Role Reversal: How I Became A Better Dentist
By Dr. Mark T.
It was like a predictable Hollywood movie. A clever role reversal - mom switches places with daughter, wealthy man switches places with poor man, or in my case, dentist switches places with patient.
While enjoying dinner with my family out of town, I snapped off a four surface composite restoration on tooth #7. There was no physical discomfort, but socially I felt crippled. I hid my smile walking out of the establishment and instead of wanting to enjoy the evening out, I wanted to merely return home and get my tooth fixed as soon as possible. Fortunately, I work with another dentist and I only had to endure the damaged tooth for three days. I was so grateful to have the minor problem fixed.
Just a few days earlier, one of my patients on record had a similar problem happen to her on tooth #9 and asked if I could come in to work on my day off and fix it for her. I did, but my attitude at the time was selfish. I was happy to help her, but I was fixed on the sacrifice I was making to see her on my off day. In retrospect, I can see now how stressed she must have been, not knowing when her tooth would be fixed, never mind the added guilt she was no doubt feeling for making me work on my day off. How comforting it was for me, when put in the same situation, to know that my dental partner would be able to fix my tooth soon.
Since my own little dental emergency has happened to me, I have learned to be more sensitive to patients perceived needs. What might be a minor inconvenience for me to take time out of my schedule might be a lifesaver for them. I have also learned how important it is to receive immediate care. I often am thinking about the schedule and letting that dictate when patients are seen. It is important to be flexible and consider when the schedule needs to be stretched. Finally, in my situation I am grateful for having another dentist in the office who is able to not only to fix my tooth immediately in a dental emergency, but also is there to discuss treatment problems and options, dental materials and techniques and current issues in dentistry. Having the support of others is necessary in all aspects of life.
This is why I am grateful that I belong to the American Dental Association (ADA) and Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA). Organized dentistry gives me an opportunity to be heard in the dental community both locally and nationally. It also gives me a chance to stay up to date on what is happening in dentistry. Because of the ADA and PDA, I am not an isolated dentist. I have opportunities to serve and to get involved in the future of dentistry. In times of dental office emergencies (continuing education requirements, licensure, OSHA compliance, HIPAA compliance, etc.), the ADA and PDA are invaluable resources to have. A dental emergency is not something anyone expects, but with the right support, it does not have to be a prolonged ordeal.