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Dental care requires clear communication between the patient, staff, and dentist – but what if a patient speaks a language other than English? Let’s review how you can use interpretation services to create a welcoming, inclusive environment for all patients, regardless of their primary language.

Why dental practices need interpretation services

Dentist blog post-02Patients who are limited-English proficient (LEP) often report poor healthcare experiences due to language barriers. In fact, LEP patients are nine times more likely to have trouble understanding medical scenarios and four times more likely to misunderstand medication labels. High-quality interpretation services can help your dental practice:

  • Increase patient understanding & satisfaction
  • Improve cultural competence & communication
  • Provide a better patient experience

Beyond using interpretation services to improve communication, federally funded dental practices must provide language services to LEP patients. Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) protects LEP patients from discrimination and requires dental practices to “furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary.”


Additional Resource: How ACA Section 1557 impacts dental practices


How to pick the best interpretation provider for your dental practiceDentist blog post-04-1

With many language services providers (LSPs) to choose from, how will you determine which is the best for your practice? There are four critical evaluation themes to consider:

Quality of Services Account Support Data Security Transparent Pricing
Interpreter training
& coaching
Dedicated Account Manager HIPAA compliance
& PHI protection
No hidden fees
or add-on costs
Third-party accreditations Comprehensive implementation Operational security protocols OPI & VRI same cost for spoken languages

Learn more:
Three ways CyraCom stands out from other LSPs

Tips for using remote interpretation services

Once you have an interpreter ready to assist you, it may be helpful to provide the interpreter with a brief explanation of what you need to achieve during your appointment. Use these tips to help your staff work effectively with remote interpreters:Dentist blog post-03-1

  • Speak in the first person: When you say something like, “Ask her (the patient) how often she flosses,” the interpreter will repeat the exact phrase. This can be confusing for the LEP person. Instead, you would say, “How often do you floss your teeth?”

  • Use short, complete sentences: Interpreters rely on short-term memory and note-taking. The briefer your message is, the less likely the interpreter will need to ask you to repeat yourself.

  • Avoid metaphors and slang: Interpreters convey the meaning of your words rather than literal word-for-word changes, but this becomes more difficult when you use jargon or idioms. Using simple language helps avoid cultural or linguistic challenges.

  • Enunciate your words: Remote interpreting can be a challenge due to background noise. Be sure to speak clearly at a slow-to-medium pace.


Looking for more tips to improve your interpretation sessions?

Did you know CyraCom has special rates for ADA members?ADA Endorsed (with line, RGB) - 2017

Sign up for our ADA special rates or contact our experts for a free language services consultation.


Lindsay Lawson

Lindsay Lawson

An experienced researcher, writer, and editor on language services-related topics, specializing in interpreting and translation services, how language works.