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Culture issues: a make or break for dental practices


3292e11Dr. Hoda Wassif, Principal Lecturer, Portfolio Lead Medical and Dental Education and Course Lead in Dental Law and Ethics at the University of Bedfordshire, spoke with Dr. Chiraz Guessaier about her recent participation at the British Dental Association Conference with a lecture titled: Culture issues… a make or break for dental practices.


Does culture impact the way we interact with our patients, team and colleagues? In this video, Dr. Hoda Wassif gives us an overview of her lecture “Culture Issues: A Make or Break for Dental Practices ” from the British Dental Association conference.

Culture encompasses several aspects of life including language, art, customs and traditions, religion, as well as an individual’s values, perceptions and beliefs. These all affect the way in which we deal with others. As an example, a patient may have a certain understanding of what a good dentist is while the dentist may have his/her own perception of a cooperative or ideal patient. As such, culture impacts us in ways we may not realize.

As an example, using the power-distance dimension, a person who is used to a high power-distance situation, which is hierarchical in nature, may not challenge authority. This may lead to a situation where employees or associates may not feel it is appropriate to question the principal dentist’s decisions. On the other hand, individualists tend to focus solely on their own practice, patients and profession; whereas, a collectivist considers himself to be part of a larger machinery. These viewpoints influence all of our communications with patients and the team and could potentially create challenges. To overcome some of these communication difficulties, and while it is good to know the national cultural background of people we communicate with, it is important to avoid stereotypes and assumptions. Rather, understanding one another on an individual basis is important.

Culture influences how we perceive autonomy and decision-making. Justice can also be viewed differently through various cultural lenses. These can lead to ethical dilemmas. As an example, confidentiality is an important concept in dentistry; however, in certain cultures, consent and confidentiality may not be just between the patient and clinician, but between the clinician, the patient and his/her family.

It is essential for dental teams to realize that each patient has his/her own values which manifest differently and it is incumbent on the team to communicate without prejudice and with understanding to optimize his/her relationship with the patient.



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