Unit 4: Administrative Operations
Administrative Operations

Section 4. Scheduling

Written Follow-Up Instructions

Studies show that patients do not remember half of the verbal instructions you shared with them even 24 hours before. In some cases, being in the dental chair may be the least opportune teachable moment for an anxious patient. Nevertheless, unclear instructions after treatment and post-operative complications are two common sources of patient confusion and dissatisfaction. Some patients experience post-operative sequelae that the dentist may consider routine but cause the patient great anxiety and unnecessary follow-up visits. Other patients fail to follow post-operative instructions or to report significant post-operative symptoms, thus creating problems that could easily have been mitigated.

Tips on Developing Follow-Up Instructions

  • Provide clear and concise patient-education sheets to help to avoid post-operative problems and contribute to informed consent.
  • Begin instructions with an explanation of the procedure.
  • Include the normal responses to the treatment such as slight swelling, jaw muscle soreness, or blood on the pillow the first post-operative night.
  • In instructions, describe what the patient needs to do and what to avoid.
  • Include a list of untoward outcomes such as fever or prolonged bleeding that should warrant immediate notification of the clinic or health professional.
  • Provide a telephone number for contact after hours.
  • Write using easy-to-understand, non-technical terms, preferably in the patient’s own language.
  • Supplement education sheets with other educational approaches using a variety of media formats such as videos, dental models, or audiotapes.


Many public health dental programs have consumer-friendly pamphlets and information sheets available online. Some to consider as examples or for office use include: