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Dear Patient: Can you please be kind to us?

Feb. 13, 2023
Lots of people are on edge these days, says Amanda Hill, and when it makes its way to the dental chair, it can affect our spirits and ability to care for you. So please, patients, just be nice.

Many of us are still trying to find our center after having our lives upended in March 2020. And when we are uncentered, we might not present our best selves to those we encounter.

But the dental chair is sometimes feeling like a battle zone. While we're used to nervous patients who sometimes might be more challenging, we are increasingly faced with people who are downright rude and dismissive.

With all the kindness in my heart, I want to remind you that we are health-care professionals responsible for your oral health and we take our jobs seriously. Please remember:

We’re understaffed

Like the rest of the world, we are in a staffing crisis. You might have waited longer than usual for your appointment. We are actively recruiting or training new team members to get back to our regular cadence, but ranting on the phone won’t help. In fact, they might quit because of it, and then we won’t even be able to answer the phone!

You might also be interested in: Dear Patient: How often should you really be going to the dentist?

We’re overworked

Not only is everyone working harder to make up for missing or new team members, but many patients are months or years behind with their preventive care appointments. We might not be able to complete your treatment in one appointment like usual. You might have to come back again to finish your care. We realize this isn't convenient, but we promise this is about your health.

It's not always our fault your appointment takes longer

Because of these factors, your appointment itself might be longer than what you're used to—so please don’t walk in and ask us to make it quick. Again, many patients are way overdue for their appointments, and home care routines got all out of whack during and following the shutdown—so it's going to take us some time to bring you back to health. As my mom used to say, “It will take as long as it takes.”

We’re dealing with decreased reimbursements

While eggs have gotten more expensive, somehow insurance reimbursement has decreased. And it hasn’t gotten cheaper to provide you with proper care. You might be used to having everything covered by your insurance and are now shocked to find you have a copay. Some insurance companies have dropped their reimbursement so low it doesn’t even cover the hourly wage of the hygienist, not to mention the costs of rent, PPE, equipment, the rest of the staff, etc. Some companies have dropped services they cover. I assure you that the treatment we recommend has nothing to do with what your insurance company says and everything to do with your needs and our education.

Knowledge of science emerges and changes

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that with science, recommendations change. So yes, something I said five or 10 years ago (heck, even six months ago) might not be the same as what I say today. We are licensed professionals and have to take continuing education courses. With those courses, we learn new techniques, new treatments, and new science. We bring that back to the office to give you better care. So please consider our recommendations with an open mind. If you don’t like something we suggest, you can let us know that while you appreciate our knowledge, it’s not right for you now.

So many of us entered into health care because we genuinely care for people. When we are dismissed, yelled at, or disregarded, it chips away at our purpose. A little kindness goes a long way. Please remember that next time you’re at the dentist.

About the Author

Amanda Hill, BSDH, RDH, CDIPC

Amanda Hill, BSDH, RDH, CDIPC, is an enthusiastic speaker, innovative consultant, and award-winning author who brings over 25 years of clinical dental hygiene and education to dentistry. Recipient of OSAP’s Emerging Infection Control Leader award and an active participant with the advisory board for RDH magazine, DentistryIQ, and OSAP’s Infection Control in Practice Editorial Review Board and membership committee, Amanda (also known as the Waterline Warrior) strives to make topics in dentistry accurate, accessible, and fun. She can be reached at [email protected].