25 awful things dental professionals actually said in front of patients

Losing patients? Getting a bad rap lately? Maybe it's because you said something in front of patients that you shouldn't have. Here are a few choice phrases you might want to avoid in front of them.

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The horror in your patient’s eyes says it all. You accidentally uttered words you should never say in front of unsuspecting patients. You may have just sent them on the fast track to another dental practice, taking any hopes of future business and new referrals with them.

Dental PhobiaThe second you said what you were thinking out loud you knew you’d messed up. Not only did you see surprise in the patient’s eyes, but in other team members’ eyes as well. This has happened to the best of dental professionals.

Hopefully, everyone learns a lesson from the slip-ups and won’t do it again. When DentistryIQ asked the pros, “What should dental professionals never say in front of patients?” the responses were quite interesting and revealing.

So, in an effort to help you keep your patients from fleeing to the competition, here are the responses. Let's start with the No. 1 answer sent from dental professionals in all office positions —


Oh, no!

Oh s**t!

Oh my...I've never seen that before.

Are you sure that's the right tooth?

Let’s start over.

Is it supposed to bleed like that? or, Why is there so much bleeding? or, Do you usually bleed this much?

This shouldn't be hurting you.

Is this sterilized?

Oh yes, our fees are really up there, or Yes, it’s expensive.

With what the dentist pays me, I could never afford a crown.

How much money do you make? or What kind of car do you drive? (or anything related to a patient’s income level).

What are we doing for you today? (Shouldn't you know this before the appointment begins?)

I don’t know. (If this comes out, follow with, “But I’ll find out.”)

The dental work your previous dentist has done in your mouth is terrible.

We are understaffed today. Sorry for the wait.

We haven't seen you before, right? (Oops. You have?)

We’re out of nitrous oxide. (Ouch!)

We can't finish the procedure. (Well then. Is the patient just supposed to sit there with the procedure half finished?)

I promise … (Are you sure about that?)

I wouldn't get work done here.

I thought that was supposed to be a DO resin, not an MO.

I don’t know why you aren't getting numb, and I have another surgery right after you. (Like that’s the patient’s problem?)

This will hurt me more than it hurts you. (Huh?)

Yes the anesthesia costs more, but I don't like working on a moving target.

One wise DDS advised never to discuss politics, sex, or religion. “These are always touchy subjects.”

Another wise DDS said, “I think a common bad habit dentists fall victim to is reprimanding team members in front of patients. It's awkward for everyone involved.” Don’t do it.

And finally, a wise consultant offered, “'Let’s go ahead and make your next cleaning appointment, then when you get your reminder call, if the time is not good you can always change it.' Talk about increasing no shows and failed appointments!"

RELATED READING:Phone scripts make things run more smoothly for the dental office and bring in new patients

Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, RDH, has also given this topic a lot of thought. In fact, she’s offering the workshop, “10 Things Never to Say to Patients,” at the 2015 RDH Under One Roof in July. Watch an introduction to what she has to say here.

Did we miss some doozies for dental professionals to avoid? Please feel free to share them here, and help your fellow pros stay away from future embarrassment.

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