extra supports/advices to develop a more sustainable SIG.

Additional Information

Wright A, Humphris G, Wanyonyi KL, Freeman R. Using the verona coding definitions of emotional sequences (VR-CoDES) and health provider responses (VR-CoDES-P) in the dental context. Patient Educ Couns 2012; 89:205-208.

Zhou Y, Black R, Freeman R, Herron D, Humphris G, Menzies R, Quinn S, Scott L, Waller A. Applying the Verona coding definitions of emotional sequences (VR-CoDES) in the dental context involving patients with complex communication needs: An exploratory study. . Patient Educ Couns 2014 97:180-187.

Zhou Y, Cameron E, Forbes G, Humphris G. Development of a novel coding scheme (SABICS) to record nurse-child interactive behaviours in a community dental preventive intervention. Patient Educ Couns, 2012. 88(2): 268-76.

Zhou Y, Forbes G, Macpherson GM, Ball GE, Humphris GM. The behaviour of extended duties dental nurses and the acceptance of fluoride varnish application in preschool children. British Dental Journal, 2012. 213(12): 603-9.

Zhou Y, Humphris GM. Reassurance and Distress Behavior in Preschool Children Undergoing Dental Preventive Care Procedures in a Community Setting: a Multilevel Observational Study. Ann Behav Med, 2013.