OperaDDS Blog

January 19, 2017

What Does Empathetic Mean in Dentistry?

what does empathetic mean.jpgempathy


intellectual and emotional awareness and understanding of another person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior, even those that are distressing and disturbing. Empathy emphasizes understanding; sympathy emphasizes sharing of another person’s feelings and experiences.  




1.of, relating to, or characterized by empathy, the psychological identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others.

One of the most challenging aspects of dentistry is getting dental patients to comply with your recommended treatment plans. It can be frustrating and baffling when patients ignore recommendations or just do not act at all.  This could be due to a lack of empathy and trust between yourself and your patients.

In order to build trust with patients, it’s important to cultivate empathy in you and your dental practice staff.  Effective communication and empathy skills in dentistry make for a better dentist-patient relationship and positively affects  the entire dental team.  Without empathy, communication with others is one-sided.  It’s important that dentists have empathy skills for effective communication with dental patients.

What Does Empathetic Mean in Dentistry?

Essentially, empathy is the ability to read and care about the signals that our patients send us.  This could be through their words, body language and behavior. It’s important for dentists to recognize if their patient is afraid, worried, unhappy—whatever the emotion—so they can modify their approach when necessary.  

Being empathetic is also important in treatment planning.  If you can predict how someone will feel about your recommendations regarding their dental treatment plan, you can then tailor communications to dramatically increase acceptance of your plan.


What does empathetic mean in dentistry?  Empathy is the main ingredient of human, compassionate care.  It’s necessary to connect with patients and can sometimes  be even more effective in dental patient care than having notable technical ability.  

In this study, researchers found that there is a strong correlation between having good dentist-patient relationships and a positive treatment outcome.  Being empathetic is a learned skill.  You can inject more empathy into your care by practicing and learning a few different methods.  Here are some quick tips to being more empathetic in your dental practice:

  • Practice active listening with your patients.  You’ll be surprised how much people will be willing to share with you when you are really listening to them. 
  • Put yourself in the patient’s position.  Find common ground and information to really get to know the individual.
  • Take the time to make eye contact

Being empathetic in the dental practice is the glue that keeps patients loyal to your dental practice.  Practice empathy to make the difference in your patient relationships and  keep them coming back!

Download our checklist to skyrocket practice success!  Effective communication is a critical component to running a successful dental practice. Is your practice's communication slowing you down? Download our Checklist to learn how to build powerful communication.