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Annoying Dental Assistants- what to do????

shamrockerin

shamrockerin

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 22, 2012
Messages
752
Location
New Hampshire, USA
You can always count on me for a weird rant. . .

Does anyone else get this? I think even more than needles and drills and sitting in The Chair, I really hate the stupid comments that come from the dental assistant.

I think these people must take a course in how to be annoyingly enthusiastic and cheerful. Of course, I would never want one of them to be outwardly mean or nasty, but they must know that when a patient is about to undergo a procedure, that perhaps his/her mind is not in the best place to laugh at stupid jokes.

After one of the appointments for fillings, I stupidly asked the doctor if there was an end in sight, and he replied “Well, you have alot of work to be done.” It was very blunt, but at least he was honest and straightforward with me. Then, the assistant said “So it depends how far you can see!” and kind of giggled.

And last time I had an appointment, the assistant led me to one of the rooms that faces the street. The room has a window, so she said “I thought I’d give you some scenery to look at today!” in a way-too-chipper tone. First of all, I cannot actually see out the window when The Chair is reclined, so it doesn’t matter if there is a window there or not. Second, looking out to Interstate Route 1 in Hampton, NH can’t really be considered ‘scenery’.

I know, or at least I hope, that she probably isn’t saying things like that to irritate me, but she knows by now that I am an extremely phobic patient, and it feels like she is making light of my fear. It’s hard enough to force myself to keep going back for treatment, but listening to stupid jokes (that feel like they’re at my own expense) doesn’t make it any easier.

Perhaps it is not all her fault- when I was growing up, it seemed like every time I went to the dentist, it was a different assistant/hygienist. I don’t remember ever getting the same one twice. And they would always say things like “So how is school going?” Since they obviously didn’t know me, wouldn’t even know my name if it wasn’t in my file, it always felt very generic and disingenuous. So perhaps these earlier experiences tainted my view of all dental assistants/hygienists.

Does anyone know what I mean? Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with this? I know that it is probably because of my intense fear that I am so hyper-sensitive and defensive when I am there, but whatever the reason, I need to figure out a way to deal with this issue.
 
'Small talk' like this is an accepted way to ease you into the medical/dental setting. It is just chatter to fill a gap where there would otherwise be silence. Call it a kind of 'oiling of the social cogs'....
The comment about the scenery was irony i think - ie she was trying to make a joke - she probably says that to everyone who has to look at that 'view'.
Usually this kind of chatter helps people to relax. Anyone who works in healthcare will have a few 'stock phrases' they use to initiate conversation etc...
How to deal with it? I think you just have to join in, answer the questions and laugh at the 'irony' of the jokes....:giggle:
 
'Small talk' like this is an accepted way to ease you into the medical/dental setting. It is just chatter to fill a gap where there would otherwise be silence. Call it a kind of 'oiling of the social cogs'....
The comment about the scenery was irony i think - ie she was trying to make a joke - she probably says that to everyone who has to look at that 'view'.
Usually this kind of chatter helps people to relax. Anyone who works in healthcare will have a few 'stock phrases' they use to initiate conversation etc...
How to deal with it? I think you just have to join in, answer the questions and laugh at the 'irony' of the jokes....:giggle:

Yes, small talk is not a mystery to me. I guess she thinks she is being helpful, but she's really just annoying me. I cannot laugh at a joke that generic and ill-timed- I don't think it's physically possible.

I guess I am the only person who feels this way.

In reality, I (think I) am a much nicer person. But being in a dental office puts me on edge, obviously. They say they understand, but I guess I feel like if they actually did understand how nervous I am, they could just be reassuring, and not try to be comediennes.
 
I understand where you're coming from, shamrockerin and I agree!!!
Do the idle chit-chat BEFORE the procedure begins, and CONCENTRATE on the task at hand (my PROCEDURE) when the procedure starts!!
My dental assistant is wonderful. She is SO quiet during a procedure that if I didn't see her, I wouldn't even be aware that my dentist HAD an assistant!!!!
 
different people want different things. Yesterday I had a patient that came from Boca 130 miles away for a surgical extraction and bone graft. She said she doesn't want to know a thing and to stay quiet. So after I started I didn't say much of anything until I was finished then the patient started to laugh because it was so easy for her.
 
I understand where you're coming from, shamrockerin and I agree!!!
Do the idle chit-chat BEFORE the procedure begins, and CONCENTRATE on the task at hand (my PROCEDURE) when the procedure starts!!
My dental assistant is wonderful. She is SO quiet during a procedure that if I didn't see her, I wouldn't even be aware that my dentist HAD an assistant!!!!

I am really glad that someone seems to understand this peeve of mine. Chickenjen, you just made my day (or at least this part of my day)! :)

During the procedure, I am listening to my music, but before it starts the dental assistant does the bad joke/inane chatter thing. Like I said, I don't think she is doing it to be mean or anything, but when I am trying my damndest to hold back tears and not claw myself, hearing bad jokes or being asked vague, thoughtless questions like "So did you do anything this weekend?" is really the last thing I want.

I know that I am being defensive and oversensitive about the things she says, but it's all part of the dental phobia package.

It's a little off-putting because I really like the receptionist; she is very sweet and talkative, and seems quite genuine. She even asked me to bring in pictures of my wedding next time I come in. The dentist isn't extremely personable, but he is patient and honest (and so far seems pretty skilled because nothing has gone wrong yet) and that's all I really need at this point.

I guess I just have to wait and see how the next appt goes. She has been made aware of how anxious I am about the RCT, so if she makes light of it or anything, then I won't feel bad not returning.
 
different people want different things.

I know. In my case, this assistant's chatter/attempts to joke might put some patients at ease, which is fine for them.

I just don't like feeling like her jokes are made at my expense, like she is making light of my fear.
 
I know. In my case, this assistant's chatter/attempts to joke might put some patients at ease, which is fine for them.

I just don't like feeling like her jokes are made at my expense, like she is making light of my fear.
Again, I agree with you.
I prefer the quiet style of my dental assistant than some assistants who feel they have to chatter the whole way through.
Then, if the jokes are rubbing you the wrong way, boy, that makes for a nice time in the dental chair......NOT!!!:rolleyes:
They just need to say "Hello, how are you", show you to the treatment room, ask any pertinent questions about your health and/or dental health and then just stop TALKING already!!!!!
I wish I could borrow you my dental assistant, shamrockerin.........you'd love her!! :love:
 
They just need to say "Hello, how are you", show you to the treatment room, ask any pertinent questions about your health and/or dental health and then just stop TALKING already!!!!!
I wish I could borrow you my dental assistant, shamrockerin.........you'd love her!! :love:

Once again Chickenjen, thanks for letting me know I'm not alone in this.:)

I know I must sound whiny and high-maintenance and oh-so-phobic when I rant about the things that annoy me, but this is how I really feel. I am not proud of it, and I cannot express this fear/frustration anywhere else.

I AM trying really hard. I have done the exam, the x-rays, all the fillings, two cleanings. . .I have kept all the appointments, I am even there early, and I always pay promptly. I even wrote that letter to try and explain my fear and establish better communication. I just wish i could get a little credit for all this effort I am putting in, and not be made to feel like I am silly to be so afraid and anxious and panicked. Even if it seems silly to her, it's a very real fear, and when people are making jokes, it doesn't feel like they are taking it seriously.:redface:
 
Yes, small talk is not a mystery to me. I guess she thinks she is being helpful, but she's really just annoying me. I cannot laugh at a joke that generic and ill-timed- I don't think it's physically possible.

I guess I am the only person who feels this way.

I understand where you are coming from on this. I may be wrong but would guess that this kind of irritation could be linked to embarrassment about dental phobia. For my part, it took me a very long time to admit even to my nearest and dearest that I had this problem and even know who die of embarrassment if anyone else found out. There are so many examples of dental phobia being used for laughs in the media that I have become hypersensitive to people not taking it seriously and thinking that nobody understands. That feeling is made so much worse when the person you perceive to be non understanding is actually a professional person in whom you have confided and placed your trust about your anxieties.

As a child, the dental assistants actually terrified me more than the dentist - and that is saying something! I never knew their names nor what they looked like (they always had masks and I had no direct interaction with them). I never heard them speak but was aware of them hovering around me when I was feeling vulnerable. To be honest, I didn't understand what their role actually was - the only time they interacted with me was when they had to firmly hold me down which didn't exactly endear them to me either.

I believe the sign of a good dental practice is one which includes the assistants as a vital part of the patient's care and that includes them being fully briefed on appropriate behaviour tailored to each individual patient if need be. The assistants/nurses at my practice are lovely and extremely reassuring when I get anxious. It helps that I am introduced to them by name and they can be quite chatty in not so much a small-talk kind of way but in what feels like a genuine attempt to talk to me and put me at ease. Yes, sometimes jokes are made (we have a room with a view too :grin:) but because the nurses seem caring, I don't really mind at all but can absolutely imagine a situation where the same line said to me in a different setting would cause my anxiety to peak.

When I first joined this practice, a lot of time was spent discussing how I would like to be spoken to; how much information did I need to know; would I like to be spoken to about dentistry or distracted by talk of other things or would I prefer just plain silence? I did also mention (to a nurse!) that my previous experience of the strong, silent nurses holding me down had made me wary of the "extra" people in the room and her shock at this description told me instantly that I was in the right place :jump:. If you feel comfortable with other members of staff, it might be worth mentioning to them (without sounding critical) that dropping the jokes would be one small thing that could help put you at ease - after all, they are there to help you.
 
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I understand where you are coming from on this. I may be wrong but would guess that this kind of irritation to linked to embarrassment about dental phobia. For my part, it took me a very long time to admit even to my nearest and dearest that I had this problem and even know who die of embarrassment if anyone else found out. There are so many examples of dental phobia being used for laughs in the media that I have become hypersensitive to people not taking it seriously and thinking that nobody understands. That feeling is made so much worse when the person you perceive to be non understanding is actually a professional person in whom you have confided and placed your trust about your anxieties.

As a child, the dental assistants actually terrified me more than the dentist - and that is saying something! I never knew their names nor what they looked like (they always had masks and I had no direct interaction with them). I never heard them speak but was aware of them hovering around me when I was feeling vulnerable. To be honest, I didn't understand what their role actually was - the only time they interacted with me was when they had to firmly hold me down which didn't exactly endear them to me either.

I believe the sign of a good dental practice is one which includes the assistants as a vital part of the patient's care and that includes them being fully briefed on appropriate behaviour tailored to each individual patient if need be. The assistants/nurses at my practice are lovely and extremely reassuring when I get anxious. It helps that I am introduced to them by name and they can be quite chatty in not so much a small-talk kind of way but in what feels like a genuine attempt to talk to me and put me at ease. Yes, sometimes jokes are made (we have a room with a view too :grin:) but because the nurses seem caring, I don't really mind at all but can absolutely imagine a situation where the same line said to me in a different setting would cause my anxiety to peak.

When I first joined this practice, a lot of time was spent discussing how I would like to be spoken to; how much information did I need to know; would I like to be spoken to about dentistry or distracted by talk of other things or would I prefer just plain silence? I did also mention (to a nurse!) that my previous experience of the strong, silent nurses holding me down had made me wary of the "extra" people in the room and her shock at this description told me instantly that I was in the right place :jump:. If you feel comfortable with other members of staff, it might be worth mentioning to them (without sounding critical) that dropping the jokes would be one small thing that could help put you at ease - after all, they are there to help you.


Hi Gettingthere,

Thank you for reading my post. Your reply expresses so well what I was trying to communicate. It's not as if I have a personal vendetta against all dental assistants/hygienists, but I don't think they always understand how they come across to patients.

It is disconcerting to have people in masks hovering all around you, poking at you with sharp things, and passing needles and other scary-looking instruments outside your line of vision. It doesn't help anything to have to tolerate thoughtless comments and bad jokes all the while!

When I was a teen, I endured an appointment for a crown that was one of the worst experiences in my life, and is the reason I began avoiding dentistry. It was awful, bloody and painful; it was so painful that I began crying during it. And the stupid assistant actually said to me "Don't cry, you're making me feel bad"! That, along with other comments from assistants/hygienists through the years that I still remember, makes it really difficult for me to try and see this new assistant as a different person, one that might actually help me instead of torture me.

But when she makes generic jokes and seems to brush off my fear, it just makes me lump her in with all the bad ones from my past.
 
I found this to be such an interesting post. I'm one of those people that actually needs the upbeat, chirpy, silly comments from the staff. When I was younger my dentist and his assistants were either gruff and nasty or quiet when working and that was part of the reason for my fear. I viewed them all as imposing, frightening figures and their no nonsense demeanor made them seem less than human. I guess I didn't get over that until recently and it's all due to the down to earth nature of my current dentist and his assistant. They remind me that they are on my level and keep me from regressing to that scared kid who was afraid to say or do anything wrong at the dentist office.

I will say that when I'm anxious I'm usually on the same page, stop the idle chit-chat. My dental anxiety just stems from a different place than regular anxiety so I welcome any kind of atmosphere that does not remind me of my childhood experiences. (Even if it means listening to country music (not a fan) rather than the old fashioned elevator music that used to set my nerves on edge ;D) I can totally see why it would bother some though, in any other situation I'm pretty sure I'd feel the same way. :)
 
My dental anxiety just stems from a different place than regular anxiety so I welcome any kind of atmosphere that does not remind me of my childhood experiences.

This is exactly right. Although our past experiences seem a little contrary, we are both looking for a way to not re-live them. All the dental assistants/hygienists in my past would do the idle chit-chatty, vague questions like "So how is school going?" kind of thing. . .it annoyed me then because it was so transparent. They didn't even know my name without looking at the file.

It annoys me now for the same reason- she doesn't know anything about me other than the state of my teeth, so questions like "So, are you doing anything else today?" seem very disingenuous to me. She doesn't actually care about my answer, she's just filling the empty air. I would rather have the empty air.

She reminds me of the ones from my past who made bad jokes, asked vague questions that I knew they didn't care about having answered, and made comments that for some reason they thought I could not hear. Once, I heard an assistant ask the dentist "Can't you give her something?" in an exasperated tone. I have no idea why she thought I couldn't hear her when she was 3 feet away in an open hallway.

I am also in search of something that doesn't remind me of my childhood; I guess I just haven't found it yet.
 
I have to say i've found this thread quite interesting as well.

I do not like the dental assistant to chat and joke with me. In fact I do not like them to be in the room at all. It just feels like one more person to be afraid of and to feel embarrassed in front of. The dentist usually calls me through to the room and we chat first without the dental nurse there. He does the injections and has a look at the tooth and only calls the nurse in when he's ready to start working on the tooth.

She is actually really nice and knows I don't want to chat because i'm too anxious. She will chat to me if I initiate the conversation though. She is also aware that I don't want her to stay if I get really upset about something. The dentist will usually ask her to go and make him a cup of tea or something and tells her he will give her a call when he needs her to come back.
 
I have to say i've found this thread quite interesting as well.

I do not like the dental assistant to chat and joke with me. In fact I do not like them to be in the room at all. It just feels like one more person to be afraid of and to feel embarrassed in front of. The dentist usually calls me through to the room and we chat first without the dental nurse there. He does the injections and has a look at the tooth and only calls the nurse in when he's ready to start working on the tooth.

She is actually really nice and knows I don't want to chat because i'm too anxious. She will chat to me if I initiate the conversation though. She is also aware that I don't want her to stay if I get really upset about something. The dentist will usually ask her to go and make him a cup of tea or something and tells her he will give her a call when he needs her to come back.

Sparkles,

Your dental team sounds lovely! I wish mine were like that. I am always called in by the assistant, and if I am doing nitrous, she starts me on it, and is in the room with me the whole time. Then, the dentist comes in and starts whatever he needs to do.

I am actually a little jealous of you in this way.
 
I am very lucky that the dentist and his team understand what I need so well. He has the patience of a saint! I never have to give my name when I go in, Ashleigh always remembers me and remembers what i've chatted to her about the previous time. I feel like the whole team has made a huge effort to get to know me and make me feel safe.
 
I am very lucky that the dentist and his team understand what I need so well. He has the patience of a saint! I never have to give my name when I go in, Ashleigh always remembers me and remembers what i've chatted to her about the previous time. I feel like the whole team has made a huge effort to get to know me and make me feel safe.

And now I am even more jealous.
 
Being on good terms with everyone in my current dentist's office, I know I am fortunate. . .especially since this wasn't always the case during my childhood! It's a small practice with one person in each professional role, which I think is one of the reasons why they work well together, and with me. I don't need to worry about seeing a different dental assistant each time I have an appointment.

There's a reason why the dental assistant is given the pseudonym "Serena" in my journal. She's a predominant introvert like me, and she's friendly. Unlike me, she's very calm when interacting with patients. I can be compassionate and caring, but calm? (With ADD and anxiety disorders, not without a lot of effort!) Serena knows enough about me to ask some personal questions, but doesn't talk just for the sake of speaking.

If I were a patient with relatively good teeth who came in only every six months, perhaps with an occasional filling in between routine examinations, I wouldn't expect my dental team to remember me. However, dental patients who are current or past "frequent fliers" (visits > once per month) almost certainly have higher expectations. If we participate in social networking, we probably don't want our dental teams following our pages, but we do expect that they remember our names without consulting chart labels and, most importantly, remember our major needs in The Chair.
 
I'm right there with you Shamrockerin. I have historically disliked dental assistants and cringed when they would ask me about school as a child as I knew it was not genuine. I don't mind if my dentist chit chats with me even if it's just to fill space (that actually eases my fears) but she actually "knows" me quite well so maybe it just feels more friendly. I have encountered many dental assistants as they seem to change with the wind at most offices that I have visited and I have only met one that I like (one of the assistants at my current office) but she had to really develop her chit chat skills. The first couple of appointments were really uncomfortable and forced while chatting with her and then we struck a chord of commonality and finally we were able to legitimately "talk" about stuff that meant something to both of us. I usually prefer silence over chatting with an assistant who also typically stays with me for the entire appointment but she has earned her badge to converse with me! :star:

I think another member here was right on with saying that the assistant just becomes one more person to feel embarrassed in front of. My dentist unfortunately likes to acknowledge my nervousness and sometimes will mention something to the assistant about it and while I'm glad she's aware of it and wants to make the assistant aware of it (who I'm sure can see for her own eyes that I'm a freaked out mess) I just want to disappear right at that moment. The assistants never really react though or say anything insensitive thank goodness! :hidesbehindsofa:

The only thing I can suggest is maybe try to cut the chatting short with single word responses that she can't build a conversation off of. In other words, give her nothing to run with. Responses like "Fine" "Good" "Yes" "No" although us nervous type tend to stick to those canned responses anyway unless you are a nervous rambler! For me it depends, I'm a one word person at the dentist but a nervous rambler in most other social environments. Sometimes my own responses shock me when I'm nervous..the first time my dentist asked me if I was nervous (like 10 years ago), the word "yes" just flew out and I was not intending to share that! :o Luckily it worked out in my favor. I have also been known to accidentally report the wrong age...for some reason when I'm nervous I always mess up my age!
 
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I'm happy I don't have to deal with a dental assistant. I go to a dental school, so it's just the dentist and me, and the faculty dentist when they come over and check things out. We generally don't chat until it's done, or sometimes just a bit before she gets started. Once the work is going on, I've got my ear phones jammed in my ears, and when there is certain equipment being used, I have the volume up so loud I couldn't hear a bomb going off if it happened. I can be sort of pissy when I'm really anxious, so I feel like I'd rather not have someone chat with me, because I will say rude things and maybe feel bad about them later. The time before last, I didn't have my head phones, so there was a bit more chatting, and I'm pretty certain I told her (slightly sarcastically) that I hated her. The only time I was really interested to chat was my first intake, as it happened that the student I saw that day had done a residency or something at the place I used to work at.
 
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