Dental Patient Preparation

views updated

Dental patient preparation


Dental patient preparation is the process of preparing a patient mentally and physically to receive dental care.


Good preparation helps patients form a positive attitude about dental health care. Ideally, this attitude will continue throughout life, enhancing optimal oral health. An important aspect of patient preparation is education about the risks and benefits of dental procedures. The patient should understand beforehand the reasons for any procedure and what to expect during and afterwards. The patient should have the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of any procedure and make a knowledgeable decision based on accurate, honest, and timely information.


Patients must be prepared in a manner that is understandable and appropriate. Groups that might need special preparation include the poor, the elderly, and people from different cultures. In addition, health care providers must give special attention in preparing children and mentally handicapped adults for dental care, and include a parent or caregiver in all decisions as well as information regarding aftercare.


Undergoing dental care can be frightening to children and even to many adults. Stress and anxiety are reduced when a patient understands the reasons for procedures and what to expect. Risks of procedures must also be carefully explained, so that informed consent can be made.

Patient education is needed in cases of:

  • dental benefits, insurance, and financial options
  • initial examinations
  • x rays
  • crown preparation
  • crown delivery
  • implants treatment
  • inlay preparation
  • restorative therapy
  • root canal therapy
  • periodontal therapy
  • oral and maxillofacial surgery

Time spent by the dental office staff for patient preparation is not billed separately to the patient or to insurance companies. Extra staff time in preparation and follow-up phone calls, as well as the cost of informational brochures, are usually well worth the relatively small additional expense to achieve increased patient satisfaction and compliance.


Using brochures and other written materials is one way to prepare patients. They have the advantages of giving patients time away from the office to consider new information and can answer common concerns without taking up staff time. It is also helpful to take a moment to explain procedures and answer questions when calling patients to confirm appointments.


A phone call from the dentist is common aftercare, especially following a surgical procedure. The dentist assesses patient comfort, answers questions, and reminds patients of what to expect during recovery. Good aftercare protocol builds the patient/doctor confidence and trust and can help detect medical complications before they become serious.


Poor patient preparation can lead to misunderstand ings, including unwarranted fear about procedures or confusion about financial obligations. Rushing through explanations or using too much professional jargon, for example, might lead a patient to back out of treatment and neglect oral health care.


Many people avoid visiting the dentist because of fear of discomfort or embarrassment about poor dental hygiene . Care in patient preparation can go a long way in making patients feel more at ease, making them more likely to maintain better oral health and visit their dentist regularly.

Health care team roles

The dentist or specialist prepares the patient and answers questions. The dental assistant plays a supportive role in patient education and preparation.

The front office staff can provide brochures as recommended by the dentist or dental assistant, and help the patient work out financial arrangements.


Crown delivery —Placement of a porcelain crown. Normally, the tooth is prepared two weeks prior to this procedure.

Crown prep —Preparing a tooth to receive a crown or cap.

Implant —A surgical procedure involving permanently placing a false tooth into the gum tissue.

Inlay —Preparing a tooth for a partial crown made out of porcelain or gold. This is similar to a crown, but only part of the tooth is involved.

Restorative treatment —Any type of dental procedure that restores a tooth's function. This is usually accomplished with silver (amalgam) fillings.

Root canal —Removal of the nerves and pulp of the tooth.

Tooth extraction —Surgical removal of a tooth.



"Patient Preparation." Dentistry Online Magazine, Jerry Massimei DDS, APC. August 2000. <>.

"Patient Preparation: Calming the Patient." American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). <>.

"Patient Preparation: Talk about Anxiousness." JADA May 2001. <>.


American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). 211 East Chicago Avenue, Suite 700, Chicago, IL 60611-2663. <>.

American Dental Association. 211 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611. (312) 440-2500. <>.

Medical University of South Carolina. 171 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29425. <>.


"The Dental Patient." Michael Maroon, DMD, FAGD, Editor and Publisher. 39 Webster Square Road, Berlin, CT 06037. (800) 770-3933. <>.

Cindy F. Ovard, RDA