Dentil Hygienist and two children in the treatment room while one child is on the dental chair

Building Rapport With Patients in 7 Easy Steps

Dec 07, 2016

Author: Sharon Boyd, RDH, BS

Part of being a good oral health provider goes beyond having the clinical skills and right equipment. It's about routinely building rapport with patients on a day in, day out basis. If you follow these seven steps, you will be well on your way to creating long-lasting patient relationships that go beyond clinical care.

1. Listen to and Respect Patients' Needs

Throughout the appointment, ask your patients how they are feeling or if there are specific areas they want to have addressed. If possible, begin asking these questions before you recline your patient in the chair. That way you can be seated at the same level and make eye contact. Consider other questions you should be asking yourself in order to ensure that you're meeting the physical and emotional needs necessary in building rapport with patients.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice agrees. "Trust and compliance improve when you connect with your patient." Your patients may be more likely to comply with your recommendations and home care instructions if they trust you and feel a connection with you.

2. Follow Through With a Phone Call

Use extra time throughout the day to follow up on patients who you saw earlier in the week. When you're able to call personally for a quick check-in on their progress, it communicates to patients that you genuinely care about their individual needs.

3. Use Their Names

Have you ever taken your child to an appointment, and the dentist or physician called you "Mom" or "Dad," instead of using your real name? Generic terms and titles can lead to generic working relationships. Putting a name to a face may be challenging, but it makes the relationship authentic.

4. Greet People Even if They're Not Your Patients

Be sincere when you greet people. They'll be able to tell whether it's a canned response or if you mean it. When you're about to seat a patient but notice others in the waiting area, be sure to greet them and call them by name, reemphasizing the personal relationship that you've already planted.

5. Find Something to Talk About

One of the best methods of building rapport with patients is to find something interesting to talk about or to settle on a topic you have in common. Just be careful not to ask questions that are too personal. If patients volunteer information, you can expound on it by asking questions about their weekend plans or the ages of their children. Keep a list in the back of your mind to help. What they do for a living, or how long they've lived in the area are great starting points.

6. Take Notes

You see a lot of patients, and it can be impossible to remember everything you've talked about with each patient. Taking notes is key. If your practice still uses paper charts, consider using a separate sheet to write in pencil about personal preferences or hobbies. That way you can quickly reference them and pick up where you last left off. Or, find a suitable area within an electronic chart to do the same. You will be amazed at how special patients can feel when you remember to ask about their new grandchild, how that job interview went, or how that tough college course is going.

7. Be Likable

Building rapport with patients means that you need to be likable. When you are genuinely nice to the people you treat and the rest of the staff, people notice. As stated in Dental Economics, "People do business with people they like." Patients will likely be sitting in the chair for about an hour. If you get along and the patient has a pleasant experience, he or she may be more likely to return.


  • Respect your patients' needs and follow through to check on them later.
  • Get to know your patients by name and greet them every time you see them.
  • Take notes about the personal information they've shared to help you remember details.

Why It's Valuable

The better you are at building rapport with your patients, the more successful your practice as a whole will be at patient retention and case acceptance.

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