Objective To undertake a pilot study and examine whether the communication assessment tool (CAT) is useful in assessing patient perceptions of dentists' interpersonal skills.Design Cross-sectional questionnaire study.Setting Three speciality dental clinics in a University teaching hospital in the United Kingdom.Participants, materials and measures One hundred patients, seen by 20 dentists, were recruited to the study. Patients completed the CAT after their consultation.Main outcome measures Patient ratings of excellent interpersonal skills within a dental consultation according to dentists' experience, gender and speciality.Results Complete data was received from 95 patients. On average, dentists' communication skills were rated as excellent 73% of the time. Patients were least satisfied with opportunities to ask questions within their consultation and with their level of involvement in decision-making. There were suggested differences in patients' perceived satisfaction with communication according to dentists' experience and gender.Conclusion Overall, patients are satisfied with the quality of communication with their dentist. Our findings are comparable to those from larger studies suggesting that the CAT is an effective tool to use in a dental context. The CAT would be useful in documenting the development of dentists' and students' interpersonal skills.