Confessions of the Dental Team- Patient Personalities

Written by Heather Siler

If you’ve been in dentistry for more than 10 minutes, you know the different types of patients and how they get you off schedule and exhaust every ounce of your patience. Most patients are awesome, and you enjoy their visits, but lighten up for a minute and identify these “special” patients:

  1. Talkative Tammy- Talkative Tammy is usually very nice and compliant with homecare. However, she never stops talking the entire time she’s in the office. She even talks with instruments in her mouth, and if anyone else enters the operatory while she’s there, she’ll talk with them for thirty minutes. You barely get her teeth cleaned and she leaves you so out of sorts and off-schedule that you don’t know which way is up!
  2. High Maintenance Mary- High maintenance Mary is the patient who, when you look at her chart, has an entire page listing her dislikes and preferences. Some of her necessities include rinsing with mouthwash before and after the procedure, no lying back, earphones, covering her eyes, no power scaling or x-rays, applying lip balm throughout the procedure, etc. The list is truly endless, and so are her demands. High maintenance Mary is an extremely particular patient who makes you see double while trying to keep a smile on your face!
  3. Grumpy George- Grumpy George is a tough nut to crack. He’s always mad about everything. If kept waiting even 1 minute past his appointment, he loses his mind. He never answers questions because he merely grunts, and he won’t be pleased with any treatment you provide. When George leaves, you need some soothing tea and encouragement.
  4. Always Late Larry- Always late Larry is usually quite pleasant, but always significantly late. He phones 10 minutes after his appointed time and says he’s “5 minutes away”. There is no such thing as 5 minutes away in dentistry. Five minutes is always at least twenty. He’s good at the game too. Even when you put on his appointment card that his appointment is at 3:30 when it’s really at 4 pm, he arrives at 4:30. Always late Larry leaves you exasperated and off schedule.
  5. Disorganized Debbie- Disorganized Debbie forgets everything. Often, she’s forgotten that she has an appointment. If she remembers her appointment, she’ll run into the office in the nick of time looking like she just leaped out of bed. She’s probably forgotten to premed and hasn’t brushed her teeth. She digs through her purse the entire appointment looking for something or stays on her phone talking and texting. She must also visit the restroom before and after the appointment. Disorganized Debbie is a human tornado leaving you in her wake and shaking your head.

While not an exhaustive list, all offices have their classifications. Seminars dealing with difficult patients can’t even touch these cases. Fortunately, there usually aren’t too many in each practice, and these patients make us appreciate the great ones even more.