Mysteriously Anonymous Dentist and Doctor Offices

I had to call my dentist office recently to reschedule an appointment, and the call reminded me of a strange phenomenon I encounter any time I call a dentist or doctor office. The phone rings once, twice, and then a spritely receptionist says, “Dentist office.” Sometimes, they said, “Dentist office, how can I help you?”

This happens when I call the doctor’s office as well. Whether it is my doctor, or the kids’ doctor, a phone call to the office always results in the receptionist answering, “Doctor’s office.”

Understand, I am not being deliberately coy here. I am not trying to hide the name of the dentist or doctor’s office by anonymizing it in the generalized form “Dentist office” or “Doctor’s office.” I am telling you, word-for-word, what the receptionists say when answering the phone.

The point is that they don’t identify which dentist or doctor’s office you happen to be calling. As it turned out, when I called to reschedule my appointment, I gave the receptionist my name, and she was puzzled, “I’m sorry Mr. Rubin, but we don’t have an appointment on record for you. The last appointment we have on record  is from back in 2011.”

I had called the wrong dentist’s office, something I would have known immediately if, instead of identifying themselves, vaguely, as “Dentist’s office,” they had said, “ACME Dentist’s” (Now I am being coy.) I would have know instantly that I had called ACME Dentists by mistake.

Doctor’s offices do this to. This a thing, apparently. It is as if a built in assumption exists that if you are calling the number, you know name of the office which you are calling, and there is no need to repeat it for clarity. Except, this isn’t how most businesses operate over the phone. Most businesses are eager to remind you who you have reached. It is a convenient way of confirming that you have reached the right place.

I called Virginia EZ-Pass this morning so that they wouldn’t deactivate the transponder in our second car because it hasn’t been used in the last year. I was greeted with a “Welcome to the Virginia EZ-Pass Customer Service line.” Yup, I’d come to the right place.

Why is it that dentist and doctor offices never identify themselves over the phone? Is there some good reason for this that I can’t fathom out of pure common sense?

Perhaps the dentist and doctor offices are onto something with their attempts at anonymity. Whenever they call me to confirm an appointment, the number displays on my phone as “Dentist” because that’s how I have it in my contacts. Perhaps, from now, when they call, instead of answering, “This is Jamie,” I’ll respond will equal anonymity.

“Hello, this is a patient,” I’ll say, once again restoring balance to a topsy-turvy world.


  1. When I lived in Brooklyn NY, I had a friend who had a small oil delivery company.
    Since he did not need a full time receptionist, he pooled with other small companies and shared the receptionist.
    They would say “oil company” and would wait till you ask “is this Acme oil company” and they would say yes. This way it would identify who you were calling and answered your call accordingly.
    Maybe these doctors are doing the same thing.

  2. I get so many calls either asking for money or asking to do work on our house that, if I don’t recognize the caller, I immediately ask “Who is this?”. If they say “We called you a while ago about …”, I immediately say “Not interested” and hang up. Same for askers of money. Saves us both a lot of time.

  3. I lived in China for a few years and it drove me nuts that companies and stores would answer phones with a simple “Hello” (in Chinese, of course), like they were answering a personal call. I would then need to ask, “Is this Company XYZ?” And spend 5 minutes trying to ascertain whether or not I called the right company, as sometimes they couldn’t understand what I said or I didn’t say the company name just right. Such a waste of time and it was so unprofessional. Thanks for letting me vent about this.

  4. I kinda agree with Tom. My doctor’s office has 8 different doctors working out of it so I’m kinda glad they don’t rattle off all the names. 🙂


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