Person-Centred Dentistry: When Do We Start?

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Nareg Apelian
Jean-Noel Vergnes
Christophe Bedos


Objectives: Although most health professions have adopted person-centred approaches in the last decades, dental professionals still rely on traditional paternalistic models. The objective of this research was to develop a model of person-centred care in dental practice.

Methods: Adopting an action-research approach, we started our process by adapting Stewart and colleagues' model of person-centred care to the field of dentistry. We then implemented and tested the new clinical approach in a private dental office of Montreal, Canada. During several months, an academic researcher observed the clinical activities of a dental practitioner, who was also the first researcher. At the end of each appointment, the observer and the practitioner shared their observations about the encounter and evaluated the clinical approach. Both suggested improvements to the model and implemented solutions to the next patients. After 39 rounds of observation-evaluation-improvement, a form of saturation was reached in the development of the clinical approach.

Results: The clinical encounter goes through four different stages. The first stage is how the relationship is built through an open dialogue on illness, fears and expectations. The second stage consists in gathering clinical information through examination, tests and questioning. The third stage is a disease-centered presentation of the results of the examination. The final stage is the development of a treatment plan after establishing a common ground through frank discussions and shared decision making. From this approach, a model emerged consisting in a stage of understanding, followed by planning, intervention, then back to understanding. This cycle takes place within the context of a patient-dentist relationship with mutual trust. This relationship, central to the encounter, acknowledges the whole-person dimension and psychosocial context of each party.

Conclusions:  We hope this model will inspire other professionals and teaching institutions to develop their own approaches by using it as a theoretical framework.

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How to Cite
Apelian, N., Vergnes, J.-N., & Bedos, C. (2014). Person-Centred Dentistry: When Do We Start?. The International Journal of Whole Person Care, 1(1).
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