How to handle Negative Reviews for your Dental Practice

Published: November 23, 2022 | Last updated: April 5, 2023

Dentists rely on positive reviews to attract new patients and grow their businesses. However, negative reviews are inevitable and can be especially damaging in the competitive world of dental care. So, what should you do if you receive a negative review?


  1. Where are your new reviews located?
  2. Top complaints for dental offices
  3. How to respond to negative reviews
  4. Review your patient’s experience
  5. Ease fears of future patients
  6. How to handle libellous reviews
  7. Collect more positive reviews
  8. Negative Reviews are an opportunity

First, don't panic. It's important to remember that one negative review does not necessarily reflect the quality of your dental care. In fact, studies have shown that consumers are more likely to trust a business with a few negative reviews than one with no negative reviews. This is because businesses with negative reviews are perceived as being more transparent and honest. That said, you should still take negative reviews seriously and work to resolve any issues that they highlight.

This is how you handle your patients' negative reviews:

Where are your new reviews located?

Before acting and doing something about your negative reviews, you'll need to know where they are located. There are hundreds of review sites out there, so it's difficult to keep track of all the feedback your patients leave for you. Time is of the essence – the faster you respond to reviews the better! Here are the three most efficient ways to always stay up to date:

1. Claim your review site profiles

The first step is to claim your profiles on the most popular review sites, such as Google My Business, Yelp, Healthgrades, etc. By claiming your profile, you'll be able to respond directly to negative reviews and address any concerns that patients may have.

2. Set up alerts for your reviews

Another great way to stay on top of negative reviews is to set up alerts. This way you'll be notified as soon as a negative review is posted, and you can act immediately. Most review sites offer alerts via e-mail, but reputation management tools provide a better overview.

3. Bundle your reviews in one place

The smartest way to track negative reviews is using an online reputation management tool. Using tools such as ProvenExpert you can easily monitor all your relevant review sites and bundle them up in one place. This way you'll always know what your patients say about you right away, which helps you react to negative reviews quickly – one of the most important aspects when handling negative reviews. You'll also receive notifications when a new review is posted on your profile. Additionally, you can set up dentist-specific templates to get the feedback you need from your patients.

Top complaints for dental offices

The list of possible complaints from your patients is long. Teach and prepare your staff to adequately respond to the top complaints your dental office faces. This way you cover most negative reviews and know how to handle these cases.

The top complaints include:

  1. Unexpected high costs of services and treatments (20.9%)
  2. Quality of dental services and treatments (19.3%)
  3. Long waiting times (15.4%)
  4. Post-treatment complications and adverse reactions (7.6%)
  5. Adverse incidents during treatments (5.6%)
  6. Poor hygiene (5.6%)
  7. Delays in diagnosis (4.8%)
  8. Inappropriate behaviour of dental staff (4.8%)
  9. Use of old technology and methods (4.5%)
  10. No or too little explanation about services and treatments (3.9%)
  11. No or too little consideration of patient desires (2.9%)
  12. No or too little consideration of patient symptoms (2.8%)

Not all these issues carry the same weight for patients. Some of these issues matter more than others and have a bigger impact on your dental office.

The top 5 most serious complaints are:

  1. Quality of dental services and treatments (18.2%)
  2. Poor hygiene (13.6%)
  3. Post-treatment complications and adverse reactions (10.3%)
  4. Unexpected high costs of services and treatments (9.5%)
  5. Adverse incidents during treatments (9.2%)

How to respond to negative reviews

The way you respond to negative reviews says a lot about your dental office. It's important to remember that patients are looking for empathy and solutions when they leave negative feedback – not excuses. Sincere and empathic reactions increase your credibility and the chance to improve products or services in the long term. Despite all openness to critical feedback, it's important to remain objective and calm. Never go on the offensive across the board but show understanding and convince with facts and transparency. After all, it's all about an honest discussion at eye level with your patients – with an appreciative approach.

Here are a few tips and examples for dentists on how to respond to negative reviews:

Important Disclaimer: According to the HIPAA guidelines, dentists and other medical professionals are not allowed to respond publicly when patients share their personal health information. This also means that you, as a dentist, are not allowed to disclose any information about your patient’s health online. In those circumstances, it’s best that you take your response offline to show them care by addressing unhappy customer concerns personally through email or phone calls. Another good way to show your dedication to your patients!

Thank the patient for their feedback

The first step is to thank the patient for their feedback. This shows that you're taking their concerns seriously and that you're open to dialogue. As shown in the example above, you don’t have to take insults from your patients. Topics like this should be discussed offline. Respond to every single review. If the person writing the review only wants to attack you mention that you can discuss this matter through mail or phone. Don’t initiate an endless story going back and forth.

Apologize for the negative experience

You should apologize for the negative experience they had. Even if it wasn't your fault, an apology goes a long way in diffusing negative feelings. Positive reviews are great advertisements for your dental office, but even negative reviews can help you. The way you handle negative feedback shows how you treat your patients and that their voice matters. You can do even better than shown in this example by offering a solution (more about that below).

Explain what happened and educate

In some cases, patients leave negative reviews because they don't understand what happened. They might not be aware of the dental treatments you performed or why you recommended them. In these cases, it's important to explain what happened in a clear and concise way. This shows that you're willing to take the time to address their concerns and that you're confident in your decisions as a dentist.

When a patient criticizes your treatment choice, use the opportunity to educate the public about dentistry. If you performed a certain procedure, explain why a dentist would make that choice. As explained above, do this without referring to the specifics of the patient directly to act according to HIPAA guidelines. Write as a normal person and meet the patient at eye level. Do not lecture or take an authoritative tone and avoid words or medical terms that the public may not understand. Nobody likes answers that sound like robots, textbooks or know-it-all professionals. Find the right tone. You want to present yourself as you are – a real, concerned and caring dentist.

Offer a solution

Finally, you should offer a solution to the problem. This could be anything from a refund (in rare cases) to scheduling a follow-up appointment. The important thing is that you're willing to make things right for your patient. You could offer to schedule an appointment to talk about the details. If waiting time in your dental office was the problem, offer them a timeslot when your office is less busy.

Offering a solution does not mean, that everyone who leaves negative feedback gets free dental treatment. Try your best to make your patients happy. This won't work 100% of the time, but it shows potential new patients that you put in a lot of effort even after the dental treatment. Once again, bigger text exchanges with your patients should always be handled offline. Pick up the phone and give them a call – that’s way more personal and helps immensely to calm your unhappy patients.

Review your patient’s experience

It’s important to constantly evaluate your patient’s experience in your dental office. This way you can identify any potential problems and correct them before they turn into negative reviews. You can do this by conducting surveys or quick interviews with your patients. It's also a good idea to ask for feedback after each appointment. This feedback is a valuable help to improve your dental office and make a visit to the dentist more pleasant for everyone involved. Use tools to create surveys specifically catered to the needs of your dental office to find out what’s working well and where things need your attention.

Ease fears of future patients

Allay the fears of future patients by addressing their concerns in a way that demonstrates you care for those who come through your doors. Testimonials and reviews work best when both new patients’ worries and challenges are addressed by your dental office and your previous patients. This creates an overall sense of peace knowing things will go smoothly from here on out!

How to handle libellous reviews

“Libel – a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation; a written defamation.” False statements about your dentist’s office can cause severe damage to your practice and harm your good reputation. It’s definitely worth your time to go through the Terms and Conditions of the review sites and work on getting libellous content removed. This does not always work, since those reviews are the property of the review sites, not your property. Ultimately, they decide which reviews get deleted and which don’t. If you can’t get libellous reviews removed, be creative when replying to such reviews. The example above discredits the writer, which is a valid method to save the situation.

Collect more positive reviews

Your dentist’s office has thousands of patients visiting every year. The online reputation of your practice can end up being defined by one or two patients who leave negative reviews. People who are unhappy about products or services often voice their negative opinion and use situations as a way to vent online. Meanwhile, happy patients often don’t voice their opinion and are simply appreciative of the excellent work you provide. Happy patients often tell a friend or two, while unhappy patient tells anyone who’ll listen. Your online reputation is most likely not representative of the satisfaction of all your patients. Review generation and management tools like ProvenExpert help dentists proactively manage their reputation and generate positive online reviews from happy patients. Use tools like this to proactively ask your patients to leave feedback. The more positive feedback you collect, the less you’re affected by negative feedback.

Negative Reviews are an opportunity

It's important to remember that negative reviews are not always a bad thing. In fact, they can be a great opportunity to improve your dental office and the services you offer. Use negative feedback as a chance to reflect on what you could do better and make changes accordingly. This way, you can turn a negative review into a positive one! Also, keep in mind that potential new patients read your replies to negative reviews. Now is your time to really shine and show them how well they will be treated when they enter your practice.


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ProvenExpert is the online platform for qualified customer feedback and review aggregation. A tool that enables business owners and service providers of all sizes to actively seek customer reviews with industry-specific survey templates, bundle existing customer reviews in one location and present the overall score in a way that makes it more effective. Already more than 270,000 entrepreneurs and service providers of all sizes benefit from ProvenExpert.