When you ask folks where one of their least favorite places to visit is, I am betting the dentist’s office is fairly high on the list. No offense to dentists and dental offices everywhere, but I think it is safe to say that they are not ranking high on most folks’ “fun things to do with an hour or two of your time” list.
They know that though – they know that some folks would rather clean an oven that hasn’t been cleaned for decades with their fingernails for eight hours rather than visit a dentist. It has to be a challenge to live with that reality…the reality that you will always be recognized as necessary, but likely will not be the one that clients send holiday cards and gifts to because they adore you so.
Of course, not all dentists or dental offices are equal. Some dentists and dental offices give the others a bad name. Like the dentist years ago who “accidentally” sewed the tongue of my friend to the inside of her cheek after oral surgery (and no it was not at her husband’s request). From the way she talked it seemed like she had suffered from a stroke…it wasn’t pretty. What about the dentist who gives you a shot to numb an area only after you let out a scream that could raise the dead (or frighten other patients in the waiting room)? If you have ever had a less than happy dental experience you know that one bad experience like the ones I mentioned above can keep you out of a dentist’s chair (and on a therapist’s couch) for years.
Thankfully, not all dentists and dental offices are representative of the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors. There has been a movement over the past few decades toward dentistry that is more patient-friendly. Patient-friendly dental offices focus on patient comfort and care from the moment you make the appointment and are patient-centric throughout the process. What a concept, eh?
I have been to my dentist’s office twice in the past week. Both times I dealt with the dental hygenist – Kari. Kari is a very pleasant and congenial young woman who is able to convey a genuine sense of caring and concern to the patient. I find that quite valuable when someone is spending an extended period of time my mouth – it is a fairly invasive experience and I was comforted by the fact that Kari made sure I understood that how I felt was of primary concern.
Kari’s approach is nice because she tells you everything that is going to happen, she makes it all as pain free as possible, and she checks your status frequently. She reacts to your physical cues – if you wince or twitch she stops and asks if you are okay. She waits until you are completely numb to begin work and she knows how to deliver essentially pain free shots – and then she empathizes with you when you have to deal with a numb face for a couple of hours after the fact (and I mean empathizes as opposed to sympathizes – she understands the feeling and the challenges of only having half a working mouth). She has a lovely demeanor – it is easy to trust her to take the best care of you. It makes me happy to deal with people like Kari. People who understand how important bedside manner is (albeit, perhaps it is better termed chairside manner in regard to dental professionals). Sometimes I think we forget how far good bedside manner can go toward creating a positive experience for patients. It really can make or break experiences with care providers. Imagine that…we want to believe that our care providers actually care…what a radical notion.
Now, I like Kari an awful lot, but I am not going to tell you that I will now go skipping to the dentist’s office…I just won’t drag my feet like I have in the past. As I said, bedside manner goes a long way. Now that I understand how big a difference someone like Kari can make in the experience I am determined to spread the word. When it comes to visiting the dentist’s office it doesn’t always have to seem like you are transported to a Clint Eastwood movie (e.g., The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) complete with the soundtrack that makes you feel like you are in a showdown in the middle of a dusty one horse town. It can be more like an old Jack Lemmon comedy where you may experience some minor discomfort that you know is temporary and just part of a plot that will end on the up-side with you in a happy mood.
I don’t know about you, but given a choice I wouldn’t choose a showdown with folks who have shiny sharp instruments, long needles and drills…even if I was Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry (I apparently have Clint on the brain today…I keep thinking of his line, “Go ahead…make my day.”). Thank goodness I get to deal with nice folks like Kari who really do “make my day” and allow me to leave the dentist’s office smiling – at least with one side of my mouth. ; -)
Day eight hundred and forty-one of the new forty – obla di obla da