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Meet the challenge of managing difficult patients

Growing a successful dental practice means building rapport with your patients and fostering long-term relationships but what can you do when nothing is enough for a patient?

Here are simple tips for managing your more challenging patients.


The best approach for dealing with no-shows is to have a protocol that treats everyone equally. You can post your no-show policy in the office and on your website to refer to if a patient gets upset. It’s a good idea to offer every patient a free pass on their first no-show but be clear that it’s a one-time exception and you’ll be billing them for the appointment if it happens again. Do take the time to explain to the patient why and how a no-show affects you. Many people might honestly presume that it’s no big deal.

Aggressive patients

There are many reasons why a patient may become aggressive in your office. From billing issues to impatience, dental anxiety, frustration with chronic pain or concerns present outside of the practice. Follow this process to try and diffuse the situation:

  • Remain calm and speak in a soft voice
  • Do not tell the patient to “calm down”
  • Let the patient speak and allow them to finish
  • Respond with empathetic statements like, “I understand why you’re upset”, to acknowledge their feelings
  • Use the patient’s name
  • Offer a course of action that can help the patient to resolve their situation without caving to unreasonable demands

Give yourself a break

Handling a challenging situation with a patient, either in the operatory or at the front desk, can be stressful. Take a minute to recenter after dealing with a difficult patient and encourage your team to do the same. This is the best way to ensure you’ll be at your best for the next patient and offer them the best experience possible.