How to Handle Unhappy Patients in Your Dental Office

Ensuring that your dental patients are happy and satisfied is usually a guaranteed way to retain patients and grow your dental business. However, sometimes, you may have to handle unhappy dental patients. Here are some of the effective ways to handle unhappy dental patients.

Look Out for Warning Signs

Usually, it’s easy to detect patients’ anger before it intensifies. Patients often signal their resentment and frustration through grunting, clenched fists, heavy sighs, a raised voice, or rolling eyes. Once you notice these red flags, make sure to proactively attend to those patients to learn whatever problems they may have.

Maintain Composure

There will be occasions when you would have to deal with highly emotional patients. Such patients tend to make provocative or rash statements that you need to refrain from responding to. Since exchanging accusations would obviously make the situation worse, the key is to stay calm and allow the patient time to vent out their anger. This would help to carry out a more productive discussion.

Acknowledge Feelings

Usually, feeling understood is enough to make an unhappy patient relax, which settles half the problem. Doctors need to realize that their goal is not to prove that they are right. Instead, it’s more about showing your concern and finding the exact solution. A simple statement like - ‘I understand how frustrating this must be for you’ may be sufficient to encourage the patient and forge trust between both parties.

Reiterate and Offer Solutions

A useful approach is to ask the patient for a resolution politely or suggest two choices for their consideration. Having an option or some say about the result may resolve the matter quickly and satisfactorily to the patient’s liking.

Make Use of Technology

If your patient’s annoyance has risen from missing their appointment and having been charged for the no-show, then consider switching from your current system to the latest technology. The automated communication system in place will efficiently manage appointment confirmations, and reminders and help everyone stay on the same page. This will also help eliminate unwanted frustrations in the future. Latest technological innovation lets you even perform two-way text right away with individual patients.

You can use reputation management software that utilizes an automated outreach process to get patients’ feedback about their visit so that you can reach out to unhappy ones for service recovery.

Empower Your Staff

It’s common knowledge that dissatisfied patients seldom complain to the doctor directly. Therefore, your staff must be trained to watch out for the first signs of dissatisfaction and immediately bring it to your notice. Also, provide proper guidelines to your staff on how to handle unhappy patients to help them make suitable decisions. Empowering your staff members with the right knowledge and tools will prompt them to do whatever they can to keep every patient content.

Involve a Supervisor

Sometimes a situation can deteriorate much further before the management steps in. Some patients don’t feel content unless they get a chance to speak to the management, and by the time this demand is fulfilled, things already reach a pinnacle. If a patient is getting irritated with a front desk employee, call in a supervisor or someone in a higher authority to listen to the concern, which may help the patients feel important.


Sometimes, patient complaints may be irrational or unjustified, but it’s essential to know how to recognize the genuine issues that require a long-term or permanent solution. The outlook of the unhappy patient may also offer an opportunity for doctors to learn and improve. Try to dig deeper without being defensive or self-protective, and honestly consider ways to improve and prevent similar problems in the future.

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Effective Communication in Dentistry: How I Manage Communication at My Dental Office

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Steffany Mohan, DDS

Dr. Steffany Mohan, DDS is a highly accomplished dentist, speaker, and coach in dentistry and has been practicing for around 22 years in West Des Moines, IA. She is renowned for her achievements in implant practice management and has established Plaza Dental Group as among the busiest and most thriving dental offices in Iowa