Laura Jamison

Breaking Bad News The Right Way

By Laura Jamison

Sometimes we go to the dentist fully expecting to get our teeth cleaned and to be told everything looks great. On days like that, finding out we have cavities or gum disease is especially hard.The way the dentist breaks the bad news can make a huge difference, and it can be a crucial aspect of patient loyalty. So how can you, the dentist, soften the blow when you have to tell your patients that they’re going to need a lot more work done than they expected?

Being Realistic Without Being Harsh
While caring for ones teeth is certainly part of their daily hygiene responsibility, it can be hurtful to hear that you are not doing a good enough job. While not flossing and developing gingivitis from poor home care is what made the patient bleed, you need to have some bedside manner. A patient must believe that the person caring for him or her is not only knowledgeable but cares whether the patient gets better or not.

Inspiring Hope Without Making Empty Promises
Hearing that you need an unexpected procedure is going to be challenging for most people to hear. When time and money is involved, people need time to digest. They also need realistic expectations. Be perfectly clear on what can and cannot be done to restore their smile and function. Reassure the patient while also reminding him or her of the achievable goals. It is better to underpromise and overdeliver.

The Comfort Of Professionalism And Confidence
Everyone wants a dentist that is confident and professional. Professionalism is expected at all times and confidence puts a patient’s mind at ease. That doesn’t always mean that the dentist is always right! Confident dentists are more worried about doing what is right than being right. A confident dentist can give an initial diagnosis or propose a solution and then change his mind or go a different direction. Confidence is being secure enough to always do the right thing.

Your overall attitude with your patients can play just as important of a role in how well your patients react to bad news as what you actually say. Being confident and professional–with the right amount of humor–can be the most reassuring part of your approach. Patients should feel like they can really trust you with the future of their oral health.

Just as you love to see your patients smile, we love to see you succeed!



Laura Jamison’s presentations are focused on dynamic team building and solid business management principles that maximize growth potential. Laura’s unique range of experiences combined with a passion for helping dental teams succeed make her an exceptional choice for your next meeting.

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