The 7 most annoying things about your dental practice's waiting room


For 14 years, I have sat patiently in dental waiting rooms cringing at the behavior of my peers – the other patients. (Why don’t they learn some manners?) I know that you are thinking the same thing, but you can’t really do or say anything. But, I, a dental patient, have the freedom to get honest about what is driving me batty. Let me give you a voice to identify what bothers you, the dental professional, through my words.

Patients who talk loudly on cell phones. Let’s be honest… I eavesdrop. It makes time pass. (I am amazed at what great dirt I get to hear. A good “real life” soap opera is so much better than the TV shows “Scandal” or “Revenge”. It really can make time pass, but I need photos of beautiful people to really make it worthwhile.) But seriously, it is so annoying when you are trying to read or concentrate on your emails and all you hear is that loud voice. Can’t we just confiscate all cell phones on arrival? You check in and turn in your cell phone at the front desk? That would solve that.

More from Lisa Newburger: The five worst things that can happen when a patient walks into your dental practice

Patients sit around and act like they are dreading to be here. (Oh wait, we are dreading to be here.) Depends on the day, but I would venture that… you, the dental professional, can relate this way on certain days…say… Fridays. Patients have stopped talking to each other in waiting rooms. It is a more comfortable experience if you are laughing and talking than worry about what you are going to face…the bill or the procedure.

Patients who hold their mouth and moan in pain really bother me. Think about it. Waiting for a procedure, I am very “susceptible” to the subtle influences that trigger my anxiety. Why do all practices have open areas and no doors in the examining rooms? Everyone can hear everything that happens to that dental patient. And what about you, the dental professional? It is hard to hear someone in pain, even if it is someone else’s patient.

More from Lisa Newburger: The five worst things overheard at a dental practice

What is with all the “girly” magazines in the waiting room? (Not THOSE kinds of magazines!! This isn’t 50 Shades of Dental Practicing! Get your head out of the gutter!) You have nothing but People, Cosmo, and cooking magazines. I need a distraction, but these magazines just don’t cut it. Maybe every office should have 50 Shades in the waiting room. That would be an effective distraction.

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Teenage patients who argue with their mothers should be barred from entering. Do they think we are deaf? Just because we don’t make eye contact doesn’t mean we aren’t secretly cheering for mom to set some boundaries. What I really want to shout is “Take away his car or GROUND him.” (Why don’t some parents control their teenagers? That eye-rolling thing…drives me nuts. Look, if it takes a village, I am happy to step in.)

Patients who listen with headphones yet, the music is leaking out. I don’t mind music of any kind, but when it is leaking… it is just plain annoying. Do I look like I need to be anymore annoyed? We could crank up the elevator music that is piped into the waiting room, but that just puts noise upon noise.

More from Lisa Newburger: The top ten things you can think but never say to a dental patient

Nervous patients who are bouncing their legs up and down to deal with their own anxiety. I know they are nervous. You know they are nervous. But, the thumping up and down is so distracting. If you are at the front desk and you see a patient with obvious nervous signs, or a history of being nervous, get them into a patient room ASAP. It helps with their nerves and will make me much happier. In the patient room, they can bounce their legs up and down as much as they want, and it will not bother me in the slightest.

Why do I share this with you? Of course I would love you to solve all the pet peeves I have. But, more importantly, I know that these things are also bothering you. You, the dental professional, even more than I, need to know how to deal with your pet peeves. Me personally, I laugh at myself (and to be honest, at others behind their backs, all the time.) Why? Because, pet peeves can grow and grow and make the dental office an unpleasant place to be.

More from Lisa Newburger: The top 10 things patients think when they are sitting in your dental chair

It takes a lot to become self aware of the things that irritate us. The real mark of a professional, or for that matter, a grown up, is to figure out what bothers you and find a way to minimize or neutralize it. Sometimes, it can be as easy as striking up a conversation when you see a peer or patient anxious. Sometimes, it is letting them know that their headphones are leaking. Sometimes it is just counting to 10 over and over again and praying that this experience is almost over.

If you can relate to any of these observations or have other ones that are driving you batty, email me at What I know for sure is you aren’t alone.

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