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What to do about crazy patient complaints

What to do about crazy patient complaints
Melissa Mesku

A patient in Florida came to her dentist complaining of a burning mouth the day after he placed her new dentures. Her dentist knew burning mouth syndrome (BMS) may have nothing to do with dental work so was confident insisting the denture was not the problem.


Months later, the problem still hadn’t gone away, nor had the tenacious patient. The patient continued to call, insisting it was the denture; even providing the doctor information on denture toxicity.


To pacify the patient, he finally replaced the denture. The burning went away.

The moral of the story? Even if the patient sounds crazy  it does not mean the problem isn’t legit.



The dentist could resolve her problem, but caused himself and his patient months of distress because he believed she was nuts. Here are five ways to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:


1. Be honest with yourself

If you think they are crazy and can’t treat them with dignity and respect, do everyone a favor and refer them to someone with more patience.


 2. Telling the patient “you’re on your own” is not a good choice

If you think the patient is lying the more likely you are to write them off.

But ignoring a patient can backfire.  A growing body of research shows that malpractice suits happen more often to doctors that are rude or dismissive of patients. A 2014 study showed that effective communication reduced the likelihood of law suits.



3. Listen with empathy

A little empathy goes a long way. If you can’t stand the patient, pretend they are a family member (one you love of course) or yourself. Treat them how you treat someone dear to you.


4.Offer to give replacements for free or at a reduced cost

Within reason, it can be worth it to go “above and beyond” to help keep a patient happy. Make it worth your while: once the problem is solved, share the story on your practice’s website or see if the local news wants to use it as a human interest story.


5. Don’t be defensive

Though your practice may have a perfect track record, things can happen. It may not be your fault: unregulated dental labs may produce problematic work, or outsource their work, putting you at risk.

No matter what, the less defensive you are, the more likely you’ll be able to find a solution.



Here is the bottom line. One study showed 1 in 300 patients may react like the patient in Florida, so it’s possible your patient is telling the truth. Do yourself a favor and send them to someone else, or take the time to treat the patient with respect and professionalism.

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