Patients who do not value you

We all have patients like this; patients who will never see the value of the care that we provide. Every time we see them, they aim the same jibes at us. They’ll complaint about charges, ask whose fast car they are paying for and decline the treatment they need.

Grumpy patient at the dentist

It tends to be (but not exclusively) grumpy, middle-aged men who do this. For some reason, they come to check ups but then decline your recommendations when you find a problem. It makes you wonder why they come along in the first place but I assume it’s because their partners make them. Anyway, that’s beside the point.

I’m guessing that you can think of at least a couple of patients like this. The patients that cause your shoulders to slump at the thought of another lecture on why dental treatment is overpriced and why this country has ‘gone to the dogs’.

It’s not much fun having your professional advice rejected and your recommendations ignored. When dealing with patients like this, it is vital that you do not let them diminish your personal value. Remember what a highly skilled, highly qualified individual you are. And remember that the vast majority of your patients understand the value of the care that you provide for them.

Some people will never understand what your time and skills are worth. Presumably, these patients struggle to see the value of lots of other things too. Do not let them get you down. You must remember that these patients will make up less than 1% of your list. They are an irrelevance to you.

Let it go

Once these patients have left your surgery, you must put them out of your mind. It is vital that you don’t hold onto those negative feelings and let it influence the way that you treat the next patient. In the words of Elsa from the musical, ‘Frozen’…

Let it go, let it go; the [patients that decline treatment that I recommend for the benefit of their oral health] don’t bother me anyway.

Some of you Disney fans will realise that I have adapted that quote to serve my own purposes but that doesn’t make it any less valid.

If you let negative experiences with difficult patients influence the way that you approach planning treatment for the patients that truly value your skills, you are doing those loyal patients a disservice. You must not do this.

Many dentists allow the fear of rejection caused by a negative experience with a gloomy patient to limit the treatment that they offer to the rest of their clients. You stop offering more expensive treatments like crowns, even when they are in the patient’s best interests. Lowest risk of rejection comes with the cheapest treatments. So that’s what you offer. You patch patients’ teeth up, you limit yourself to low value work and you gradually forget what your time and expertise are worth.

If this is you, stop it. Stop it now. Remember how much hard work, graft and study it took to make you a dentist. Remember the thousands of hours you had to sacrifice to become the health care professional that you are. You, your skills, your time are precious and valuable.

Don’t limit yourself and the treatments you recommend based on the negative attitudes of a tiny minority of your patients. Decide on the treatment that is in the patient’s best interests and present that to them. Forget the patients who don’t value your time or their dental health. Remember that the vast majority of your patients value your care and see that your time is worth the cost. If you’re still struggling, the DVD of ‘Frozen’ is £5.95 on Amazon (I would lend you mine but I need it).

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