Dental Horror Stories

Have you ever been totally grossed out by something that happened at work? 

Whether it be something in a patient’s mouth or the way instruments are cleaned, there’s kind of a lot that could make hygienists feel sick to their stomachs at dental practices. 

Dental Practice Management compiled their best (or worst, depending on how you see it) finds from hygienists all over the country in their blog “Your top scariest dental horror stories,” and we’re here to share them with you.


1. Pennsylvania 

“I worked in a small dental office back in 1992-93 where the dentist did not autoclave the instruments. Everything was cold sterilized. Once I came back from lunch and was advised to take the morning instruments out and prepare the trays with them for the afternoon! Once I tried to use the autoclave but was scolded by the office manager! I worked there three months before moving on.”

2. Texas

“A lady arrives at the dental office and walks directly at me at the “check in” area to ask a question. Willingly and with a smile, I was very eager to help her until she then puts a tooth (root and all) onto the counter and begins to spin it. It was like she was playing “spin the bottle” with her index finger. I awkwardly stared as she said, “My husband’s tooth fell off. Can this be placed back in his mouth?”

What!? How?! Really?! She was very serious! I stood explaining how that couldn’t possibly happen. She didn’t quite believe me, so she picked up her husband’s tooth and left. I sprayed CaviCide all over that countertop, door handle, window door, and everything she touched. I went back and wiped down all the areas until I started to laugh and explain to my staring coworkers what had just happened.”

3. New Jersey

“I worked for a guy who used to put HVE suction tips in the cold sterile! Ugh! I wanted to die! I always threw them out. He never knew.”

4. North Carolina

“Toothbrushes with coarse pumice were used on heavy plaque/food debris in mouths prior to dental treatment (fillings, crowns, whatever) then rinsed, put in the ultrasonic, then in cold disinfectant, and REUSED!!!! YUCK!!! I was reprimanded for throwing some away.

Needless to say, I wasn’t there long. There was no way I could be a part of that and sleep at night. The doctor felt he was OK in doing this and was not going to make any changes. I cringe at this memory.”

5. Michigan

“How about a dentist finding old extraction instruments at an antique sale bringing them into the office, then soaking them in ultrasonic sterilizing? Even still rusted, they were used on a patient.”

6. Texas

“I filled in for another assistant. She had prepped the room before leaving. Well, when the doctor used the mirror to retract the lip for the injection, we both noticed that the back of the mirror was covered with impression material. The doctor became angry and I had to dodge the instrument as it came flying across the patient’s head and hit the window behind me.”

7. Oregon

“I worked for a dentist who would give a drunk patient nitrous. He said it was OK. One time, she inhaled a crown and gagged on us. Another time, she puked all over me. I left the practice and I heard she died. Not sure of the real reason, but I have my ideas…”

8. Ohio

“My boss was being divorced and was an emotional mess. He hires a woman who said she was a certified assistant with 15 years experience. She was certified to take X-rays, but was insubordinant, incompetent, sexually provocative with our male patients, unwilling to learn, and rude to the hygienists. Ultimately she whispered to a patient that he should leave the office because the doctor was just trying to get money from him. The doctor finds out and fires her.”

9. Texas

“I once worked in a pediatric clinic that had a dentist who proudly sported a “No crying” button on his jacket and wore earplugs during procedures. One assistant had to leave the operatory in the middle of a procedure because she didn’t want to vomit in front of the crying child. Of course, we assured the parent (who was not allowed in the back) that her kid was well taken care of!”

10. Michigan

“An older guy came in and wanted his niece’s dentures to be relined to fit him. … what?!”

11. Florida

“The doctor’s mother had come in for dental treatment. The patient had generalized advanced periodontal bone loss. To relax while in the chair, she would place moist 2×2 gauze squares over her eyes and meditate. The doctor asked me to obtain a maxillary preliminary alginate impression.

As I removed the impression from the patient’s mouth, I realized both maxillary central incisors were now missing. I quickly checked the impression, and to my absolute horror, there were the doctor’s mother’s two maxillary central incisors, sitting in the alginate impression!”








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Exit Interviews: Why Do Them and What To Ask

Editor’s note: This is the first of two blogs in our series about exit interviews.

No matter their reason for leaving, nor if they were fired or quit, each outgoing employee should be asked a series of questions as part of an official exit interview.

In her blog post about exit interviews for Glassdoor for Employees–one of the worlds largest recruiting websites–Jessica Miller-Merrell writes that one of the best ways to get honest feedback is to ask employees who no longer rely on you for their livelihood. 

“Employee exit interviews can reveal powerful insights that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise,” she writes.

Miller Merrell goes on to write that businesses can conduct exit interviews face-to-face, build an exit interview form or exit interview template using a service like Survey Monkey, or encourage company reviews on Glassdoor.

Below are questions Miller-Merrell suggests should be a part of the exit interview.

1. Why did you begin looking for a new job?

“Asking this sample exit interview question opens up the opportunity for a variety of answers,” Miller-Merrell writes. “You may see that an employee simply needed a job closer to home, or it may point to a specific instance or situation that sparked the search.”

2. What ultimately led you to accept the new position?

“This is a good exit interview question because it will allow you to contrast your company’s position with a different organization’s,” she writes. “The key to this answer is actually in what you don’t see. For instance, if an employee indicates that they are leaving for higher pay, this could mean that your compensation package isn’t competitive enough.”

3. Did you feel that you were equipped to do your job well?

“If you want a direct way to better retain the employee who fills this position next, ask this question,” Miller-Merrell writes. “It’s one of the best exit interview questions that will help you generate an immediate proactive response. Be prepared for tales of technology woes, inadequate training and more, but also be prepared to gain valuable knowledge of what you can do better next time.”

4. How would you describe the culture of our company?

“This question isn’t probing for specific examples but instead will help you identify trends,” she writes. “As you keep track of employee exit interviews, watch for trends throughout to help you identify real concerns. Identifying trends can also help you separate legitimate concerns from the personal opinion of employees who are emotional or feel negatively about the company.”

5. Can you provide more information, such as specific examples?

“Your natural reaction may be to shy away from asking for specific examples, but this follow-up question, which is beneficial throughout your survey, may reveal personnel problems or other things that are easily fixed, preventing the loss of another employee,” writes Miller-Merrell.

6. What could have been done for you to remain employed here?

“There is no question more direct than this one,” she suggests. “Often, a frank question will give employees an opportunity to open up where they were afraid to before. Obviously, this question isn’t aimed at fulfilling their request in order to keep them employed there, but it will help in the future.”

7. Did you share your concerns with anyone at the company prior to leaving?

“This common question points back to your employee culture and whether your employee felt comfortable to share concerns with superiors or coworkers,” Miller-Merrell writes. “The key here is to understand if you promote an environment where employees feel safe and comfortable to voice their opinions.”

8. If you could change anything about your job or the company, what would you change?

“Though you’ll likely gain a lot of insight throughout the exit interview, this question will help the employee to focus in on the biggest or most important reason they’re leaving your company,” she writes. “This is also a non-confrontational way to encourage them to reveal the real reason they’re leaving, as it isn’t asking what they didn’t like, but what they would change. It shifts their answer from a complaint to a suggestion, which many people feel more comfortable providing. Often, just the way we ask a question can make all the difference.”

9. Management is often a key factor in an employees decision to leave. Were you satisfied with the way you were managed?

“Asking your former employee about management is critical. Understanding if there’s any issues or direct problems will help you take preventative measures from losing future talent,” Miller-Merrell writes. 

10. Did you have clear goals and objectives?

“Employees don’t like feeling like they’re just a cog in the machine,” she writes. They want to know that their work matters and helps drive towards a greater goal.”

11. Did you receive constructive feedback to help you improve your performance?

“Again, your employees don’t want to feel like they’re stagnant,” she writes. “Understanding their personal objectives, and helping them improve their arsenal of skills should be a key area of focus.”

12. How can our company improve training and development programs?

“This ties into your ability to engage employees,” she writes. “Higher engagement leads to higher employee retention.”

13. Would you consider coming back to work here in the future? In what area or function? What would need to change?

“Find out if employees would ever consider coming back,” writes Miller-Merrell. “It could be that they just want to gain experience in a particular role, or may want an increase in compensation. Regardless, this is great information to have if different roles of interest open up.”

Come up with a plan

If it hasn’t been your practice’s policy to give exit interviews, you might want to reconsider. 

Go over the above questions, use what you like, toss what you don’t and feel free to add in individualized questions based on your practice. 

Next, figure out how you will administer these interviews. Face-to-face? Online survey? Mailed letter? 

Make sure you get everything squared away so that when your next employee either quits or gets fired, you’re prepared to administer the interview. You never know what you’ll learn!