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Asking patients about their weight.

My boss is concerned b/c we had a very large patient in the other day and she feels that he could have broken the dental chair. She now has requested that when we bring heavy patients to the operatory that we ask them their weight, if they are over 300 lbs we are to reschedule them and ask them to bring their own chair to sit in. To me this is just crazy!! I know 300lbs is a lot but I am in no way able to judge some body’s weight. I could not tell you the difference b/w a 250lb or a 300lb person. I refuse to offend people by asking and I find it extremely awkward that we are to ask them to bring their own chair to sit in next time. I told my boss that I would not ask about it and if she was concerned that she should do the asking herself. She informed me that if I am to seat a heavy person that breaks the chair then I will be responsible for paying for it!!!! Am I the only one who finds this insane?!?



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15 Answers

Thats rude and ignorant…I wouldn’t do it either…you can add it to the medical history but it doesnt solve the problem of thinking your going to ask the person to bring their own chair…if the office cant accommodate certain people its the offices problem to post the limitation…We have many heavy patients and treat them all with the same care, concern, and respect….We’ve never had broken chair issues and I would find this extremely ignorant of my boss to expect…I also would in no way agree to docking my pay over such nonsense….I sense that my own opinions on proper edicate would prevent me from working long for someone so ignorant of others…very unflattering behavior for a “Doctor”

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This is unbelievable your dentist is doing that! You are definitely not alone in finding this insane! I’m not a lawyer, but this sounds like a discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen. I like the idea of asking for people’s weight on the medical history form, but my guess is people will either leave it blank or just lie about about it. You did the right thing in speaking up about not feeling comfortable asking about people’s weight. If you are ever put in the position where your dentist asks you to pay for a new chair, don’t be bullied into it. To the best of my knowledge she has no legal recourse to go after you for that expense. In the meantime, start looking for another job at an office that shares the same values as you.

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Good to know that I’m not alone in thinking this is absurd! I actually started to feel a little guilty about my out right refusal and disgust at the suggestion….I needed this verification that I was not crazy! I stand by my decision and am positive that there is no legal way she can make me pay for a broken chair. I have been in this office for 4 years and have never had a patient damage the chair b/c they were to heavy…I’m not too worried that it will happen going forward. However, you all are right, I need to find a new office. It has been a long time coming and unfortunately this is not the first time she has shown insensitivity toward certain people. Unfortunately, it has recently become worse and much more difficult to ignore

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I had to call our dental chair manufacturer and ask the weight limit. Most dental chairs are 500lbs weight limit.

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I have several obese patient’s. One is probably close to 500 lbs. I have had the chair break with her, and it’s an older chair. I treat her with all the dignity and respect I would anyone else. She and I have a great time during her appointment and I know it’s a great social event for her. Seriously, Organic Hygienist, during a prophy you are actually going to ask an obese person (who I’m sure knows they are obese) about diet and exercise? Don’t you think they get that everywhere? Sure it’s important to be healthy, but their oral health is most important to me. I have lost 35 lbs recently, and IF a pt. asks me how I did it then I will discuss it with them. You can suggest a healthier lifestyle till you can’t breathe. I would rather discuss flossing and brushing. And to the original hygienist asking the absurd question about the chair, find another job.

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Request that weight be put into the medical history form? It is important for local anesthesia MRD also. None the less it’s not written in a contract that you would pay for said broken chair.

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I totally agree with DebbieG. I would start looking for a new job ASAP. I’ve had several obese patients and have never had a chair break. My boss would never ask me to find out their weight and request them to BYOC!

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I completely agree with DebbieG’s answer. Does your boss ask HER patients about their weight or does she just expect you to? Could you imagine being asked to bring in your own chair?? That’s just so insane!

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This sounds like disciminatory behavior. People that are overweight already face ugliness every day, they do not need to be treated this way in a dental office. It sounds like your boss needs to buy better dental chairs and attend a seminar about sensitivity and discrimination. When someone opens a practice, they agree to treat all people equally and if they are absolutely unable to do this, politely refer to someone who can. I am certain there is another dental office out there that would be happy for the business.
As far as needing to know their weight for things like anesthetic, that is in general terms and we do not need to know the specifics. We worry more about people who are small, not large unless their health is affected.
Good luck with this, I think I would be looking for a new position.

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Yeah, that’s insane! I wouldn’t ask. It’s rude. Sounds like some sort of discrimination to me.

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This is discrimination and labor law issues. Consult with an attorney who specializes in both issues.

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I also would never ask a patient about their weight, I have had patients where the chair will make some noises when patients are set back…but when patients are that big sometimes it is difficult to work on them laying back and I end up doing stand-up hygiene. I can’t get the chair low enough to sit correctly. I don’t think a dental chair would ever break, but if you don’t lay the patient back it definitely would not break.

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wow thats a very difficult situation to be in. I do not think its your responsibility to inquire about weight but at the same time the office should have a way to maybe refer these patients to a clinic thats equipped without being rude or hurting any ones feelings.

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How many obese patients do you have? Lets focus on lifestyle and work towards promoting a healthier lifestyle to all our patients. In between scaling and polishing ask about diet and exercise. Suggest a healthier lifestyle.

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If your boss is honestly worried about the chair breaking, I think she may need to invest in some new chairs. Seems absolutely absurd to me.

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