Interpersonal Communication for Dental Assisting Students

Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Course Code
CMNS 1215
Semester Length
Max Class Size
25 recommended; flexibility may be required for program enrollment fluctuations
Method Of Instruction
Typically Offered


Course Description
What do I need to know and do to successfully accomplish the human side of my job? How do I work effectively with my co-workers? These questions often go unspoken by dental assisting students, yet feedback from the dentistry field indicates that effective interpersonal communication skills are essential to office functioning. Communications 1215, a highly interactive face-to-face course, provides opportunities for students to develop the necessary skills to effectively function as a member of a dental team. Core components include foundational interpersonal theory, group dynamics and team work, verbal and nonverbal communication skills, phases of the helping relationship, and basic conflict management.
Course Content
  1. Why study interpersonal communication?
    • increased self awareness
    • improved intra- and interpersonal skills
    • enhanced patient and collegial relationships
  2. What is interpersonal communication?
    • definitions of interpersonal communication
    • responsibilities of a communicator
    • confirming and disconfirming communication climates
    • diversity in communication
  3. How do effective dental teams function?
    • characteristics of an effective team
    • group development theory
    • role functions in teams
  4. What theoretical and background information prepare us to study interpersonal communication?
    • principles
    • models of communication
    • the influence of self and perception on communication
  5. In what ways are helping and social relationships different from each other?
    • formal vs. informal
    • one vs. two directional
    • expectations
  6. How does awareness of helping relationships facilitate CDA-patient communication?
    • develops rapport
    • facilitates accurate exchange of information
    • encourages patient to identify needs and establish reasonable goals
  7. What helping conditions facilitate CDA-patient relationships?
    • rapport
    • warmth
    • respect
    • empathy
  8. How do core helping conditions facilitate CDA-patient relationships?
    • improve interpersonal communication
    • reduce and/or contain patient anxiety
    • empower patient to address dental health concerns
  9. What micro skills promote effective interpersonal communication?
    • nonverbal communication
    • attending, observing and listening
    • reflective responding:
      • paraphrasing
      • clarifying
    • summarizing
    • questioning
    • feedback skills
  10. What are the effects of language on the communication process?
    • clinical terms and patient understanding
    • language and power
  11. What is performance anxiety and how can it be managed?
    • definition
    • causes
    • implications
    • strategies for managing 
      • psychological
      • behavioural
      • cognitive
  12. What are the elements of successful communication with elderly and non-adult patient populations?
    • developmental characteristics of young children, adolescents and the elderly
    • communication styles and developmental stages
    • effective communication approaches for working with different groups
  13. What particular considerations enhance interactions with emotionally challenging patient populations?
    • communication styles of individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, apathy, impatience and anger
    • effective communication approaches for working with emotionally challenging patients
Methods Of Instruction

This highly interactive face-to-face course emphasizes learning through doing. Working individually or in small groups, students are involved in focused practise, analysis and interpretation of interpersonal communication. A discussion-based teaching model is used with the expectation that students actively prepare for, participate in and extract meaning from case studies, simulations and role plays. Students are likely to conduct research with human participants as part of course requirements and evaluation. Instructors are responsible for making sure that such research is conducted in a manner consistent with College research ethics policies and federal policies. Audio and video tape recordings are used for the purpose of informed self-assessment and evaluation.

Means of Assessment

Students will be assessed using a variety of methods. Assessments such as the following will be employed:

Analysis and discussion of current interpersonal functioning 15%
Assessment and evaluation of improved interpersonal functioning 20%
Audio tape demonstration of core helping behaviour 25%
Interpersonal skills demonstration project 30%
Professionalism, attendance and participation 10%
TOTAL 100%
Learning Outcomes

Overarching goal:

By the end of the course, successful students demonstrate increased abilities to use appropriate and effective interpersonal skills in dental workplace environments.

Knowledge: By the end of the course, successful students are able to:

  1. describe the influence of self-concept, perception and communication anxiety on interpersonal communication
  2. identify strengths and challenges in their own communication style and behaviour
  3. describe the nature and effects of a variety of verbal and nonverbal micro skills
  4. describe the differences between social and helping relationships
  5. discuss the phases of the helping relationship
  6. describe common roles and structures in teams
  7. identify characteristics of effective dental teams
  8. explain the basic nature, elements and effects of interpersonal conflict
  9. outline basic factors that affect communication in diverse patient groups.

Skills: By the end of the course, successful students are able to:

  1. develop a personal strategy for managing communication and performance anxiety in ambiguous settings
  2. develop effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills for use in a variety of clinical and non-clinical settings
  3. work more effectively as a dental team member
  4. apply specific communication skills to patient groups such as children, the elderly, and anxious, angry, depressed, impatient and apathetic individuals.

Attitudes: By the end of the course, successful students gain appreciation for:

  1. the importance of communicating in a professional manner
  2. different communication approaches and needs of various patient populations
  3. the dynamic complexity of effective interpersonal communication
  4. their personal impact on interpersonal interactions.
Textbook Materials

A textbook such as a current Canadian edition of the following:

  • Adler, R.B., Proctor, R.,Towne, N. and Rolls, J.A. Looking out, looking in. Toronto: Thompson Nelson Canada.




No prerequisite courses.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

Institution Transfer Details Effective Dates
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU CMNS 1XXX (3) 2004/09/01 to -
Simon Fraser University (SFU) No credit 2004/09/01 to -
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU COMM 2XX (3) 2004/09/01 to -
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) No credit 2005/05/01 to -
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) No credit 2004/09/01 to -
University of Northern BC (UNBC) No credit 2004/09/01 to -
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV GE 1XX (3) 2004/09/01 to -
University of Victoria (UVIC) No credit 2004/09/01 to -

Course Offerings

Fall 2021

There aren't any scheduled upcoming offerings for this course.