I’m Looking Through You

Question: Have you ever had a patient come in and tell you a negative or dramatic story about a past dental experience?

Answer: Of course you have.

First of all, as a dental office employee, I’m never going to allow someone to verbally attack another dentist or office.  It’s not professional or productive. Not only that, but I’m only hearing their version, and there are usually 3 sides to every story. I’ve learned that a patient’s perception of an event, can very well not be what actually happened.

Let’s talk about perception for a bit.

Perception is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to fabricate a mental representation through the process of transduction, which sensors in the body transform signals from the environment into encoded neural signals. (Thanks for clarifying, Wikipedia!)

Perception is the reason why so many patients report that a dentist put a knee on a chest to extract a tooth.

The reality is that this has never happened in the history of dentistry.

Perception is the reason that people ask for everything to be extracted and have dentures placed.

The reality is that the patient needs 1 filling.

If you work in a dental office, you’ve heard the same sort of stories and comments over and over. The reality is that things usually aren’t as “terrible” as people perceive. Unfortunately, it is a losing battle to try to convince a patient that no dentist has ever placed a knee on a patient’s chest. I don’t know what it is about people, but they want to believe what they want to believe. I used to correct patients and tell them that the knee on the chest thing never happened, but EVERY single time I responded, the patient would look at me like I had two heads. I don’t think ANY of them wanted to believe that it DIDN’T happen. I actually have a friend who recently told me that her dentist held her up by her ankles and shook her when she was a small child because she cried during an appointment. What do you say to that? The story seemed so unbelievable to me, but she was CONVINCED that it happened. I had to walk away.

That being said, I understand that patients need to be heard, but, I REFUSE to engage in the dramatics. I know that to a patient, their perception is their truth. I cannot change what they believe to be true, but I can redirect the conversation to a more positive note.

Here’s what I say when a patient starts to go off, sometimes I’m forced to gently interrupt.

Me: “Every office is different. I can assure you that here we will work really hard to make everything as easy on you as possible.”

That’s it-short and sweet. I don’t feed into any negative conversation regarding their last office or experience, and I put the focus back on where it should be.

How does your office respond in these types of situations? Tell me in the comment section below!

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