Are dental students well-equipped to deal with difficult communication situations?

T W M Walker*, C Fleming, A Kerai, S Hall, D Rakhra, J P Horwood, A E Waylen, S J Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
277 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction Communication is considered one of the cornerstones of clinical dentistry and is underpinned in the General Dental Council's Standards for the dental team. Communicating effectively with patients allows for more accurate identifcation of a patient's presenting complaint, better patient satisfaction, concordance, in?uences emotional and physical wellbeing, reduces dental anxiety and contributes to the satisfaction of both the patient and clinician. Identifying the clinical students' levels of confdence in a range of communication scenarios will help to highlight topics in which communication is strong and areas where there is a need for both didactic and communication scenario-based teaching. Methodology A paper-based, non-incentivised anonymised questionnaire was delivered to the clinical dental students of years 3, 4 and 5 of a fve-year undergraduate dental programme in a single UK institution. Dental students' self-reported confdence, or lack thereof, in dealing with various dental-themed communication scenarios were determined. A total of 167 students completed the questionnaire, comprising of 60 year 3 students, 51 year 4 students and 55 year 5 students. There were 57 males and 109 females in total. The data were analysed as a single cohort. Results Confdence in dental-themed scenarios across all years was reported at more than 78%. With respect to smoking, alcohol and cancer-themed scenarios, confdence was rated at 75%, 59% and 59% respectively. However, confdence was reported at only 27% for dental neglect and 14% for HPV-related scenarios. Conclusion Dental programmes must offer students a range of communication skill scenarios in a safe and simulated environment involving not just traditional dental scenarios, but more complex scenarios, that are deemed more diffcult to broach involving the interaction of HPV, oral cancer, systemic disease and dental neglect. Compared to all other domains that were examined, students reported confdence in dealing with HPV-related scenarios most diffcult. The General Dental Council and programme directors that formulate education curricula should consider including outcomes related to HPV, oropharyngeal cancer and its vaccine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-168
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Dental Journal
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2018


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