The top 5 things you never want to hear a patient say

These five complaints will make any dental professional cringe.

What horrible things do your patients say?

Sometimes you are so shocked that you just want to get out of the room immediately. But, you are the “true” professional and believe how you handle the situation is really what matters. While there are some patients who are just downright persnickety and rude (nothing will please them, so you can often just tune them out), there are several complaints that cut deep.

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

So what are thes worst-of-the-worst comments that make you cringe when you hear them come out of your patient’s mouth?


Continue to the next page to see the top five cringe-inducing statements.



“You will be hearing from my lawyer!”

That “L” word gets all of us pretty nervous pretty quickly. Why does a patient think that they need to throw their weight around because they aren’t getting what they are demanding? (Wish I knew the answer to that one. Is it a power play?) Maybe.

There was a TMJ patient who was finishing up five years of dental care and was about to have her braces taken off for the second time. She had been very stable for a couple of years and was back in the throes of TMJ nightmare pain. The dentist felt there was nothing more he could do about the situation and wanted to take off the braces. The patient felt desperate and knew if the braces came off, that that was it. She was going to have to suffer with this predicament.

She threatened to get her lawyer involved as she didn’t know what to do. She had spent $15,000 on her mouth and was miserable. The flustered dentist had his secretary witness the consultation, to protect himself. In the end, he stuck to his treatment plan and was able to calm the patient down and find a resolution. But, that threat about getting a lawyer involved scares everyone. Stick to what you know and don’t overreact. Just do what you do well. Calm the patient and focus on a resolution that works best for the patient.


“I’m going to tell everyone what lousy care you give here!”

In this day and age, social media can do irreparable damage to a practice. In the old days, we just had complaint letters that would come in and upset the office or get the boss mad. It might have resulted in someone getting fired or disciplinary action. Now, social media is a much more powerful weapon for a disgruntled patient. Again, it goes back to how you handle the situation. Are you listening to the patient? Really listening? We say that we do, but we are sometimes more focused on other things and don’t really listen to what is being said.

Patients want to be heard. They don’t want to be a number of cleanings you have on the schedule today. They want you to resolve their problems. This means you are going to have to find a way to solve the problem. Sometimes, that is simply letting someone know that you are truly sorry. You would be surprised how often patients get enraged simply because no one says they are sorry.


“I’m NEVER coming back.”

There are some patients that we are not too upset if they decide to leave the practice. (In fact, we want them to!) But, that is rare. Losing patients is a critical problem to any business. How many people will they share their rage with? My guesstimate is at least 10 people will know that they fired a dental practice. It becomes a snowball since we are interconnected one way or another.

A simple question when you hear this is “What would change your mind and keep you at this practice?” The answer may not be doable. But, ask. Never hurts to ask.


“You caused me so much pain!”

For some of us, hearing that we inflicted physical pain on someone is too much to handle. We are trying to help not hurt. But, what do you do when you inadvertently cause pain? An apology does matter when it is sincere. Looking for other options to deal with preventing this from happening again, is also critical. Listen to patients. Ask questions.


 “I can’t afford the dental work you are proposing.”

This is probably the most upsetting issue on this list. Knowing that someone cannot afford your service and that they are going to suffer without your help is a lot to stomach. Removing someone’s teeth because there is not enough money to do what you recommend hits you in the gut. But, no matter how you look at it, it is a business. You have to generate revenue and keep a business afloat. Know of dental schools, clinics, or other options you can send a patient to when there isn’t a workable solution because of finances.

But remember, the important part is how you handle the problem and whether or not you are really listening to what the patient is saying. Hard to believe communication is so crucial in keep patients happy. Here, I thought it was just about the great dental care!

Send me your stories and experiences of other things you hate to hear patients say. Email