9 Dentists Respond to the Question of Why They Talk To Patients While Working On Their Teeth

Most of us dread dentist appointments as is. We might be fearful whether we have a cavity. Or wonder if all the poking, prodding and drilling will hurt. But when all is said and done, we can probably all agree: The worst part of a trip to the dentist is when the dentist tries to make conversation with you while your mouth is open.

It’s something seemingly all dentists do—the second they begin working on your mouth, they ask you how your family is or if you have anything fun planned for the weekend. When you try to respond, you can only mumble.

Even though it seems totally counterintuitive, there are actually some good reasons for why dentists will do this. In a recent Reddit thread, real dentists listed off their best reasons for why they talk to patients when they’re working on their teeth. Here are some of the most intriguing responses!

  1. To Distract You

    “We talk to you to get your mind off of being in an uncomfortable and vulnerable position. I mostly ask closed-ended questions. Like yes or no questions.”

  2. To Build Trust

    “It builds trust. This is important for a long term doctor-patient relationship.”

  3. To Make the Visit More Pleasant

    “It depends on the situation. You may not like when we talk, but with other patients, it may be their only form of comfort. Dentists being silent, minus spouting off a bunch of dental jargon can make the experience an unpleasant one. I’ve always felt like dentists should take a couple years’ worth of psychology courses before going into dentistry.”

  4. To Put Their Concentration Elsewhere

    “My patients tend to concentrate on what’s going on in their mouths, which doesn’t help them relax, so I talk to them and ask questions. Every now and again I pause to let them answer the question, then go back to work. What I find is the patients become distracted from the procedure and instead concentrate on joining in the discussion.”

  5. So You Forget Where You Are

    “Sometimes I’ll do it on purpose when I need to distract a patient – they’ll mumble an answer, get frustrated by the garbled sound, and completely forget that I’m doing something that had, up to ten seconds ago, been bothersome. Makes their visit a little easier since they’ll recall that I’m a dummy that talks a lot, rather than I’m the dummy that hurt them.”

  6. They Don’t Always Mean To

    “Open ended questions being asked are purely by mistake…I’m aware that you cannot answer, but I slip up and have genuine conversations and ask real questions…sorry!”

  7. To Build Rapport

    “I’m fresh out of dental school; we were taught to engage with the patient and build a rapport but the only time we really have to do that is while we’re working on your mouth.”

  8. It’s Funny

    “I’ve actually gotten pretty good at interpreting what my patients say with my hands in their mouth! Also, it makes me laugh.”

  9. It Helps Them Take Breaks

    “My dentist always distracts me while I’m having work done. She talks about the music playing on the radio, she lets me take breaks when my jaw gets tired and we chat for a few seconds before she needs to go on. I appreciate all these little things.”

    Does your dentist ever try to talk to you while they’re doing work in your mouth?