Communicating in Difficult Situations: Part 2

By: Savanah Craig

Communicating with patients can be more challenging than doing dentistry at times

I’ve noticed that some types of patient encounters happen more often than not.

While I don’t believe that you can win over every single patient, I think in certain circumstances we can help to redirect some of these patients’ concerns and gain their trust in the process.

Challenging Communication Examples & Tips

It can be helpful to think about some of these phrases and scenarios that agitate us ahead of time and come up with a plan for handling them at the moment.

1. “Nothing hurts, so how can I have a cavity.”

Teeth are different from other parts of your body.

Typically, if you are feeling pain in your teeth, the nerve of your tooth is starting to die.

If your teeth have been experiencing sharp and spontaneous pain or pain to cold it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible.

If you’ve been experiencing pain and now it has suddenly stopped, there is a possibility that the nerve inside of your tooth has become necrotic or died.

It could mean that you need a root canal or extraction to get the infection out of your tooth.

Your dentist wants to catch a cavity while it is small and not painful so that it can be addressed with a small filling or crown, rather than a root canal.

When tooth decay gets past the enamel (hard outer shell) it expands rapidly, so it is best to catch cavities while they are small! 

2. “I want dentures, so I don’t have to care for my teeth anymore.”

I have started to tell my patients that dentures are not a replacement for teeth.

They are a replacement for having no teeth. It takes time to adjust to a removable prosthesis.

You must train your muscles how to function so that you can speak and eat with these new appliances.

In some instances, dentures can require numerous appointments to make sure they are not causing soreness for that patient.

Over time, dentures can need to be relined or remade depending on how the patient’s bone changes over time.

While dentures are a great solution for many people who lose their teeth, it is not a quick fix or a way to avoid the dentist forever.

There is no replacement for your natural teeth, so care for them while you still can!

3. “I’d like a second opinion.”

You are welcome to seek a second opinion as a patient.

I am not here to convince my patient that I am the only option for their care.

There are many qualified dentists and I may not be the best choice for that patient.

I would rather my patient seek care with a different dentist who aligns with the treatment they are looking for, than be forced to provide treatment I don’t feel comfortable with.

Getting any medical diagnosis can feel overwhelming and it’s okay to need to hear it from two different sources, especially when it comes to your dental health.

I present what I see on my examination and leave the patients free to make their own decision about their care.

My job is to educate and inform, not to persuade.

Prepare Yourself for Encountering Difficult Situations

Consider practicing how you may address some of these patient phrases in your own office so that you and your team can be prepared when you encounter them!

Up Next: Communicating in Difficult Situations, Part 1

Savanah Craig

Savanah Craig

Savanah Craig is a graduate of Baldwin Wallace University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. She is currently a 2022 D.D.S. Candidate at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. She will be pursuing a General Practice Residency in Columbia, SC following graduation. In her free time, Savanah enjoys reading, exploring new restaurants, and traveling.