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Talking To Dental Patients: Twenty Things You Should Never Say…

how to talk to patients in a dental office

As a dentist and dental coach who has visited hundreds of practices, I’ve heard lots of things said in dental offices by the dentist and team when they were talking to a dental patient; some great, some not so much. So let’s have some fun today with “Twenty Things You Should Never Say To A Patient.” (This should be fun. We’re allowed to have some fun, aren’t we?)

I’ve personally witnessed all of these phrases actually being said in dental offices; a few of them were in mine! Try to keep score to see how many have been said in yours!

Twenty Things You Should Never Say To A Patient.”
1. “Oh don’t worry – we always get cancellations.”
A kind scheduling specialist was trying to reassure a patient that they could get her in soon. But why EVER use the word “cancellation??” Which leads to……
2. “Our next available appointment is five weeks from now.”
If you can’t get patients in right away you will lose them. Lose your new patients, and your practice can’t grow.3. “Have you been here before?”
I cringed when I heard this one, but quickly cracked up when the patient responded, “No, but I’ve been to a place just like this.” What the heck did that even mean?4. “You’re wrong!”
I don’t care if a patient tells you their granpappy had three sets of teeth and a molar growing out of their back – just smile and move on.5. “Our policy is….”
If you can’t explain something to a patient without saying this, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it!

6. “You fractured the mesiobuccal cusp”
……or any other dental lingo. To your patient it’s a foreign language.

7. “That last dentist really botched this one up!”
As true as it may be, please resist the temptation to throw a colleague under the bus, no matter how bad the treatment appears.

8. “It’s really not a lot of money when you think about it.”
To the patient it was!

9. “Sir, if you would just stop screeching…”
Yes, I actually heard that.

10. “If you can just put up with the pain for three more minutes we can have this done.”
There is no reason to treat a patient who is not 100% numb…ever. 

11. “LInda was fired.”
Really? Wouldn’t “Linda left for an opportunity outside of dentistry” sound a lot nicer?

12. “Unfortunately your insurance sucks.”
Even overlooking the use of the word “sucks,” it’s not the patient’s fault; no need to demean them.

13. “Have a seat, we’ll be with you in a few minutes.” (The patient was on time, and had to wait about thirty-five minutes.)
RUN. ON. TIME! Then you will get to say one of the BEST phrases: “Don’t even sit down, we’re ready for you.” Which brings us to the next one…..

14. “Sorry we’re running a little late. The patient before you was twenty minutes late.”
First of all, it’s a lame-ass excuse, and it was made worse because you just said something bad about another patient!

15. “Did you see the debate last night?”
Sorry – no politics ever.

16. “Sorry – your insurance only covers two cleanings per year.”
If you have to say this, your patient doesn’t understand why you are treating their perio disease, and is being trained that treatment is based on insurance coverage.

17. “We don’t have Saturday hours.”
Okay, maybe you don’t. But never say something like that without offering a solution.

18. “I already told you that, do you need me to explain it again?”
Never forget that many people dislike going to the dentist and we may be seeing them at their worst. Give ’em a break.

19. “I just don’t see why a beautiful young woman like you would want that tattoo.” Oh boy. So many things wrong here I’m not sure where to start.

20. “OH SH*T!”
Yes, I actually heard a dentist say this during a crown prep.

So how many of these have been said in your practice? Communication in the dental office is so important. Regular team meetings, continuing education, and proper training can help. 

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