Do you ask questions your patient can’t answer? #sillydentist


Type #sillydentist into Twitter and you’ll see a useful rundown of the top grievances people share on social media after an unpleasant trip to the dentist, the experiences that by dint of the letting-off-steam-tweet mean they’re probably not sharing with their dentist.

The most common complaint is the habit some dentists have of asking questions while their hands are inside the patient’s mouth.

You can hear the desperate tone in a tweet by Nick Morris ‏of the Twitter handle @UKfanNickMorris when he writes: “Dear dentists, i don’t like to talk with your hand & sharp tools inside my mouth please stop talking.”

The latest complaint came this week from someone called Tyler @Chillerdaboy, who simply asked: “How do you expect me to respond to the question of [sic] you’re putting metal utensils in my mouth.”

A Google reveals someone with the username Serenitree on the Experience Project forum in 2012 asking: “Why has no dentist ever explained the psychology behind this form of torture.

“As if it isn’t already humiliating enough to be in a helpless position with a stranger sticking his (or her) fingers in your mouth, then they start chit chatting as if you are just hanging out for the pleasure of their company.”

Inevitably, the issue has it’s own Facebook page called Hating it when dentists ask you questions while their hand is in your mouth, which has 1,202 likes. Another one called Why do dentists ask you questions when your mouth is full has 1,584 likes.

Of course, conversation is the oldest and most important trick in the book to make a nervous patient forget themselves. And it’s not always easy to control conversational flow around a dental procedure, especially when you’re using the chat to distract a patient from  uncomfortable sights and sounds.

But perhaps if you see your patient straining with wide eyes and desperate guttural grunts as they struggle to keep up with your cues, it’s a sign the chat is doing harm.

So, if you happen to stray into this undesirable position and need a quick solution for your patient’s sake, display your sensitivity to their needs by saying: “Don’t worry, we’ll come back to that when you can talk.”

Showing empathy like this takes seconds and kills two birds with one stone: you’ll improve their trust in your skills and give them a comfortable get-out of the conversation, far better than being the object of another online complaint.

Best wishes


Ernie Wright is Lead coach: business processes and people management at Breathe Business. Contact her on 0845 299 7209 and See what Ernie’s reading and commenting on by connecting on LinkedIn .

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