I’m sorry that I was resistant to your request for information this morning. It came as a surprise that you would call in response to my feedback on your clinic’s email questionnaire. I was suddenly confronted with that recent evaluation and not fully prepared to justify it on the spot. When a business calls a client within a few hours of their feedback, that could be seen as either very client-responsive or intimidating or both. I felt a bit intimidated.
I had always thought that questionnaires were used as a means for statistical evaluation. I expected that many responses would be gathered and used as a general indication of the feelings of the respondents. I had not anticipated that a single response would cause the clinic to call the patient.
In my feedback, I was able to indicate my experience on a scale of 1 to 10 on a variety of questions, but not to indicate how much each issue mattered to me. The one negative response I provided must have been sufficiently troubling for you to call me. It was not, however, sufficiently easy for me to explain; hence this letter.
When I saw the dentist, I had already undergone a visit with the hygienist that lasted over an hour and I was exhausted. As such, I was not really in a good frame of mind to be confronted with an important choice. The dentist is a fine man and I don’t question his abilities, but a series of circumstances troubled me.
• When the dentist first entered the room, he asked me who had recommended me to see him. When I pointed out that I had been going to that clinic for five years, he realized his mistake. I, however, felt a little disappointed that he failed to recognize me.
• His accent and diction make it difficult for me to comprehend him quickly. I acknowledge my own limitations in this regard. I had to ask him to repeat himself quite often, which probably frustrated him.
• When explaining to me what he saw in my mouth, he was not facing me. Most of the time he talked to the computer and we were facing away from each other. The problem I had with his diction might have been mitigated if I could have seen him talking.
• He used terms with which I was not familiar. I was being asked to decide about the removal of a tooth, but I did not understand the choices I was being given. I had never heard of a “flipper” in relation to teeth before. The only flippers I could think of were people who resell houses, marine mammals, and those big rubber shoes for swimming. So, I asked two or three times what he meant but each time he gave the same response which I didn’t understand. Subsequently, he Googled images which popped up on the screen in front of me. That helped my understanding, but I would have preferred to see them without his condescending tone when he said: “OK. We all know how to use Google.” He went on to explain that, as a dental appliance, they were a bit of a nuisance to live with.
• When explaining my second choice, he described the need to see a periodontist and the difficulty of the task at hand. I got the impression that he was telling me this was a bad idea because it might not be possible to drill an implant in such a small space. He repeated that fact at least three times.
So, when he wanted to know what my decision was, I was completely at a loss. Both choices had been presented to me negatively. In order just to be able to leave, I asked him to arrange for me to see a periodontist.
Please bear in mind that asking a patient about the removal of a tooth may be commonplace for a dentist, but it is very rare for a patient. I am nearly 70, so I have had that tooth for about 60 years. It is a part of me. It is not causing me any problems and I am feeling no pain. The only indication that I have that it needs to be removed is the recommendation of the dentist. You will forgive me, therefore, if I hesitate.
When you called me, you were simply fulfilling a part of your job, and you probably had not expected my negativity. I hope that this letter goes some way towards helping you understand my situation. I will probably resist the temptation to respond to feedback questionnaires in the future. I don’t want to put myself or other professional assistants on the spot, and I don’t think fast enough to explain myself during an unexpected phone call.
Please rest assured, though, that you are an excellent dentist’s assistant. I appreciate the welcome you gave me at the clinic and the graciousness with which you accepted my reluctance to answer your questions today on the phone.