Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Tag: non-English-speaking patients

Get assistance communicating with patients who don’t speak English

Do you have patients who speak languages you don’t? Whether your patients don’t speak the same languages as you and your staff, or if they’re just most comfortable speaking in their native tongue, being able to successfully communicate is essential in delivering the care your patients need and deserve.

Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you have to take the time to learn a whole new language (although doing so is certainly a worthwhile endeavor!). Delta Dental offers interpreters via telephone, on-site interpretation services and more through our Language Assistance Program (LAP).

LAP is here to help

Delta Dental’s Language Assistance Program is an invaluable tool when it comes to communicating with patients who may not share any languages with you or your staff. LAP is available free of charge to all Delta Dental enrollees and includes the following benefits. We strongly encourage you to refer your patients to the LAP page on our website.

  • Customer Service phone assistance in over 170 languages
  • Professional interpretive services, including in-person interpretation
  • Written materials in non-English languages (and accessible formats)
  • And more!

Providing care to Spanish speakers

Did you know that, after English, Spanish is the most commonly reported language spoken by Delta Dental enrollees? More than any other language, a non-English-speaking patient of yours is likely to speak Spanish. That’s why we’ve put together extra resources to help you communicate with these patients.

Steps you can take to boost your skills

There are steps you and your staff can take to make communication easier and to create a more welcoming environment for your patients. We recommend these strategies:

  • Attend classes and continuing education courses that address the social customs among your patients’ different cultures.
  • Document your practice’s protocols for working with cultural differences and make sure all of your staff are familiar with it.
  • Allow time to make sure that your patients understand you and the care you recommend for them. Be ready to answer questions and don’t be afraid to ask some of your own.
  • Familiarize yourself with professional interpretive services and resources available in your community to assist your patients.
  • And finally, ask your patients and their accompanying relatives and friends how you can create a more comfortable environment.

Achieve communication success

Knowing your patients’ language preferences is essential. You’ll help increase their comfort level, engage them in the treatment process and improve the quality of the health care you provide.

Be prepared

You can help ensure that patients understand health and wellness materials, forms and important pre- and post-operative instructions by having written materials readily available in the primary languages spoken by your patients.

Boost your skills

Take steps to learn more about cultural differences:

  • Attend classes and continuing education courses that address social customs among different cultures in your community.
  • Ask patients (or an accompanying relative or friend) what the preferred language is and how you can create a comfortable environment. Note and highlight the answers in the patient’s chart.
  • Document your practice’s protocol for working with cultural differences in your office manual. Make sure all staff are familiar with it.
  • Be sensitive to how well each patient understands you and always take time to answer questions.
  • Advise your Delta Dental patients with limited proficiency in English about their right to language assistance services free of charge through our Language Assistance Program (LAP).
  • Encourage patients to use professional interpretive services rather than relying on a relative or friend, though the final choice is theirs. (Using an interpretive service ensures confidentiality and the quality of language interpretation.)

Call for language assistance

You or your patient may call Customer Service and we will arrange for a qualified interpreter to help via telephone.

For on-site interpretation services, call at least 72 hours in advance of the appointment time. (Dentists and office staff are not prohibited from speaking with patients in languages other than English; however, use of interpretive services is recommended.)

Did you know? According to, Spanish is the most commonly reported non-English language spoken in the U.S, followed by (in order of the most speakers) Chinese, French and French Creole, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, German, Arabic, Russian and Italian.

Additional resources

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