Dr Muzzafar Zaman
So, now you have found a dentist that you know will look after you for years to come and you feel confident in the service they provide, there are 5 golden rules which will make sure you stay on their books.
Golden Rule 1
Never cancel an appointment.
Whenever a dental appointment for you has been scheduled in, whether it is a routine exam/check up or to have a hygiene visit or for a certain procedure, this automatically gets “logged-in” on their system. This applies both to the computer in reception and the computer the dentist uses in his/her surgery as they are all linked. This means that every time you cancel or change an appointment, this also gets recorded on their systems. If you do this at short notice or more than a few times, red flags start appearing against your name and you become known as ” the bad attender” or the patient who’s always “messing us around” or “unreliable” or even a few other choice words which can’t be politely mentioned here.
Say, there comes a time in the future, where your dentist takes on another new dentist and he/she has to decide which patients on his list he wants to keep and which ones to give to the new dentist, you can be 100% sure that he/she won’t want to keep you if you have a bad or poor attendance record.
Although this Golden Rule states, “Never cancel an appointment,” in life, emergencies do unfortunately happen such as something turns up at the last minute or illness, so you will have to cancel and re-book. Many dentists even charge a fee for a late cancellation, but if say you have an exemplary attendance record and you are late just this time, the practice manager may be more sympathetic to you and consider waiving the last minute cancellation fee.
Golden Rule 2
Turn up at least five minutes early to your scheduled appointment time.
I know you are probably thinking, ” What’s the point, my dentist is ALWAYS running behind.” If you have a dentist who literally is always running late by more than say 15 minutes and you do not even get an apology or reason, then perhaps it is time to ask if this is the right dentist for you. Having said that, in a busy dental surgery, there will always be the emergency patient who needs to be squeezed in somewhere and let’s not forget that it is not uncommon for a procedure to take longer than expected. Say, if it was you who needed that emergency appointment, you would be grateful that the dentist has made room, wouldn’t you? or you were having a filling done and it just doesn’t go according to plan, unexpected things happen, so instead of 20 minutes, it takes 45 minutes. Slot in three or four emergency patients amongst the morning list as well and it is now easy to imagine how your dentist can be more than an hour late. Instead of getting all grumpy and heated up, you can always ask to be re-scheduled or best still, take the time to catch up on some reading or tasks via email/text.
If you really can’t wait, ask to be re-scheduled and also ask to be phoned if a slot for another patient becomes empty at short notice because all dentists will get that patient who needs to cancel at the last minute.
Finally, as part of this Golden Tip, when you do finally go into the surgery to have your treatment or check up, ask the dentist directly, if you should re-schedule because you appreciate that they are running late. Rest assured, your dentist will really appreciate your understanding and it will be another gold start against your name.
Golden Rule 3
Every dentist has a different policy on payment. You might get one extreme where you have to pay everything all beforehand on the phone before even allowed to book or you may get sent one invoice, after all the treatment has been completed. Most practices will however ask you to pay as you go along. So if you have a check up, x-rays, and cleaning done you will then go into the reception area to make the payment for that visit. Needless to say, there should never ever be a situation when you don’t know beforehand about all the costs. Unfortunately, in a disorganised practice, it still happens where a patient is totally clueless about the charges and this is where disputes and arguments occur.
Finally, always always query anything on your bill you need clarification on. You should feel as if you have had top quality service at a worth while cost. Whilst on the subject of this, dentists do not make as much money as everyone thinks they do. Remember, they have been doing hours and hours of study passing their GCSEs and A Levels. To get into a Dental University requires the top grades so only the hardest working students have a chance. To give you an idea, a typical Dental School will reject 29 applicants out of 30. The debts only start then! Dental books required are typically £40-£150 each. As with all stu
Golden Rule 4
If service has been good or exceptional, then do tell them. You can easily give them a five star review online or a written feedback.
Golden Rule 5
Mention a problem, as early as you can.
There can be two types of problem. Clinical issues and non-clinically related. Let’s first talk about clinical issues. Let’s say, You have had a cosmetic veneer placed and when you get home, you realise that it isn’t to your expectations. The colour may not match, the tooth feels bulky, the length or shape is incorrect. You can now either contact the receptionist straight away and get booked in, or you don’t want to make a fuss and in any case, things may settle down. No dentist wants to see an unhappy patient and no dentist wants a patient who is moaning to every Tom, Dick and Harry. The best way for you to keep in the dentist’s good books is to get the problem out in the open, right way. This is also your opportunity to really test how good your dental team handle problems. If they take your problem seriously and get you back into the surgery at your convenience and re-do the veneer at no further charge, then that’s brilliant and you should actively thank the whole team. Now let’s say you decided not to be a nuisance and you just let the problem fester for another 6 months before mentioning it. The dentist may think as to why you didn’t mention this right at the beginning and they would be quite correct in thinking that. For non-clinical issues, it’s usually best to have this resolved with the practice manager. Often it can be quicker to solve the matter by speaking directly in person or on the phone.