Dental Office Etiquette 101

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dental patient rudely talking on the phone while the dentist waits

As someone who slurps the last bit of milk from the cereal bowl instead of using a spoon (much to my wife’s horror), it reinforces how I will never become the poster child for acceptable social graces. Emily Post would have an absolute field day with me.

However, I can confidently speak to appropriate (and not so appropriate) conduct in the dental chair. Allow me to present to you the ‘Miss Manners’ Guide to Dental Appointment Etiquette’, aka your dental provider’s pet peeves.

Hold the Phone!

The Cabin Door Has Been Closed . . .

With the exception of less legroom and complimentary peanuts, there are actually a lot of parallels between dentistry and commercial aviation (like guided implant surgery). Patients having their cell phones turned on really doesn’t interfere with our instruments, per se, but having their phones on during treatment really does impact our ability to safely and efficiently complete any dental cleaning or procedure.

The trouble with cell phones ranges from an obnoxious ring tone jolting us as we’re about to deliver anesthetic (trust me, you do not want an unplanned needle jab to the gum), to patients attempting to take or make calls in the middle of treatment.

If you’re craning to ‘check in’ on Facebook while we’re trying to see around your hands and maneuver the handpiece (that fast moving drill with a sharp burr on it) where it needs to go, there is a greater risk of your worst dental nightmare becoming a reality.

Don’t get me wrong, we are an office of social media junkies (have you seen our facebook, instagram, and twitter pages?!), so we are all about the dental selfies and online reviews. However, it’s much better for our reputation if your write up doesn’t include how your tongue got nicked by the drill and the operatory looked like an abattoir by the end of your appointment.

Holy Halitosis, Batman

an apple a day won't keep the dentist away
Dentists are not like vampires, we are pretty much impervious to all of those first date faux pas like garlic breath. However, it’s amazing how many patients check in for their appointment and then get all panicked because they’ve just come from lunch at the Indian buffet, or downed a dark Colombian roast macchiato in the car and are now worried they have breath that could peel paint off walls.

It is not imperative that you brush your teeth right before your appointment (hopefully you’ve been brushing daily before that), off-color breath is part of the job. And honestly, if there is an odor it can be an indication of other dental or systemic health problems that we may not be aware of if you have given your mouth a Listerine bath. Plus, we do wear those nifty face masks for a reason.

My only disclaimer would be if you’ve just had corn on the cob. And maybe spinach dip. Okay, and Oreos.

Close, But No Cigars, Please . . .

smoking or non-smoking section scene from airplane movie
You know you’re old if you can remember when there used to be smoking sections on the plane and in restaurants. Hostesses would ask before seating you, “Smoking or Non-Smoking?”

Looking back, it was kind of a silly idea, because the smoke always drifted over. It goes without saying that smoking is bad for your health, bank account, social life, gums and career as a toothpaste model.

However, we ask that if you are a smoker to please call at least a two hour moratorium on your habit before coming in for any dental appointment. It goes back to us having to get into your personal space for an hour or more.

Coughs & Sneezes Don’t Always Spread Diseases

grown man with the flu holding a teddy bear and a tissue
If you’re feeling under the weather, we’d like to inform you that we are an office of germaphobes, meaning we know how to be around, contain and eradicate germs. If you are a bit sniffly, please don’t automatically think you need to reschedule your appointment. We follow very specific standards and hygiene precautions to protect you (and us).

Obviously if you cant stop coughing, have the flu, a cold sore, or are prepping for a colonoscopy, then it really is in everyone’s best interests to postpone your appointment until a later date. Just try and give us a bit of notice, a day would be great, two days would be awesome, three would make Emilie at the front desk’s day.

And Other Bodily Odors . . .

going for the burn in spin class

Chances are, if taking care of your oral health is important to you, that probably extends to the rest of your physical health. We are an office of active people, we get it, it’s great! I can speak with authority that there’s nothing like that feeling of pushing so hard during a Spin workout that you actually throw up – all over the bike (thankfully it was in the basement, and the only witnesses were the Christmas tree and outdoor furniture).

At Drews Dental, we wholeheartedly support your quest for an active and healthy lifestyle, please just try to get your Crossfit on after your dental appointment . . . or take a shower and put on some fresh clothes before you come and see us. I wouldn’t bring this up if it hadn’t actually happened. Just remember that as dentists and hygienists we definitely get into your personal space.

Protect Your Pout

super dressy model putting on the ritz
So I know I just said we, as dental providers, don’t want you coming in for your appointment unless you have performed all of your basic ablutions, but unfortunately the other hygiene extreme doesn’t really go hand in hand with getting dental work done either (we’re a picky bunch, aren’t we?).

I know sitting in the chair can sometimes feel like you’re getting a facial treatment between the water and air coming at your face, so for our patients who come in with full make-up on, don’t get offended if we ask you to wipe off your lipstick. You’ve seen those waxy red rings that get left on your straw, right? So between the handpiece and the suction tips, your lipstick will be doing the same thing. And the problem with it getting all over our instruments is it’s going to be transferred back onto your face as we move them around your mouth. And who wants to look like Bozo the Clown after you’ve had a filling done?

The other complicating factor is if we want to obtain a color shade of your teeth for any kind of crown, veneer or partial denture, there are certain colors of lipstick that can give teeth an unnatural hue. Let’s just say that you would not be happy with the results if we did allowed your lipstick to dictate the final shade of the restoration.

Children Should Be Seen, And So Should You

Keeping All of your Ducks in a Row
We think it’s a great idea to start introducing children to the dental environment from a young age so that they associate it as somewhere friendly, fun and helpful. One of the ways we can model this is to have them accompany parents or a sibling and observe them having a positive experience. We generally mean this to be preventive cleaning appointments as opposed to watching you get a root canal or extraction.

The one request we have is to check beforehand with either myself, Dr. Lake, Mindy, Karey or Angie if it’s ok. And if you lost your babysitter at the last minute and need to cancel your appointment, give us a call and a head’s up. We love kids and babies, Emilie even has a background in daycare, so chances are one of us will be able to keep them safe and entertained while you complete your appointment.

Suffer In Silence No More

post traumatic dental disorder

My wife is an anxious flyer, she doesn’t like the sudden and unexpected jolts of turbulence (I have the bruises on my bicep to prove it), however she is a lot calmer when the captain comes on and does all of his pre-flight spiel including a forecast of any anticipated turbulence. This makes it a lot easier for her to manage her fear when he does put the fasten seat belt sign on later in the flight.

If you have had a negative dental experience, we want to know about it ahead of time. Maybe you had a bad gagging reaction having impressions taken as a child, or the dentist never checked in to see if you were really numb before they started drilling, perhaps they didn’t explain everything to you, or worse, lectured you like a naughty child about your cavities. Whatever it is, if we know what some of those triggers are, we can help you have a far more positive and successful experience in the chair – which actually makes it a lot more enjoyable for us, too!

What, Where, When, How & Why?

cute little inquisitive girl

“Why?” Dr. Lake and I pride ourselves in explaining ad nauseum the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of your oral condition, but we also know that it can be easy to get bogged down in some of the dental lingo since you may not be fluent in ‘dentistry as a second language.’ What this means is, there really is no such thing as a stupid question here. Our view is that the more information you have, the less those concerns or anxieties will prevent you from coming in to have needed work done.

I had a patient recently who had been postponing some recommended dental treatment; and, when she came in for her check up, we talked about how she had rescheduled and rescheduled her procedure. Turns out that she had incorrectly assumed something about the procedure and decided not to go forward. Once I addressed her concern, it was no longer an issue. So ask the question. Really!

Swear to Tell the Whole Tooth & Nothing But . . .

pinocchio you believe me don't you?
There was a very obvious way to tell when Disney’s famous wooden puppet Pinocchio was lying. As your dental providers, we have a very simple method to determine if you are, too; they’re called x-rays and “open wide.”

Not being forthcoming about medical issues or habits can actually prevent you from getting the best care, proper diagnosis and correct treatment needed to take care of your dental problem. If you don’t floss, we’ll see. If you don’t brush twice a day, your mouth will tell on you. We are a little like Big Brother, but ultimately, we are on your team.

You Stood Me Up?!

don't go breaking my heart
There is nothing worse than being stood up, regardless of whether it’s your hairdresser, mother or the person you’ve been talking to on for the last week. Face it, it’s just plain rude to bail without a call or text, and that kind of stuff goes into the ‘karma bank’ (at least that’s what my wife calls it) which is how you then get stuck in the middle seat next time you fly.

However, unlike the airlines, we don’t oversell or double book our chairs, we do not have patients sitting in the waiting room crossing their fingers for a no-show so that they might get their teeth cleaned or fillings done.

Every office has a different protocol when it comes to cancellations and no-shows, but keep in mind that most will keep a log of repeat offenders, and it just might impact your ability to get future appointments or certain ‘preferred’ time slots (8am and 4pm). You do not want to be on Emilie’s “no fly list.”

quoting miss manners

Right, now that I’ve got all that off my chest, we can’t wait to see you at the office! 😉

If you’ve got any questions, feel ready to make an appointment, or just want to take me out for a fancy lunch to discuss which fork I should be using, contact us online or give us a call at 207-782-5308!

Meanwhile, I’ll continue slurping up that cereal milk,

peter's signature

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