The Probe - Proudly serving the dental profession for over 60 years

The Dental Helpline: a resource for the profession, as much as for the public


  Posted by: The Probe      8th March 2019

DR NIGEL CARTER OBE, Oral Health Foundation Chief Executive, questions the current effectiveness of communicating information to patients.

For over two decades, the Oral Health Foundation’s Dental Helpline has offered free and impartial advice for anybody with questions about their oral health. We were recently delighted to announce that this service reached an important milestone – giving direct support to its 400,000th person.

This was a very special moment for us and emphasised the public’s continued need for, and reliance on, such a service. At the same time, it encourages pause for thought and reflection. Specifically, on the importance of getting valuable knowledge about oral health across to patients in the right way.

As with each of your patients, every person contacting our Dental Helpline has a completely different set of needs. Sometimes this can present difficult challenges, particularly when communicating information about treatments and products. Like yourselves, we endeavour to be a calm and reassuring place that puts people at ease and leaves them with a better understanding of what they’re going through, and what needs to be done.

Our team of fully-qualified dental professionals are all armed with the knowledge and expertise to help point members of the public in the right direction. During our interactions we look to create a level playing-field. We all know the dangers of using unfamiliar terms, or giving advice that some may deem too clinical, will only serve to distance us from those who are seeking advice.

As dental professionals, all of us are armed with more than enough expertise and know-how to help patients achieve better oral health. The key is to articulate it in a way that is informative, but also not too difficult for patients to digest. Depending on the patient, this may take time – time you struggle to have.

We mustn’t forget that a lot of people are looking for reassurance and to be put at ease. Getting across the facts is essential but we can’t neglect the emotional and mental side of things. As professionals, we can do a lot to ease the anxiety a lot of patients feel, but are often restricted by the amount of time we can allocate to each patient. This is where our Dental Helpline can support you.

As a charity, we are happy to spend more time discussing issues with patients, providing them with support and information so that they are better informed. Being a source of reassurance, as well as knowledge and expertise, we can really help strengthen the relationship between the patient and a dental practice. We provide clear and compassionate support and help put patients in the right frame of mind. This means they are more likely to return. It also means they will have a clearer understanding of their situation.

The Dental Helpline can be reached on 01788 539 780. We welcome you to share this with any of your patients, whether it’s during an appointment, through your practice’s literature, social media or your website.

Alternatively, we can provide free advice and support though email at

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