Managing the challenging patient


  Posted by: Dental Design      13th March 2020

In todays’ litigious climate, it is more important than ever to manage difficult patients carefully. Being prepared and knowing how to approach these patients could help reduce potential issues before they develop.

Leo Briggs will be sharing his extensive expertise by presenting a session entitled “Dealing with challenging people” at the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show this May.

Leo qualified from University College Hospital, London, in 1989. He has since worked in the community dental service and in general dental practice. Leo gained an MSc in Periodontology from the Eastman Dental Institute in 1995 and is on the GDC specialist register for Periodontics. Between 1995-2017 he provided specialist periodontal treatment in both the salaried dental services and private practice. Leo joined the Dental Defence Union (DDU) part-time in 2005 and worked as a part-time Clinical Tutor at the School for Professionals Complementary to Dentistry in Portsmouth between 2007 and 2009. In February 2009 he started working full-time for the DDU and has been the Deputy Head of the DDU since 2016.

Speaking about why some people are difficult to manage, Leo says:

“People can be challenging to manage for a variety of reasons. Many of the challenges arise out of difficulties in communication. Added to this, if a patient is unwell or in pain, they might react differently to normal. As dental professionals, we also have to factor in how different personalities respond to fear. Dental anxieties and phobias remain prevalent among the general population. On top of this, many patients have to pay for their treatment, so this can add to the challenges in the way they behave toward us as clinicians.

“While I don’t think this is a new problem in dentistry, there are more opportunities for misunderstandings and miscommunication to happen as we have so many more treatment options available than we did 20 years ago. A common mistake that clinicians might make is not recognising the early signs of dissatisfaction from a patient. They may also not always realise when communication with a patient is less effective than it should be until it is too late.”

Leo’s session will be held in the Core CPD Theatre on Saturday 16th May. He summarises the main topics he will be discussing:

“I will focus on the importance of good communication with challenging people. I will also offer some top tips for how to spot people who might be challenging and how to react to anyone who is being challenging.

“I hope delegates leave the session with information on practical ways to deal with potentially challenging patients, ultimately helping to prevent any escalation. I hope that this gives delegates greater confidence in dealing with these situations. The vast majority of patients are very grateful for and happy with the dental care we provide. Only a small minority can be challenging, but we need to be able to manage them effectively.”

The Core CPD Theatre will cover a wide range of essential CPD topics for all members of the dental team to benefit from. Additional CPD will also be available throughout the rest of the event, where there will be two-day lecture programmes tailored to different roles, disciplines and interests. Among these will be the BDA Theatre, which will present a stunning line-up of leading speakers selected by the British Dental Association (BDA).

Adding authority to many features at the event, several professional organisations, associations and societies will be attending and/or supporting the programme. Aside from the DDU, these will include:

  • Association of Dental Implantology (ADI)
  • Association of Dental Administrators and Managers (ADAM)
  • British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD)
  • British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN)
  • British Association of Dental Therapists (BADT)
  • British Endodontic Society (BES)
  • British Orthodontic Society (BOS)
  • British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSHT)
  • British Society of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry (BSP)
  • Oral Health Foundation

Whether you’re looking for advice on clinical or dento-legal matters, or you wish to know more about the membership benefits available, meet the various teams on the exhibition floor at the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show. There will be more than 400 other stands to browse as well, so you can discover the latest equipment, materials and technologies in the market at the same time.

Don’t miss out. Register for free online today.


The British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show 2020 – 15th and 16th May – Birmingham NEC, co-located with DTS.

For all the latest information or to register for free, please visit, call 020 7348 5270 or email

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