People switch dentists all the time, but it can be nerve-racking to do so, especially if they are like family. You don’t want them to be mad, it can be anxiety-inducing, and you want to leave them in the best way possible. As a hygienist, I see many people switch dentists, and they do it in different ways. Here is how to leave your dentist.
You can leave your dentist with or without telling them, but it is best to let them know you are leaving. You can tell them in person, by phone, email, a card, or let the new office tell them when they request your records and X-rays. Leave a dental office in whichever way makes you comfortable.
Changing dental offices can be stressful, so in this post, I put together the best ways to leave your current dental office, how to tell them you are leaving, reasons you should leave, and what to look for in a new dental office, including red flags.
How to tell your current dental office you are switching
When I left my previous dentist, I was really sad because I really loved them, and we had created such a great relationship over the many years I was there. I left the office because I became a dental hygienist and started working at an office where I received free dental treatment.
I kept the old office in the loop before I left, and they knew that when I graduated and passed my licensing exam, and got a job, I would be leaving.
But sometimes, the need to switch dental offices can happen quickly and unexpectedly, or you want a clean break.
Below are the best ways to tell your dental office you are leaving.
Tell them in person at your last dental appointment
Telling the office you are leaving at the end of your last dental appointment is nice because they will be able to say goodbye to you in person. I care so much about my patients, and I like to wish them well in their new chapter.
When you tell the office in person at your last appointment, they won’t book you in the schedule for your next appointment. Not booking allows them to book someone else and takes the hassle out of trying to re-book that time slot if you tell them you are leaving last minute.
Give the dental office a courtesy call, email, or card
If telling your dental office that you are leaving in person is not possible, let them know by another means. And sometimes telling them you are leaving in person can cause a lot of anxiety, or we can forget to say to them at the last appointment.
You can give a courtesy call or email the dental office if you find that more comfortable for you.
Just give them enough notice that if they need to cancel your already booked appointments, they have time to re-book that time slot with another patient.
A card is also a nice touch if you want to add that special touch, but by no means do you have to.
How to leave a dental office if you had a bad experience
Honesty is sometimes the best policy but do it kindly.
It is usually the front desk/admin staff member who is managing your exit from the practice. If you feel like you are leaving on a bad experience and want to say something, feel free to tell them you had a bad experience, but in a calm, cool and collected manner.
No matter how mad you are, staying calm will be the most effective way to get your point across.
If you feel uncomfortable, you do not need to say anything. In some circumstances, saying nothing is best and moving on and not dwelling on the issue can be freeing.
If you are looking for a way to let the office know you are switching offices but are afraid to make them sad or upset, using neutral excuses is best.
Let them know you are moving and want to go to a dental office closer to home (you don’t even have to be moving, you could just say so).
If you feel bad for leaving, you can do things to ease the change and let the office know that you are thankful for their service over the time you were a patient there.
It can be as simple as writing a card to the office, dropping it off in person, or bringing it to your last appointment.
I have even had patients who brought in gifts, but please don’t feel obligated to give a gift. A card is more than enough.
However, if you are going to give a gift, it is best to give something that can be shared among the dental team. A dental office works as a team, and if the gift is only made out to the dentist, for example, a bottle of wine, it isn’t easy to share that with all the staff that looked after you.
Reasons to leave your dentist; When or why should a person switch
Moving houses or job
You may be moving and want to switch to a dental office closer to home. You can ask your dental office if they have any recommendations for dental offices close to your new home.
Many people choose the location of their dental office based on where they work.
That way, they can easily find their way there during the day and easily take time off work to go and minimize commute time.
Hours of operation not suitable
You may find that the office hours are too hard to accommodate your busy schedule. Some offices are not open on evenings, weekends or early in the morning. It can be challenging to plan around an office that is only open from 9-5 or hours that do not fit within your schedule.
Bad relationship between staff members and between staff and patients
You may be able to cut the tension with a knife, everyone has bad days sometimes, but there is no excuse that you should ever feel or get the impression they are having a bad day.
Dental professionals should be professionals; that’s what we are. There should be no feelings of friction or hostility between staff members or between staff and patients.
If you sense this, especially on more than one occasion, it’s a sign you may want to switch dental offices.
Lack of confidence in treatment or staff
It may be time to switch dental offices if you lose confidence in the office. It could be that they have cancelled your appointment last minute so many times, they don’t listen to your chief complaint, and you feel they are trying to upsell treatment to you.
You may have tried contacting the office many times but never heard back.
Whatever the reason, it may be time to move dental offices if you lose confidence in them.
Poor treatment and services/Cosmetic treatments are encouraged
If your treatment is repeatedly failing or causing you issues, you may want a second opinion and possibly change dental offices.
If you feel like the work is rushed, it probably is not the greatest it can be, and you may feel like the dental professional is just trying to fit in as many patients as possible and not taking the time with you.
You may also feel like the dental professionals are not taking the time to explain procedures or why treatments are needed thoroughly, and they leave you with many unanswered questions.
Also, you may experience dental professionals bringing up the appearance of your teeth and trying to plant a seed that you need cosmetic dentistry. Veneers, Invisalign, crowns, etc., can sometimes be pushed too much, and it can feel like your image is being dampened when you like the appearance of your teeth.
Not everyone needs the perfect Hollywood smile, and often that perfect Hollywood smile comes with lots of complications.
You may feel rushed, like you are being given a sales pitch, or you have witnessed poor sterilizing and cleaning procedures.
You don’t see the same dental professional on each visit
It may be a bad sign if you get shuffled around between providers.
The odd occasion is acceptable, simply because sometimes we can become ill and need a day off or go on vacation. But if it is repeatedly happening, I would leave that dental office.
I worked for a dental office with many dentists and staff members. There was no consistency with whom the patient was booked with, and people started to get annoyed because they felt like they were being tossed around to different providers.
I told the office we should focus on booking people in with the same provider as it provides consistency in treatment and builds rapport, and I liked to see the same people back in my chair because I can follow their oral health treatment more thoroughly.
They would not listen to me and kept doing what they wanted.
Then the office started losing patients, and I would ask the patient why they were leaving, and the biggest reason was that they wanted consistency. I brought this up repeatedly to the office, and eventually, they started focusing on booking people in with the same providers; but only after they realized people were leaving the dental office and were losing money.
It upset me because the bottom line should not be about the money but the patient experience and standard of care. I left that office shortly after becuase their morals and values did not align with mine.
Billing errors and expensive fees
You could have been overcharged, or the dental office did not fully explain the charges. There could be other billing errors that you have picked up on that they did not.
We can all make mistakes, but I would start questioning if this happens more than once.
Another issue is that the dental office has really expensive fees. Dentistry is expensive, but there are times when the fees are always very expensive, or you are charged a significant amount for 2 minutes.
And even though we have a fee guide that guides what we should be charging for the patients, we also have control over what gets billed.
For example, If I have a young child in my chair for the first time and we don’t end up doing anything because they are scared, I will not charge them, but some dental offices will.
The dental staff take too many x-rays
It is a red flag if you get dental x-rays routinely every 12 months or less unless you have current dental issues and cavities.
Routine x-rays every 12 months or less is not the best practice and not necessary for most patients. And by most, I mean 99% of patients.
If I have a patient in my dental chair who has not had a cavity in over five years, has healthy oral habits, and has excellent general health, I will take x-rays every 2-3 years.
You can ask your dental professional what the office policy is on x-rays and what they do for every patient. If they answer saying they take x-rays once a year on everyone, I would think twice about that dental office.
For my patients who need them more often, we discuss with the dentist, myself and the patient to explain why it is required more often, and once they go a period without having cavities, we can go back to taking x-rays less frequently.
Transferring dental records: how to get your records
You will need to give permission for your records to be sent to the new dental office. We call it a release form, you will usually fill the form out at the new dental office when you go for your first appointment, or they will send it to you electronically.
It is important to note that legally your chart belongs to you. You are entitled to access your entire chart. The dental office may charge you a fee to give you all your records. But any x-rays should be passed along to your new office. I like getting the last x-rays regardless of when they were taken, even if the patient needs new ones.
Having older x-rays allows me to compare the x-rays over time and see bone levels and restorations that could have been changed recently.
Red flags to watch out for when switching to a new dentist
They don’t take your blood pressure
Taking blood pressure at your first appointment and routinely if you have heart conditions or elevated stress is an essential factor in your dental treatment. We can catch underlying health conditions that have been missed and possibly even save a life.
If a patient has extremely elevated blood pressure in the dental chair, it can cause a heart event that can be extremely dangerous.
Below I wrote an entire post about why we take blood pressure at dental appointments.
Don’t request x-rays or any part of the previous records
It is a huge red flag if the new office does not want to contact the old office for the records. Not only do x-rays allow us to see what was going on in your mouth in previous years, but they set a baseline to look at any possible issues.
Also, it is good to know that the office is doing its due diligence to ensure they have everything they can to give you the best comprehensive dental treatment and experience possible.
Really old looking office with old technology
Old technology is a concern when it involves x-ray technology, infection control, and sterilization. Dental offices need to be kept current and up to the highest standards.
If the office uses old x-ray equipment, they expose you to much more radiation than digital x-rays (up to 80-90% more). If they still use film-type x-rays, it is time to move to an office that uses digital x-rays.
Sterilization and infection control are the most essential parts of treatment. You need to be protected by bacteria, viruses and other dangerous pathogens.
We need to protect our patients from HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis, herpes, just to name a few.
The dental hygienist should always open the sterilized package in front of you right before the time of treatment.
It is a huge red flag if you get there and the instruments are out in the open. Who knows how long the instruments have been left in the open air where they can easily be contaminated.
It is a red flag if the dental office looks like it has not changed in eons, including what I have described above.
You also don’t want to be at the other end of the range.
Really fancy looking offices with all the technology
Sometimes when things are not broken, they don’t need to be fixed.
We can still do excellent dentistry with some more traditional ways of going about things. For example, a dental crown can still be made by taking traditional teeth moulds and sending off the mould to the dental lab to be fabricated.
There are some advantages to having in-office milling technologies that can make a dental crown in one appointment, but the office needs to be doing lots of these milled crowns to have their investment paid off. Having costly equipment can cause the dentists and dental professionals to sometimes over-recommend crowns or certain types of restorations so they can use the machine and earn more money.
If the office has all brand new fancy equipment, it is not bad, but it can sometimes be a red flag that you may be a target of upselling or treatments will be recommended to you when they don’t have to be.
Invisalign. I had a dentist who started doing Invisalign and bought a new fancy mouth scanner, so they didn’t need to take traditional dental moulds (the goopy stuff). Because they spent so much money on a fancy mouth scanner that made digital moulds of the teeth, we were encouraged to ask our patients who did not have the perfect bite if they were interested in Invisalign and improving their smile.
I never did this.
I think its bad business, and people should not be made to feel bad about their smiles. I would only bring it up if the patient would benefit from orthodontics altogether. Is their bite really impacting their oral health?
Recommending treatment should only come from a place of “would the patient benefit in a positive way and long term way?”. Not because the office got a fancy new machine and we need to be recouping costs.
I wish you the best in finding a new dentist!
Have a great day,