Six patients to avoid (part1).

Dr Mark HassedWhen you're a young dentist starting out you are desperate to be successful. You take on any and every patient who comes along.

Children — no problems. Dentures — bring 'em on. Phobic people — step right up!

But, when you gain a few years of experience you realise that some people cost you a lot of stomach lining. In fact, there are some people you'd be wise to avoid.

Here are the first two of my list of six dental patients to avoid.

Patients who say: “Just patch it for now and I'll get it fixed properly later.”

My experience with such people is that “later” never comes.

Once you accept a patient under these terms you'll find yourself doing endless rounds of patchwork and desperate compromise treatment. And, when that treatment fails, they won't remember that you were doing it as a compromise. They'll expect you to repair it for free because it was “only done 12 months ago”.

It's dispiriting to wrack your brains figuring out how to glue something together when you know it's just a short term compromise like painting over rust on a car.

It's high stress spending sixty minutes piecing something together when it's a dodgy job that might break the first time they bite on it.

In my entire dental career I've never found a “patch it up” patient who became a good regular patient. They use you when they need you and fail appointments when it suits them.

If doing difficult dentistry for minimum fee interests you then feel free but for me this was a game I preferred not to play.

Patients who blame multiple dentists for the disastrous state of their teeth.

Some patients come in looking like they swallowed a hand grenade — multiple missing teeth, rampant decay, abrasion, attrition, erosion and advanced periodontal disease.

The ones who worry me are those who tell you how it's not their fault. It was all caused by various incompetent dentists they've seen.

The first thing about such patients that concerns me is that they only have a tenuous grip on reality. The fact that their mouth is in such a state yet they think it's not their fault shows that they will never take responsibility for their health. They will continue to make poor choices all the while blaming other people for the outcome.

The second thing is that you will become the next on their list of incompetent dentists even if you are blameless.

The third thing is that they never accept your advice. You work out a plan for how to fix things but they will not accept it. Instead they continue with the same mistakes that got them there.

If you find that amusing more power to you but for me it was always very annoying.


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