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The top 8 most embarrassing dentist/patient situations


At times, embarrassing issues crop up in the dental practice. We have stockpiled a few of them that some of our dentists have shared with us. How about you? Have you experienced any of the top eight that are listed?

There is tremendous pressure in running a successful practice. You have to have both business acumen as well as clinical expertise.

This isn’t always so easy. Being the person ultimately responsible for everything going on in the practice, “the buck” has to stop somewhere.

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At times, some embarrassing issues have cropped up. We have stockpiled a few of them that some of our dentists have shared with us. How about you? Have you experienced any of the top eight that are listed?

Continue to the next page to see the top eight most-embarrassing situations






You can’t remember the patient even though you have been working with them for 20 years.

Fake it! You start to worry if your memory is starting to go or that your practice has gotten so big that names escape you. (Maybe nametags for patients would work?)

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There was a billing problem that you had to write off because of a mistake made in the office.

Ouch! You had to do this one. After all, it is your livelihood. You are the one responsible for keeping paychecks flowing and making the business work. (Where were the classes in dental school to teach us how to run a business?!)

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You are afraid to ask questions about a possible STD because you don’t know how to talk about sexual practices.

Get over it! Do you feel like talking about sex isn’t something you should be doing? That it should be left up to the medical docs? As a dentist, you see a lot… a REAL lot. Somehow, you have to get over your discomfort and do what is in the best interest of your patient. A thorough assessment includes asking the right questions. Get over your nervousness. (Maybe getting a sex therapist in as a consultant would be overkill, but it could save lives!)

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You threw up because your gag reflex was really working overtime.

AIM AWAY FROM THE PATIENT! This is pure humiliation. Normally, I have seen some pretty frightening things, but sometimes, life happens. Maybe it was that tuna fish sandwich you stuffed down your throat as you were running late? Just come up with a wisecrack to cover the awkward silence. Either that, or offer a free cleaning to compensate for this embarrassing moment.

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You couldn’t use a poker face when you saw what kind of shape the patient’s teeth were in.

FIND A WAY! Maybe you don’t play poker, because you can’t hide anything- so how do you hide your emotions? Look away. Think of fun experiences. Practice facial expressions in the bathroom before seeing your patient. (Or start playing poker; losing money can be very therapeutic in this circumstance.)

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Your patient overheard you taking a heated personal call with your spouse and you were angry and upset.

Call yourself out on the carpet for this one. Apologize to the patient for overhearing your call. Make a joke out of it if you can. That is the best way to diffuse the tension in the air. (After all, would you want someone to pull your tooth if you know they are going through a divorce? Not me!)

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Your cell phone wasn’t on silent and went off during a procedure with a very inappropriate ring tone… “I Will Survive,” by Gloria Gaynor.

Break out into song! Seriously, if you are going to have an inappropriate ring tone, you deserve what you get. Laughing and making it into a joke can go a long way in most situations. (Yes, I realize your phone ringing during oral surgery will be more of a challenge, but you can pull it off!)

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You are attracted to your patient but know it is inappropriate to do anything about it.

Don’t tell anyone about it! (Especially not your spouse!) Bottom line: you aren’t running a dating service. Hitting on your patients is just NOT cool. Make a decision; are you going to be a professional and not damage your brand, or are you going to make a move and jeopardize your livelihood?

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These were the top eight situations that our dentists shared. How about you? Have you had or witnessed or experienced things that you are mortified about? If you want to share, contact me at diana2@discussdirectives.com . My point: You aren’t alone. It is how you deal with these experiences that matter. And, if you don’t do it perfectly, what have you learned from them? That is really the key to it all.

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