How to handle a difficult dental patient

by | Apr 6, 2021 | Dental Assistant, Dental Hygienists, Dental Job, Dental Professionals, Fun!, Work Life | 0 comments

Every dental office has them.  

The dreaded difficult patient.  

And depending on their situation, they are coming in every 3 to 6 months.  And they always manage to wreak havoc on you, your team and your mental health.  And no matter your position, whether you are a dental assistant, hygienist of front office staff, you have to work with this patient. 

This post is aimed to give you some tips on how to survive an encounter with your dreaded patient. 

I managed my office’s mean patients by following the 4 Ps.  

  1. Panic (don’t)
  2. Prepare
  3. Prevent
  4. Party

I am going to break down these 4 Ps for you now.  

PANIC (don’t) 

It is very easy to start freaking out when you know the dreaded patient is coming in, but please don’t panic.  Rather, take this moment to remind yourself that this patient isn’t nasty to you and your team because you are doing something wrong.  Rather, they are just unhappy and lonely people who love to spread their gloom wherever they go.  Rather than panic and worry, you should meet these difficult patients with compassion.  

Also, just cause they were rude once or twice, doesn’t mean they are going to be rude this time.  But… it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. 


Hopefully, you have been keeping track of your difficult patients past grievances.  

Were they upset because they had to wait a few minutes past their appointment time to be seated?

Were they mad because their treatment plan changed last minute?

Did they complain about the coffee being cold or the air freshener in the lobby being too strong?

Whatever it was that caused them grief last time they were in your dental practice, try to eliminate it.

Also make sure your whole team is made aware of what triggers this patient and what changes you are making to keep them happy.  And if you have a temp in the office that day, try to shield them from that patient if possible.  Disgruntled patients hate temps for some reason.   


Now that the patient has arrived in your office, it is time to prevent any meltdowns.  Greet the patient with a warm welcome and let them know you are glad they are there.  

Get them back to the opporatory as soon as possible and get to work.  If you are working on them, they can’t complain.  

Once treatment is done, try to check them out as quickly as possible.  

If they have any complaints, keep other patients away from them.  Have your Office Manager step in and handle it, hopefully in a private room.  


As soon as your difficult patient leaves, celebrate!  You survived!  And a quick celebration helps you and your team shake off the grumpiness your patient left with you.  

CONGRATULATIONS!  You now have a whole 3 to 6 months before you have to deal with that patient again!  Woohoo!

There you have it.  My 4 Ps to handle a difficult patient.  

Have a negative coworker?  This post is for that. 


Holli Perez

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