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Tips for handling challenging patients

As a dentist, it’s likely you have to deal with some challenging patients. From patients who writhe in the chair to those that are serial no-shows, and more, problem patients can impact your practice.

Here are a few common patient issues and tips for mitigating their negative effect.

Doesn’t follow your advice

A patient who disagrees with your recommendations or refuses to take home care seriously can be frustrating. If your guidance isn’t enough, it might be time to speak to the patient firmly. You can consider suggesting that if they don’t plan on following your advice then perhaps your practice isn’t the best fit, and they could find a dentist with ideas more in tune with their own. Many patients may correct their behavior when addressed in this way.

High maintenance

Some people act like they’re the only patient in your office, even when the waiting room is full. They have a large amount of questions and can get upset that they’re not getting enough time with the dentist.

Ask these patients what you can do to make them happy but don’t bend over backwards to fulfill every request. Instead, offer them a set of solutions that help them feel like they’re getting serviced the way they want.

Frequently late

You won’t eliminate cancellations, tardiness and no-shows completely but you can mitigate the problem. If your practice seems to have an above-average percentage of flaky patients, it could be beneficial to upgrade your practice management software. Automated reminders allow you to increase the frequency of notifications and open two-way communication that allows patients to confirm or reschedule.

Behind on payments

Regardless of the reason, patients who are consistently behind on payments can be trouble for your bottom line. A strong financial policy is a good start. You can require patients to sign the policy prior to receiving treatment to clear up any potential confusion about who is responsible for payment. Consider partnering with a third-party service to outsource financing. This allows you to be paid up front while helping patients to set up a payment schedule they can afford.

One and done

New patients who come in for a consultation but never return for treatment can be frustrating. While going out of your way to make new patients feel welcome is great, it’s possible to overwhelm them with an expensive treatment plan they weren’t expecting. When a new patient requires a great deal of treatment to improve their oral health, focus on their most pressing needs first. Then, after successfully completing the first round of treatment, you can lay out a more comprehensive strategy.

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