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How Dentists Should Respond to Negative Patient Reviews

Strategies to help you respond to negative reviews in a way that will showcase your values, service, and brand.

November 2022
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Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You’ve just treated a patient that needed dental work. While at your practice, this patient was happy about their experience and treatment. Fast-forward a couple of weeks and you see a 1-star review for your practice on Google, along with a comment about a bad experience.

In your eyes, the patient is mischaracterizing their experience at your practice. But what should you write and do to make a good impression? Should you respond at all?

Let’s walk through how you should respond in this situation to ensure you get the right message across.

First off, why are online reviews important?

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Consider the numbers…

  • 90% of dental patients consult online reviews before booking an appointment
  • 70% of patients say online reviews are as important as a dentist’s credentials
  • 42% of people won’t go to a dentist with less than a three-star rating


Ensuring you have lots of positive online reviews is crucially important for making a good impression and booking new patients.

How do positive reviews help your SEO efforts?

Improved placement in Local 3-packs and organic search results
Improved click-through rates in Google search results
Improved conversion rates for patients who read your reviews

Be proactive about soliciting positive reviews

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While step #1 for getting reviews is to provide an excellent experience for your patients, not far behind is encouraging your patients to leave a positive review.

Reputation management software such as BirdEye can help you encourage patients to leave reviews about your practice. This software helps you follow up with patients, as well as helps you easily monitor how many reviews you have and what people are saying about you.

We’ve seen incredible results with our partners who invest in reputation management software, with lots of 5-star reviews rolling in. Unfortunately, almost all practices are bound to have a couple of reviews that don’t depict them in a positive light.

Negative reviews do not have to stain your online reputation

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No matter how perfect your practice might be, negative reviews are inevitable. Be it due to a patient having a bad day, a simple mistake by one of your employees, or just bad luck, it will happen.

Unfortunately, even if the person leaving the review is just holding a grudge, there’s no surefire way for you to delete the review.

Fortunately, a couple of bad reviews in a sea of 5-star reviews is not going to matter all that much, so long as you handle them properly.

How to respond to a negative patient review

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We get it. It can be frustrating when a patient is exaggerating or dishonest about an experience at your practice. Often, dentists feel hurt that a patient had such a bad experience that they were moved to leave a bad review.

Remember that a couple of bad reviews will not mean the end of your practice and that a negative review can even lead to an opportunity to strengthen your brand.

Google and many other review platforms provide a way for you to respond to reviews. In fact, according to Google, it’s important to respond to reviews that patients leave about your practice. When you reply to reviews, it shows that you value their feedback. Responding also shows that you take your reputation seriously.

While this is a great opportunity to set things straight, it’s important that you approach your response in a level-headed way that will reflect well on your practice and ease potential patient fears. You also need to consider privacy laws in your response.

Keep in mind the following things when crafting your response to a negative patient review.

Disclosing specific information about any patient is a HIPAA violation

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, prevents you from disclosing the private details of any of your patients. Even directly acknowledging that a patient has been treated at your practice could be considered a HIPAA violation. Keep your response broad and do not disclose any private information. Your goal should be to move the conversation offline to settle the concern.

Remember that your response can be seen by everyone

Above all else, it’s important to remember the way you respond is a reflection of your practice and can be seen by anyone reading your reviews. Don’t write anything in your response to an online review that you wouldn’t publish in any of these places. What you write should be reflective of your practice’s values and speak to your target audience.

Be empathetic to their concerns

While it can be tempting to go through a review and point out all inaccuracies and respond to all of the negative parts, this approach will often leave those reading the response cold (in addition to being a HIPAA violation). By approaching your response from an empathetic point of view, you will come off as much more understanding.

How to respond to a negative patient review

1. Take a deep breath and follow the advice above. Remember that 1 negative review does not spell the end of your practice.

2. Respond quickly to the review and encourage them to contact you directly to resolve the matter. In your response, be broad in order to avoid a HIPAA violation and stress that this is not reflective of the experience most patients have at your practice.

3. If and when the patient follows up with you, we encourage you to be empathetic to their concerns. Use this as an opportunity to learn more about their frustrations and how you can make things right. If you are able to do that, the reviewer might even decide to alter or remove their negative review.

How not to respond to negative patient reviews

  • Do not divulge private information: Never talk specifically about the patient or their experience at your practice. Any disclosure of private information about the patient could be considered a HIPAA violation. This includes stating that they never got a particular service.
  • Be aggressive: Even if you believe the reviewer is lying, being aggressive with them will not help your situation. Stay positive and accommodating. Remember, the whole world can see your response and nobody wants to work with a dentist who comes off as aggressive.
  • Ignore it: By not responding to the negative review, potential patients are liable to think that what they are reading is true or that you do listen to patients.

Is your reputation working for you?

Reviews can be a powerful marketing tool for any dental practice — all it takes is a little nudging in the right direction.

At :Delmain, we partner with BirdEye and can work with you to get reviews flowing into Google and other review platforms. We believe that reviews are crucially important and we can help you integrate them into a cohesive and integrated digital marketing strategy.

Have questions about reputation management for dentists and optimizing your online presence with dental marketing services? Book an intro call to learn how we can help.

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