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Struggling with a Difficult Patient? Here’s How to Manage 4 Difficult Dental Patients

In any business, there are customers that we like and customers that test our patience. The same goes for the patients that visit the dentist’s office.

 

And sometimes, it’s hard to handle them so that they have the best experience and you can do your job.

 

Here are 4 types of patients that can be difficult and how to manage them.

 

 

1. The Google Expert 

 

We all know that one patient.

 

They know all the latest and greatest medical news and can’t wait to share with the dental hygienist. Instead of giving them a cleaning, we’re bombarded with questions that have taken four years of dentistry school to learn.

 

“Why didn’t you use this treatment?’

 

“Shouldn’t you be doing this?”

 

It can be exhausting.

 

It’s wonderful that the patient is enthusiastic about getting involved with the process, but it can hinder dental hygienists’ trying to do their job and sometimes even be harmful to the patient.

 

So, what’s the best course of action?

 

Be firm with the patient and confident in your own education. It’s important to make sure that they know we have their best interest in mind and that we are a much better resource than anything they can find on the web. 

 

2. The Late Comer

 

It’s 3:50. Their appointment was at 3:30. At this point, we’re assuming they just aren’t coming.

 

That’s when they stroll on in. The only thing more frustrating than that is if it happens on the regular.

 

Lateness has a domino effect. Regardless if all the next patients are on time, there’s no way to get back that 20 minutes. The worst part is making other patients wait just because someone has chronic tardiness. It isn’t good for anyone.

 

The best way to manage lateness is to incorporate a late policy. And stick to it.

 

Anyone that is more than 15-20 minutes late to their appointment, cannot be seen that day and will have to reschedule.

 

Generally, patients will respect the set appointment time and it will reduce the amount of late arrivers.

 

3. The Nervous Patient 

 

Dental anxiety is no joke. Nearly 1 in 5 patients have some degree of dental anxiety.

 

As dental hygienists, no one wants to see a patient cringe and tense as we recline the chair or pull back their cheeks. But no matter what we try to do to calm them, nothing works.

 

Sometimes, their discomfort and tension can radiate onto us, making us nervous too.

 

The best advice is to stay calm yourself. This is much easier said than done but often times what you put out into the world you get back in return.

 

It may be beneficial to open up the floor to a discussion about what is causing the anxiety and how we, as hygienists, can ease that discomfort. By knowing what makes them the most worried, you can avoid or minimize that factor.

 

In extreme cases, the patient may need to consult their doctor for anti-anxiety medication to take before appointments.

 

4. The Chatty Cathy 

 

You love them, but at the same time they can be quite frustrating.

 

These are the types that will get to know you, ask about the kids or about upcoming vacations. They are often the sweetest patients you’ll get!

 

As much as they make the workday go by faster, they can eat into the appointment through their conversations and suddenly we’re behind schedule!

 

It can be challenging when managing a Chatty Cathy because we don’t want to be rude in any way but we also have to get the job done on time. But like any skill, managing chatty patients comes with time and experience.

 

Focus the conversations towards the beginning and end of the appointment as well as during the period of time before the patient is seen by the doctor. These time zones are optimal for conversations because they don’t interrupt your job but also give the patient a chance to socialize.

 

Not only that but it will also build a better relationship with the patient!

 

While these four types of difficult patients can pose a challenge, there’s nothing we, as dental hygienists, can’t handle.

 

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