Respect of Time: Five Big Mistakes You’re Making In Your Dental Office, And How To Avoid Them


Your patient is paying for your time.


You need to be giving them value for their money.

You need to be providing them with exceptional value, so that time, and money become irrelevant.

I’ve reported it before and I’ll say it again.

And again.

And again.

Until I’m blue in the face.

The number one reason our dental patients leave our Dental Office is because of apathy, and perceived apathy, by dental team members.

And dentists too.

Are you guilty?

Are you guilty of being disrespectful of your patient’s time?

We all are guilty.

But are you and your team continuously guilty?

Here are some classic examples of how we are failing to respect the time of the patient.

Failing to acknowledge, and praise, the patient who always arrives well and truly early for their Dental Appointment.

A friend of mine said his father used to say, “If you’re not fifteen minutes early, then you’re late!!”

And it’s true.

We’re always early for the train. For the bus. For our flight.

So why oh why can we not be early for our patients. And them for their appointments with us?

Sure. We may end up running late through no fault of our own. Another patient could be late? An impression needs retaking? An exo turns into a surgical?

All of these things can throw our appointment book into turmoil.

But think about it….

Have you ever been on a flight where the pilot says that the plane can pick up [lost] time on the journey?

Of course you have!

Airlines build flextime, or catch up time into the air time of every flight.

They need to. Because they are at the mercy of air traffic control at both ends.

And the weather at both ends.

So if airlines can do it why can’t a Dental Office?

Why can’t a Dental Office build flextime into its schedule?

And avoid running late?

Acknowledge the early patient

When our patients arrive early, we thank them.

Every time.

“Thank you for coming in early Mrs. Smith. I’ll go see if Doctor Moffet can see you earlier? We do so love our patients who are able to come in earlier, because it just goes a long way to helping us run on time all day.”

And if Mrs. Smith does come early to her appointments regularly, you better see her early as much as you can, so that she knows that you value her time.

Rescheduling already made appointments

Nothing else reeks of disrespect for a patient’s time than phoning them to reschedule, or delay, an already made appointment.

If you need to take time off, then plan it well in advance. So that patients are not booked into that time in the first place.

And don’t even think of entertaining the thought of rescheduling patients in a time slot just because someone wants to call a meeting to suit them.

A friend of mine was asked to attend a meeting at 9:00am on a Friday. To do so would have meant rescheduling patients from 7:00am to probably midday?

My friend told the person he was meeting that patients came first.

This sort of meeting, that disrupts an already well planned appointment book, needs to be scheduled outside of clinical hours.

The mid-appointment interruption

They’re all there. Every day.

We can’t stop them. But we can minimize them.

And we can strategically position them for least disruptive impact.

Remember, when you are with your patient they are paying you for that time!

So give them vale.

Give them exceptional value!

Don’t be leaving the room every second minute.

Once you’re with them, stay with them as much as possible. And keep interruptions down to a minimum.

The hygiene check interruption

In a regular Dental Office the hygiene check is a part of daily routine.

It cannot be avoided.

But its frequency and timing can be controlled *AND* manipulated…

Firstly, the hygiene checks need to be scheduled in the appointment books at specific regular times so that the Doctor’s treatment room can be scheduled with minimal impaction from hygiene.

As well as maximum impaction.

We have the hygienist come to the Doctor’s treatment room, and excuse herself, and then announce her presence, and that delivery is scripted.

To the letter.

No buzzers, bells or beepers.

Real human conversation.

Firstly, the conversation promotes to the restorative patient in the Doctor’s room that a “please and thank you” culture is alive and well in our Dental Office.


Secondly, the restorative patient is also a regular hygiene patient, usually, so they then get to see the minimal, but important impact, of the hygiene check in the Doctor’s day-to-day routine.

Thirdly, if the restorative patient is not yet a hygiene patient, the verbal announcement from the hygienist allows the Doctor to “back announce” and introduce the hygienist and hygiene services.

Very powerful.

Timing the hygiene check correctly also allows the Doctor to politely excuse himself from the restorative patient, and along the way to the hygiene room, he may be able to administer local anaesthetic to his next patient, or review an ortho aligner case at the same time….

Avoid personal interruptions

Unless absolutely critical, personal phone calls and drop in chats from friends or reps should be absolute no-nos.

The patient is paying for your time. Give them back your time in spades.

So that they feel that they have had exceptional value.

Being constantly interrupted with announcements from staff and team members that your wife/golf buddy/etc. is on the phone is a big turn off.

I remember my mum relating to me her experience at the endodontist while he took a phone call and made a stock market transaction right there in front of her while she was in the chair!

Wrong time. Wrong action.

Wrong subject!

Here’s what I do:

If the team member must notify the Doctor, *and* the Doctor has pre-notified the team that he is expecting an important call, here is how we play it out.

The team member enters the treatment room and, unannounced, and hopefully unnoticed at all by the patient in the chair, she slips a hand written note into view of the Doctor.

The note is usually positioned down beside the patient’s head, so the Doctor has minimal physical disturbance.

Once viewed, the Doctor can then respond with a short few word/one word/non verbal signal to the team member, and take action accordingly.

Without heralding the interruption, or the purpose of the interruption to the valued patient.

Discretion is the key here.

Tying all this in together, if the Doctor’s day is scheduled productively using a template there is plenty of flex time available for him to return, or take those calls without impinging and impacting upon the precious time of the valued patient.

And the valued patient feels that they have experienced exceptional value for their time spent with the Doctor.

And they’re none the wiser.

Just like at Disney, there needs to be a lot of planning to what goes on underground and behind the scenes to maximize the experience that the customer receives.

Each and every time.

Delivering a consistent way-above average experience to your clients, customers and patients is the easiest way to build and maintain a very successful Dental Office.

Twenty-one years ago a Dentist friend of mine told me that children spell “LOVE”, T.I.M.E.

Well guess what?

Patients spell “LOVE” exactly the same way….


The Ultimate Patient Experience is a simple to build complete Customer Service system in itself that I developed that allowed me to create an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb. If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

Email me at

Did you like this blog article? If you did then hit the share buttons below and share it with your friends and colleagues. Share it via email, Facebook and twitter!!