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Addressing the Language and Cultural Barriers of the Spanish Speaking Patient (AGD 550)

Presenter: Cynthia Sellers, RDA


As this nation of 323,127,513 million people13 interact with and attempts to assimilate 1 million new Hispanic arrivals each year, some dental practices may choose to become more aware of an unfamiliar language and culture. Hispanics now comprise more than 17.8% of the U.S. population. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population increased by 43%, a percentage that is expected to increase. Creating a dental office in which Hispanics are comfortable and well served will be very important to future growth for some dental offices. All dental practices are likely to find that treating patients with language and cultural differences is much easier if the dental team is prepared.

With minimal effort, dental teams can attain enough knowledge of the Hispanic cultural background to make members of this fast-growing population feel more comfortable in the office. The aim is not to give up the existing culture in the dental office, but rather to ensure that the dental practice demonstrates a friendly, competent, helping attitude to all patients. By understanding certain nuances of the Hispanic culture, dental teams can welcome Hispanics and help them navigate, as the pilgrims they are.


Cynthia Sellers, RDA, has been leading dental teams as an effective Practice Administrator of two large dental practices for over 15 years. She has a degree from the University of Texas in English with minors in Spanish and Reading. Cynthia was born in the U.S., but spent some time growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, where she learned about the culture across the border. In addition to dentistry, her background includes teaching high school English and public speaking as a Certified Texas Hospitality Instructor for various resorts and restaurants.

Her passion is to lead practices to the top by focusing on 5-Star patient care. Cynthia excels at motivating dental teams, utilizing the Linda Miles practice management model, while training them to manage by the numbers for a more efficient and profitable practice. Implementing systems that offer less stress for the dental team is her ultimate goal. With effective marketing, practices can climb to the top 5%. Cynthia is an international speaker, speaking fluent English and Spanish.


Upon completion of this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• Become aware of the growing Hispanic population and its impact in the dental practice.
• Understand the various language barriers that may occur with Hispanic patients and their effect on the dental practice.
• Identify and appreciate cultural differences.
• Review the most common forms of miscommunication that may occur in the dental practice.
• Recognize the impact that effective communications skills have on a dental team and a practice, as a whole.
• Develop an understanding of the differences between verbal and non-verbal communication.
• Develop an understanding of some of the basic cultural differences between Anglos and Hispanics.
• Have an expanded knowledge and understanding of Spanish terminology commonly used in the dental office.


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry. Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

The ADAA cautions participants taking this course on the hazards of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into their practices.

Credits earned upon completion of this course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.


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