Online Dental Reviews: How to Turn a Negative into a Positive

© Jo Panuwat D / Adobe Stock

In today’s online society, digital media has repeatedly demonstrated its power to influence, and dental professionals have been the recipients of the dreaded and unexpected negative review. Hopefully, your dental practice screens and monitors their online reviews on a daily basis. How you react to a negative review reflects the character and integrity of the office as a whole.

Take a Pause

Take time to de-escalate and think out a thoughtful response. Review the patient chart and notations to help remember all of the details of the appointment.

Discuss the details of the appointment with the doctor and office manager so they can better understand the whole patient-practitioner experience. Perhaps they can give you a better perspective on the situation.​ Talk to the front staff and inquire about the patient’s attitude as they came and left on the day of the appointment.​ Be an active listener to any suggestions given.

These tidbits of information will help you gather your thoughts so you can respond to the negative review in a positive and ethical manner.

Learn from It

Online reviews are an important way for the public’s eye to see the integrity of your office. The fact is every office will receive an unanticipated negative review. Perhaps the patient was having a bad day, or perhaps the office was having a bad day. Human nature likes to accentuate the negative, so the challenge here is to accentuate the positive!

Accentuate your positivity towards every patient that comes through your door. Be a beam of sunshine on someone’s cloudy day. When the right attitude is given to everyone, and they are given the best possible care as a standard of practice, you know that you have done your job with pride and integrity.

Knowing this, do not take a negative review personally. Instead, learn to fine-tune your people skills. What made them upset? Perhaps put the shoe on the other foot.


It is important to respond within a day or two of the negative response. The sooner, the better as it shows concern. First, sincerely apologize to the patient and thank them for the feedback.

If relevant, address any changes the office has made in reference to the negative review. Explain how​,​ as an office​,​ the staff members strive for quality patient care and quality dentistry. Reinforce your experience and skills. Promise a better experience and ask them to return.

Keep it Short

Take time to write a draft and have another office member proofread your response before submitting it. Remember, the online review and your response are open to the public’s eye. ​It is integral that HIPAA standards not be violated by an overly descriptive response.

Be kind, courteous, perhaps surprised, and brief. Welcome them back for a better experience. (You better roll out the red carpet!) Include your name and practice address for legitimacy.

Don’t Fuel the Fire

By keeping your response short and positive, there will not be enough negative hot air to fuel the fire. Hopefully, there are so many positive reviews that this single review will sizzle out with your well-thought-out response.

Never fuel the fire with rudeness, condensation, or insincerity. Do not attack the review. Be graceful and take the high road.

Your Feelings

It is easy to say, “Don’t take it personally.” The fact is that we do take it personally, especially when we strive to be the best person and practitioner that we can be. Breathe out those feelings of shock, anger, and resentment so you can breathe in acceptance and healing.

Share your feelings with your employer, who I hope will have your back so you can put this negative review aside, heal, and grow from it.

If, however, your employer sides with the complainant, proper documentation of the situation should be made. This documentation should include how you tried to reconcile and resolve the negative experience reported by the patient. Include it in the patient chart and with a letter-form response to your employer. Make a copy to retain for your personal records. Most likely, your personal integrity and quality standard of care will prevent this second scenario from occurring.

When to Take it Offline

If a decision is reached that a longer response is necessary, feel free to call or write them a handwritten and signed letter. This should still be simple and to the point and should have positive intonations. This ensures that HIPAA standards and professional ethics remain at the top of your list while showing ​the patient that you read their concerns and would like the chance to better it. Give them the opportunity to respond in person.

Always invite the patient back into the practice unless they have truly burned the bridge for a return. ​If so, thank them in letter-form and gracefully allow them to find a dental practice better suited to their needs.

Monitor Your Online Reviews

When you know that your patient just left with the red carpet experience and is singing his or her praises, have the office manager send them a text or email with a link to the online review system. I am always amazed at how reading these reviews uplifts my spirit and pushes me to be the best dental hygienist that I can be.

On that note, you should also update the office manager and dentist if the patient-practitioner experience was not a positive one on your end as well. This would be a situation where the patient would not be asked to do an online review, but perhaps the office manager could smooth over a prickly situation with words of affirmation and concern.

In conclusion

Always strive to be ethical and kind. Show your experience and skills with grace and integrity. Remember the ​late​ Dr. Peter E. Dawson’s “WIDIOM” rule: “Would I Do It On Myself?” Write this acronym down somewhere in your operatory where you can see it and reflect on the type of care you give to your patients. This wonderful acronym is a great director of integrity.

Now Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:

Previous articleDental Investing: Understand What Patients Need & Invest in Those Products
Next articleShould Dental Hygienists be Independent Contractors or Employees?
Rebecca Marie Friend, BS, RDH
Rebecca Marie Friend, RDH, BS, attained her Associate of Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene from Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan, in 1987, where she also met and married her husband. She has been a practicing dental hygienist for over 30 years and has raised three sons while working as a full-time clinical dental hygienist. Rebecca currently practices in Battle Creek, Michigan. She resides in neighboring historic Marshall, Michigan. Rebecca is board certified in Nitrous Oxide and Local Anesthesia Administration and is certified in low-level laser therapy. Continuously striving to improve upon her skills and methods of forward-thinking in the dental world, she recently attained her Bachelor of Science degree in Oral Health Promotion through Action Research at O’Hehir University. She is actively involved in a mentorship with students at O’Hehir University. “I take pride in my abilities as a skilled periodontal therapist. I enjoy the patient-practitioner relationship that develops when trust and health are gained, taking mindful care of every individual that I connect with. The benefits of helping others achieve a healthy mouth and regain their confidence with a great smile and healthier self are very rewarding. Whole-body health begins with the mouth.” In her free time, Rebecca enjoys visiting the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, where the sunsets are magical, the dunes are stunning, and the rocks are a collector’s delight. She loves to immerse herself in nature whenever she gets a chance and enjoys canoeing, kayaking, nature walks, flexibility training, yoga, and little “get-a-ways” with her husband. Family life has always been important to her, and now that her three grown sons have spread their wings, she has a little more time to spread hers.