Sometimes you need to reset. Sometimes you need a reminder that you’re human, you can’t accomplish it all, and what you do IS important. You make a difference in people’s lives without realizing it. Who would have thought a denture patient would be that reset button for me?
Dr. Stacey, you have a patient in the waiting area who would like to see you for a few minutes. It’s important, and he will wait as long as needed to see you.
Those were the words my front desk told me while I was doing some dreaded fillings. Not wanting to create a scene or underscore something that apparently was important, I told my receptionist to have the patient wait in the consultation room as it would be a while before I could see him. That’s what I said. But what I was thinking was: I’m already needed in three rooms and this person is not on my schedule. I’m kinda frustrated right now!
You know what I’m talking about. We get in dental autopilot mode and go through love/hate phases with dentistry. This was one of those “hate” phases for me.
When I walked through the door and the patient handed me a dozen roses, I was flabbergasted. A big hug and a tearful thank-you soon followed.
You see, this patient was veteran for whom I had done a pro bono denture. For the past 30 years, the patient hadn’t been able to smile, was in pain, and couldn’t eat well. Patients love to hate dentures, but in this case, a life was changed in a drastic, unexpected way.
Truthfully, I went through this case without giving it a second thought. Over a 20-year span of practicing dentistry, I’ve addressed these issues numerous times; it’s part of what I do, and it’s part of what WE do as dentists. We fix teeth. We get patients out of pain. We are oral health-care providers.
But as you know, dentistry can get monotonous. So, what’s my take-home here? No matter what’s going on in your life or practice, know that you’re making a difference, in ways you may not even realize. Never in a million years would I have thought that doing a denture on someone would have such an impact. Unbeknownst to the patient, his thank-you and full circle of humility and gratitude helped me push my reset button just when I needed it the most.
Cheers to those real and raw moments in dentistry. Gotta love ’em...
Stacey L. Gividen, DDS, a graduate of Marquette University School of Dentistry, is in private practice in Hamilton, Montana. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Montana in the anatomy and physiology department. Dr. Gividen is the editorial codirector of Through the Loupes and a contributing author for DentistryIQ, Perio-Implant Advisory, and Dental Economics. She serves on the Dental Economics editorial advisory board. You may contact her at [email protected].