Yesterday, I saw something life changing for me and a patient. I never thought that I would say that about a normal dental procedure here in Roseville Minnesota, because dentistry is dentistry and Roseville is just a nice, quiet little suburb of St. Paul and Minneapolis, right?
Here is the back story: a few weeks ago a patient came in that couldn’t afford dental care. Our dental office, once a month will help people in such situations. She came in for 4 fillings and one of them was a big deal and giving her pain. Dr Fung looked at the x-rays and told her it might have turned into a root canal if she didn’t get it taken care of quickly, so we were so happy to catch it in time.
She was laid back in our big squishy dental chair, given Nitrous, and tuned into the Food Channel: totally calm and comfortable. Just as the doctor was about to give her Novocain, the patient had a traumatic flash back—one that had nothing to do with dentistry. The trigger was being in a vulnerable position and having someone else in control and inside her mouth/body. She was overpowered by a tidal wave of negative emotions and relived that traumatic experience. We sat her up so she would uncurl from the fetal position. The dentist was able to calm the patient and assure her that she was safe. We were all so proud of the patient for taking the steps to come in and take care of herself. She was brave, but there was an emotion that was stronger than logic and will-power. The doctor explained to her that she is not alone in this situation. Many people have similar fears, memories or just out-right dislikes for dental procedures. The Dentist explained that one of the things that sets us apart in Roseville is that we do a lot of conscious sedation in order to make patients as comfortable as possible. We want only great experiences.
A few weeks later our heroic patient came back. She was going to try the sedation. I think we could all taste the intensity in the air. But our dental team is safe and well trained for situations like this. I watched the patient sit down and get cozy with a few fuzzy blankets. We chatted with her, built trust, and answered any questions she had. She was laid back again; then the Nitrous mask was on. Doctor Fung came in and assured her everything was going to go well and that we can stop at any moment. We can do a lot more to make her comfortable—just let us know. The conscious sedation was kicking in. The patient was relaxed and calm. First Novocain, then the drill, and then before she knew it all four of the procedures were done! She was a champion!
While I was giving her hand and foot rubs, I was almost breaking into tears thinking about all the things this woman had overcome to be in that chair and all the victories she had won by finishing the procedures. Yes, she will have a better quality of life because of her now healthy mouth. But, moreover—she just kicked that traumatic experience from a long time ago in the face. She took a stand against fear and won. She was strong and independent. She stood up to the tyranny of having her schedule and self-care controlled by someone else. Even though there was a hurricane of bad emotions and other peoples negative input she made a strong choice to believe that it would be ok. In that moment she earned her freedom from all of that. And I learned that dentistry is more than dentistry—it is wrapped into so many other areas of life.