Interprofessional relationships: Connections that strengthen the dental profession


There are very few tasks in life that are best when handled alone. The concept of team is a common thread that runs throughout our human existence. Nearly every type of industry, sport, music, entertainment—and society as we know it—relies on the notion of people working together to accomplish more than they can on their own. This philosophy is what has advanced our way of life over the past several hundred years.

When it comes to caring for patients in the health-care setting, the same philosophy applies. By strengthening interprofessional relationships, or IPR, providers can enhance their knowledge and quality of care as they work in harmony with fellow colleagues and specialists. This valuable connection is beneficial for both the patient and provider and is the catalyst for continued progress in the field of health care.

IPR: Advantages for dental patients

One of the primary goals of IPR is to improve health outcomes for the patient. In many circumstances, health-care providers can become complacent in their role in patient care. After years of performing the same type of work, clinicians can develop a perspective like tunnel vision that limits them from seeing beyond their specific scope of practice. Instead of seeing the patient as a whole person, it’s easy to see them as their disease or body system. When this happens, health-care solutions are rarely found because clinicians fail to see opportunities that lie outside their narrow scope.

Developing a collaborative relationship with a network of providers allows “patients experiencing a chronic illness to become more active in managing their health through the development of self-management and decision-making skills.”1 This empowers patients to take more control over their health and provides opportunities to fully investigate and improve overall well-being.

You may also be interested in … Dental hygienist-owned practices: Transforming dentistry through prevention

IPR: Advantages for dental providers

Aside from the endless benefits for patients, IPR offers health-care providers continuous opportunities to increase and enhance their clinical knowledge. Working alongside other specialized professionals allows providers to define their individual roles in patient care more clearly while learning where collaboration is necessary and useful. This type of professional relationship helps providers “understand their own professional identity while gaining an understanding of other professionals’ roles on the health-care team.”2 Gaining this level of clarity helps clinicians focus their time and energy on the roles they were trained to provide to patients and recognize areas where their expertise may be limited and partnership with an appropriate colleague needed.

In addition to recognizing when to involve collaborating professionals in patient care, working closely with these peers allows providers to learn new concepts and treatment modalities that are offered within specialty realms, ultimately enhancing their patient care experience. If providers have expanded knowledge of available options outside their scope, they can mentally prepare patients for referrals and communicate a high level of education, wisdom, professionalism, and trustworthiness to those patients. Patients will appreciate clinicians’ recognition of when their condition warrants the involvement of outside care, as well as their connections with a professional network of like-minded clinicians who can work with patients to achieve the best health outcomes.

No single clinician can manage every facet of their patients’ health. Teamwork is necessary for ultimate success. Interprofessional relationships are the most logical and progressive approach to improving and advancing society’s health-care system. The more clinicians network together to learn from and collaborate with one another, the better patient care will be and overall career fulfillment for health professionals. Clinicians can improve the standard of care they provide and enhance their clinical knowledge to enjoy more rewarding careers. Interprofessional relationships are the connections that will strengthen the health-care industry as we know it.

Also by the author … Triple threat: 3 signs you might have sleep apnea

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Clinical Insights newsletter, a publication of the Endeavor Business Media Dental Group. Read more articles and subscribe.


  1. Mann KV, McFetridge-Durdle J, Martin-Misener, et al. Interprofessional education for students of the health professions: The “Seamless Care” model. J Interprof Care. 2009;23(3):224-233. doi:10.1080/13561820802697735
  2. Bridges DR, Davidson RA, Odegard PS, Maki IV, Tomkowiak J. Interprofessional collaboration: three best practice models of interprofessional education. Med Educ Online. 2011;16(1). doi:10.3402/meo.v16i0.6035

Bethany Montoya, BAS, RDH, is the editorial director of DentistryIQ Clinical Insights, is a practicing dental hygienist, and serves the industry as an author, speaker, and thought leader. She has devoted her most recent years to her social media brand, @HumanRDH, where she creates content focusing on career fulfillment, mental health, and the “human” aspect of oral health care. Contact her at [email protected].


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *