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Supporting Your Practice

How would you handle this situation?


One of CDA Oasis priority topics for 2015 is communication and its role in the success of the dental practice. We are pleased to present a series of made-up scenarios related to various aspects of communication in the dental office. Below is the first in the series.

Case 1


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How would deal with this situation?



  1. Lesia April 8, 2015

    I’d want to speak with the patient privately – I’d bring the patient to a consultation room or operatory and let the patient have their say first before responding. This helps to de-escalate the situation and takes the patient away from the front desk, where they’ve been making a scene, and lets them feel heard, and gives me a chance to figure out how to address what their real concern is. If it isn’t clear what their issue is, I find that a good strategy is to guess – an angry patient will correct you if you’re wrong. For future situations, I’d give the front desk staff instructions to call me if they can’t deal with this kind of situation themselves or to call an office manager or more senior/experienced front desk staff whose authority the patient may respect more than the receptionists’. If the patient’s acting in a threatening way to the staff and they feel there’s a risk of harm then they can ask the patient to leave, call building security, or call the police. If the patient’s been disrespectful to the staff then I’d address that before providing any further care, laying down the “ground rules” for the patient’s behaviour. Most importantly, I’d tell the staff to let me know if a patient’s dissatisfied with treatment – it seems from the scenario that the staff hadn’t reported the patient’s concerns to the dentist, and that’s why the situation may have escalated into a “scene.”

  2. Alan goren April 20, 2015

    First find out what your staff knows about the situation. Next in your private office ask the patient to explain what has made her unhappy. Explain to her the reasoning behind anything done which she is not happy with. If this doesn’t satisfy her then offer to refer her to another dentist. I find that once a patient is already angry it is very difficult to satisfy them.


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