The Closed Mouth Gathers No Feet

It’s very hard to say the wrong thing when you don’t speak.

The unspoken word is never incorrect.

But once spoken, an incorrect statement or comment can cause embarrassment and serious collateral damage.

So choose your words wisely.

Last week….

Last week I received one of those SMS messages that every adult dreads….

“CitibankAU Security Alert: We have temporarily blocked your Credit Card ending in 1234 as we have noticed a suspicious transaction at ABC ENTERPRISES US for USD 54.99 on 16-Jun-2021. Reply ‘Y’ to (123)456-7890 if this transaction is genuine or reply ‘N’ if you do not recognise it. You may also call us on 1300 550 12324.”

Yes, my credit card had been compromised.

I phoned Citibank and spoke with one of their call centres.

Interestingly, there were several much bigger transactions that did not create an alarm at Citibank:

  • Two transactions adding up to over USD$1600 for paint purchased in Cleveland
  • Over $6000.00 Canadian dollar purchase

Anyway, the reason for the dread is that when your credit card gets blocked, all of your regular payment transactions on that card need to be updated for each and every payee:

  • Internet service provider
  • Pay by the month insurances
  • Phone bills
  • Regular subscriptions
  • Storage rentals

It’s all very annoying for something that happens that is out of your control [as the consumer who owns the credit card].

Anyway, here’s what happened to me:

I received the following SMS message from my internet service provider:

“Hi, it’s XYZ Internet. Your payment details need to be updated. Access our App to update your details.”

And five hours later:

“Oops! Your credit card payment to XYZ Internet failed, your account 4691234 is overdue. We will continue to try to take payment or you can set up a payment plan on your online portal. To check out our financial hardship options visit [this URL]. We’re here to help on 1300 123 123.”

So my internet service provider immediately assumes and pigeon-hole me that I am experiencing FINANCIAL HARDSHIP because my credit card had been declined?

Is there no other reason for a credit card being declined than financial hardship?

Has my ISP even thought that credit card theft might have been a reason?

Did you hear the story about…..?

Have you ever heard the story about the shop assistant who asked the female shopper when her baby was due, only to be told by the shopper:

“I’m not pregnant.”

[Meaning that the shopper was overweight, not pregnant]

It’s about at that time that the shop assistant was hoping that a large hole would appear in the ground in front of her allowing her to escape this embarrassing faux pas.

Remember, the closed mouth gathers no feet.

It’s very difficult to put your foot in your mouth when your lips are together.

Are there times in your dental office where the wrong words are spoken?

There are always times in our dental practice when we wish we could rewind our conversations and replace careless remarks with better chosen words.

However, in dental practice, conversation and banter are important as a means of helping to relax any anxious patients.

So we need to realise that in our practice, we need to carefully choose our words so that they create MAXIMUM IMPACT.

It is important not to use careless language and diminish the meaning of what exactly we are attempting to convey.

Years ago…

Years ago in our dental practice we used to say a specific sentence to each patient after we had scheduled their next visit, and before they either left our practice that day or they finished their phone call with us.

And that sentence was this:

“Now Betty, I just need to go over the fees for your next visit.”

We used to then go over the fees with the patient for their [anticipated] treatment at their next visit.

We did this routinely so as to avoid any embarrassment at the next appointment if the patient was to experience any form of “sticker shock”. We wanted the patient to be absolutely clear as to how much their next visit was going to cost them.


It was one of our very valued patients who pointed out to us when she was told:

“Now Betty, I just need to go over the fees for your next visit.”

This patient, Betty, raised up her hand and said:

“Jayne. It’s OK. I don’t need to know what the fees will be next time.”

What Betty was really saying was that whatever the fees were going to be, she was OK with them, and she was able to afford them, and that the fee was not an issue.

And there have been plenty of other patients who have said something like this:

“It’s OK. I have a rough idea of what it’s going to be. You don’t need to go over the fees.”

And so we changed our sentence:

And so, instead of saying:

“Now Betty, I just need to go over the fees for your next visit.”

We started asking this:

“Now Betty, would you like me to go over the fees for your next visit?”

We started ASKING patients whether they needed more detail on the fees.

Both what we used to say, and what we started to ask, gave the exact same result to us: a patient prepared for their next visit.

But the question we changed to was so much more politically correct and removed the [incorrect] presumption that everyone coming to us needed to know exactly how much money to bring to their next visit.

Are there any sentences or phrases or questions that you use in your dental practice that maybe should be replaced by something that says the same thing rather more gently?

Here are four of the worst:

“Have you been here before?”

“How did you find out about us?”

“You know you’re early.”

“Would you like to make another appointment?”


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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.

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