Why don’t they do as we say? Insights from applied behavioral science

Good dental practice is as much about behaviour as technical treatments and expertise. Most importantly, successful dental practice requires trivial compliance from the patients, but this is often obstructed in complex ways by patients themselves. In this article, we outline the classical approach to behaviour change and argue that interventions should be rooted in proper diagnoses of non-compliance, rather than in the rationality-based assumptions of this framework. We then argue by illustration for the relevancy of behavioural sciences in dental practice and identify three specific, experimental insights from the behavioural sciences that may easily be applied and tested. The three examples illustrate the habit of flossing regularly, how to reduce no-shows in patient treatments by introducing proper commitment devices, and how experiments on retrospective pain experience may relate to retention.