Five Things The Dentist Must NEVER Do While Treating A Patient

There are some behaviours that must never appear when treating a patient, if you want to make a lasting impression.

Here are some of the most important things you must never do, while you have a customer in the chair.

Remember, they’re paying for your time.

It’s on their nickel. And as such, they deserve a few common courtesies.

In fact, they deserve a lot of courtesy.

Because if there are any courtesies missing, they’ll march, with their feet, off to another dentist who treats them with respect.


1. Never ever conduct a non-patient conversation with your staff, as if the patient isn’t even there!

Conducting a conversation that discludes the patient, and is about something irrelevant to the patient, is the height of arrogance and rudeness.

Patients will feel rejected, and at best, ignored by this divisive behaviour.

To be on the safe side, it’s always best to NOT ever converse with your staff at all about anything.

If the patient feels as if they’re not even there, while the dentist yabbers on with his staff member and they’re paying for this time, they’ll not tolerate this behaviour for long. Very shortly they’ll be looking for another dentist who values and respects their presence.

2. Never discuss the radio or television as it happens live (i.e. songs/news/adverts etc.)

I only ever had TV and radio on in my office as background entertainment.

The TV on the ceiling worked extremely well in acting as a visual distraction for patients to look at and watch (without sound). It allowed the patients to drift off to another relaxed world, without having to worry about what is coming up next for them in the moment of Dentistry.

I would never acknowledge the presence of the TV.

My role was to treat the patient, and respect them.

To attend to the TV would distract me from that purpose.

It was exactly the same for radio.

In fact, towards the end of my career, we replaced the radio with laid back easy to listen to relaxation music, that was purely there for the pleasure of the patients, and not for the dentists or the staff.

Again, our role was to attend to the patient.


3. Never say the patient’s name incorrectly.

This is the height of rudeness.

Always know the patient’s name and how it is pronounced.

For each and every patient.

If you don’t know their name, or you’re forgetful, then use the Post-it Note.

There’s no excuse for not learning and remembering the patient’s name.

If you want them to pay you, if you want them to keep coming back, of you want them to like you, then always use their name during the appointment.

Everybody loves recognition.

And patients can tell when you’ve forgotten their names.

4. Never fail to use common courtesies

“Please”. “Thank you”.

“You’re welcome”. “It’s my pleasure”.

“Excuse me”.

Whenever we speak we should always be mindful to use the common courtesies whenever we can.

Because people will notice when we do not use them.

They’ll notice the absence of common courtesies more than they’ll notice the presence of common courtesies.

And they will notice the use of acceptance courtesies as opposed to the use of deflecting statements.

It’s far more polite to say, “it’s my pleasure”, than it is to say “no worries” or to say “not a problem”.

“Worries” and “problem” are negative words.

We want to keep the tone elevated.

We don’t want to hear those negative words in our office.

5. Never take your patient for granted

The patient is paying for your time. Give them all of it, and more.

Don’t short circuit the appointment.

The patient will always notice when you leave the room, when you talk about non-dental things with your team, when you take personal messages and phone calls.

And they’ll leave your practice if they feel ignored or taken for granted.

So don’t supply them with any ammo to do this, just because you think they don’t notice.

Because they do.

I always regularly checked in with the patient being treated with kind questions of concern accompanied with light touches on the shoulder. Patients responded very well to both the vocal as well as the light physical connection, while being treated.

6. Never assume your patient has understood what you have just told them

Whenever I spoke with the patient I always asked for feedback with open ended, open loop questions.

“Does that make sense?”

“Do you have any questions?”

“Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

Rather than simply vomiting up information all over the patient, I needed to be sure they had full appreciation of the message, or instructions, that I had told them.

Patients need a Clear. Next. Step.

And if they’re unclear, or confused, they’ll be more likely to not re-appoint, or make an excuse, or cancel their next appointment.

So it all comes down to the Doctor, and then the team, making sure that the patient leaves with total clarity.

“Love your patients to death” was a phrase that I was told early in my career, that’s stuck with me through time.

Treat them with respect. Respect their time.

And as Mary Kay Ash said, “Make them feel important”.


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