Dismissing Dental Patients

Let’s say you have a dental patient who you no longer want to see, whether it’s due to behavioral issues, non-compliance with treatment, or another challenge.  What do you do next?

Serious Dentist

It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance and simply not schedule the patient anymore, but is that the best course of action?  The famous cartoonist Charles Schultz once joked, “No problem is too big to run away from.”  Unfortunately, problematic patients will outrun you every time, and guess who they will call when they have a dental emergency?

That is why it’s important to send a dismissal letter.  These letters are short and to the point, letting the patient know you will no longer be his dentist of record.  If the patient has an acute need that you’ve discussed, such as getting a root canal or extraction, reiterate the treatment need in the letter.

write a letter

One item you do not need is a statement that you will treat the patient for emergencies for the next thirty days—unless your state board of dentistry requires it.  Oregon and Washington do not.

What happens if you need to dismiss a patient who is in the middle of treatment?  In general, you can still dismiss the patient as long as treatment that you started has been completed—even though more treatment may remain on other teeth—or the teeth have been stabilized—you placed temporaries, for example.  The best course of action, however, is to contact your state board of dentistry and talk through the scenario to ensure you take the right steps.


Problematic patients are very stressful.  That’s another reason why it’s important to remove them from your dental practice and focus on the patients who truly appreciate you and your team.

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