in mundane

letter from a grumpy dentist

Dear Patient that Didn’t Show Up for their 7am Hour and a Half Appointment,

I hope this letter finds you well. I wanted to take a moment to fill you in on how you affected my life today.

To you I’m probably just a service provider. Like the drive through at the bank or the guy who cuts your hair. Someone you see on occasion to take care of a small part of your life. And I’m fine with that.

On top of being a service provider I’m also a business owner. Which is to say that it costs me money to keep my doors open. As soon as I have employees on the clock, my overhead is growing. I pay employees, my rent, utilities and the rest from the proceeds that I’m paid to be that service provider. I understand that dental care is more expensive than a trip to the barber. I understand that paying for the services I provide can put a person out. I take my appointments with you seriously. I set aside appointment times for you and only you. My team and I are ready and waiting at the appointed time to take care of your needs. In this particular case, that meant getting up really early in the morning. So when you didn’t show up, my overhead didn’t get paid by the procedures we had planned and my business loses money.

More importantly than my role as service provider and business owner, I’m also a human and a dad. I don’t mind getting up early and I do it quite often. But given a choice, I might sleep another hour. I might delay the time that my office opens knowing that I’m not going to be seeing patients until later. I definitely would have preferred to see my children when they woke up and put my oldest on the bus than to drink coffee in my office.

So, what’s the solution? I could be a jerk and charge you a no-show fee. But that’s guaranteed to make me look like a bad guy. Furthermore, any reasonable fee couldn’t make up for the overhead that’s been burned. I could ask you to pre-pay for your appointments, but that’s never been part of the culture of our office. That would just make you feel singled out and resentful. Kind of how I’m feeling right now. I could just always double book appointments so that in case if one patient doesn’t show up I’ve always got another one in the next room. But that makes it so I’m not giving each patient my undivided attention and that’s something I pride myself on.

The solution is to make you another appointment. Because I want you to be my patient and I want to take care of your dental health. We’ll probably give you extra reminders to make sure that you remember.

And to write this letter. Because it does make me feel better. Slightly.



A Grumpy Dentist

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  1. Ha,ha. Thank you for a good laugh. I have always found humor to be the best and healthiest way do deal with adverse situations. Serving patients can, at times, be comically painful; just as it can be rewarding too. I know, because I am a full time physician. You are taking the high ground, and you are a better man for it.
    BTW, whoever mad the “rich dentist” comment is a grade A ass.

  2. I feel sympathy to the grumpy dentist because being a dentist is not an easy task. I have met good dentists. One made me feel comfortable during the teeth cleaning and the other appointment in removing my cracked tooth. I just wished that all dentists are like that since my childhood dentist was different.

  3. Great post! One more perspective that I didn’t hear in your article; the patient who desperately wanted to have their appointment at the time you were booked had to be told “no” because you were booked in that slot. How do you think they would feel knowing you just didn’t care enough to show up? How would it make you feel if the appointment time you really want wasn’t available and then the patient no-showed? No-showing for a dental appointment is like no-showing for surgery.

  4. This drives me crazy also. What a lot of patients don’t know is that there is some truth to the episode from Seinfeld where Elaines “bad patient” medical history trails her. Every dentist tracks broken appts and it will affect how a patient is treated in an office. Don’t piss off your dentist.

  5. I feel sorry for you. I honestly have skipped a lot of appointments with my doctors. Yes, plural form, I have been hopping from doctor to doctor because I didn’t have the guts to show my face after ditching a scheduled follow up check. Even if I did scheduled with my doctor I always find excuses to be busy on that day. I think I may have commitment issues with doctors. To all the doctors I have caused to feel the same way as Grumpy Dentist, I offer my sincerest apology. I will be more sensitive to your feelings the next time.

    • Put your money where your mouth is. Send every one a note of contrite apology along with a check for $150 and swear on your left nut that you will never blow off people again, then I’ll believe you are sincere. Otherwise, empty words are easily forgotten….

  6. If there’s a way to share with patients beforehand, explaining the money that goes into preparation for an appointment along with a request that they plan as best as possible, I would suggest that. A diagram in the office, perhaps..a pamphlet that includes it, too. Most people don’t know that it’s more than an inconvenience, but an actual considerable loss to your business.

  7. Hahaha! Being a dentist myself, I know exactly how you must be feeling. This has happened a couple of times with me as well, and every time I just did nothing about it. Finally somebody has spoken about our feelings as well!