Thursday Troubleshooter: How to shush dental patients who have too many questions

When dental patients become very comfortable in your practice, some of them might have a tendency to talk too much and ask too many questions. What can you do to keep treatment moving along?

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Do you have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed? Each week the experts on Team Troubleshooter will tackle those issues and provide you with answers. Send questions to megk@pennwell.com.

QUESTION: I’m often stuck with patients who want to ask too many questions. Maybe some of them want to feel in control, or maybe they’re afraid of the treatment. Whatever the reason, I can’t spend the whole day answering someone’s questions! What can our staff do to nicely and firmly put a stop to patients who ask non-stop questions?

ANSWER FROM ANNA MARIA YIANNIKOS, DDS, Yiannikos Centre for Holistic Dentistry:
I’m sure this happens to most dental professionals at one time or another. If a patient likes you, her or she can feel very comfortable talking on and on and asking questions. Here is what you can do with patients who dominate too much of your time with their questions:

• Take charge of the conversation—Before you start the treatment, invest five to 10 minutes to sit with the person and explain the proposed or upcoming treatment. Important tip: State up front the available time and the reason for the meeting. You could say, “George, I have about five to 10 minutes here to explain your treatment today.”

• Explain the format of your conversation—If the patient has questions, tell the person he or she can ask them during your treatment discussion or after the treatment. Your well-trained assistants can also field questions, or patients can email you and you can reply at your convenience.

Keep in mind the following—If during the treatment the patient wants to interrupt you and ask questions, I suggest saying the following: “I’m all ears, but believe me, it’s better if we concentrate on treatment right now. Then my staff and I will give you more time after we complete the treatment. Now, let’s proceed.” This will relax the person a bit so you can do your job.

• After treatment, someone will explain the findings—Tell the patient someone will thoroughly explain what you found during treatment and how the person is to proceed after treatment. Ask the person if there’s anything he or she needs while simultaneously bringing in your assistant, who will have the conversation with the patient. You must keep other patients running on time, so move on to the next patient!

Provide necessary documents and information—Your assistant will provide the patient with home care instructions, your practice email, and more. It’s better, for your peace of mind, not to give the patient your private cell phone number, for obvious reasons: You do not want the patient calling you at crazy hours for unnecessary reasons, such as when is the appropriate time to eat his or her next meal. Am I right?

Once you get into the habit, this is an easy routine to follow. I encourage you to start today. I’m sure this will give you peace of mind and more time and energy for the rest of your patients. Now, good luck with those chatty and inquisitive patients!

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Do YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed?

Send your questions to megk@pennwell.com for the experts to answer. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and more. These folks will assist dental professionals with their various issues on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring.

All inquiries will be answered anonymously each Thursday here on DIQ.


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