The top 5 things patients NEVER want to hear a dentist say


These dreaded words can be the difference between treatment acceptance or a quick sprint to the door.

Have you ever said something and then wanted to kick yourself for blurting out what you were thinking?

You know what I am talking about: When you open mouth and insert foot? It happens. None of us are perfect, but some of us need to really be sensitive to what we are saying. Would it surprise you that there are specific things your patient never, ever, ever wants to hear you say?

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These five statements rank at the top of the list for things that will get your patients heading for the door. Have you ever dropped one of these bombs?

Continue to the next page to see the five dreaded comments.


 “This is going to be very, very expensive!”

Your patients live in fear of what their bill is going to be. You try to guesstimate, but you don’t know what is going to happen until you start the work. Think about your patients. If you are on a limited income, out of work or working a low-paying job, the bill is a huge concern.

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More and more patients are having teeth removed and are not able to afford crowns and implants. For many, dentistry is a luxury. (It used to be designer bags and shoes that were the mark of financial security. Now the sign of wealth is if you have all your teeth.) Despite the importance of good oral health,when you are struggling to pay bills, teeth cleaning isn’t up on the priority list. Food and shelter come first.


“I am booked solid for the next three months.”

It is so hard nowadays to schedule the next appointment. Maybe that is because you are so lucky to be in demand! Maybe your office needs to look at your scheduling practices.  Evening and weekend appointments are snatched up months in advance.

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I was told once that I was going to have to wait a month while I was in significant pain. A specialist made a mistake, and I needed an oral surgeon to sedate me in order to do the dental procedure. Being told that I would have to wait a month in pain… Are you serious? Figure out what can be done, because that is just not acceptable. And of course, there are ways around it. The surgeon ended up giving up his lunch break as he didn’t want to see me suffer for a month (thank you, thank you, thank you!).


“I just graduated from dental school.”

Good for you! Your patients may be curious, but they really DON’T want to know you are a new grad. (Don’t get me wrong, I am not recommending that you lie. I am just saying don’t advertise it.) Patients need to feel secure that you know what you are doing. If you are young looking and asked about it, focus on how up-to-date you are with all the new treatments are in the field. This is what your patients want to hear. Make them feel confident in you as a dental professional.



Never say “uh-oh” or “oh no.” If you react poorly to a bad situation, your patient will do the same. This problem may not be your fault, but how you react really sets the stage for the patient. When there is bad news, take the patient into your office for a consultation and show them the X-rays. Point out realistically what you can do.


“She really screwed up!”

As a patient, we don’t want to hear that another dental professional who worked on our mouth screwed up. It is truly amazing how often this happens in this industry. There really is no value to ranting and raving about a colleague when it may not have been their fault. What would you want to hear if you were the patient?

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It really is amazing how what we say really matters to our patients. You are the trusted professional that they turn to for help to protect what matters most to them-their teeth. Remember that no one wants to be told it is expensive, that you are so booked, that you are brand new, that you see something really bad or that you are badmouthing another professional. Instead, they want to know that you are the professional who knows what you are doing and that you can handle whatever issue they have. If you can’t, you know where to refer them to. It may seem like a refresher course on basics, but you really would be surprised how often we open mouth and insert foot.

Email me at and let me know other things you know your patients would never want you to say-or things you never want to hear your patient say!

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