I made my first patient in dental school cry.
OK, let me backup for a moment—technically, I didn’t make her cry. I had gone out to the waiting room of dental school with its fluorescent lights and mission-style furniture to greet her. I was actually half-ready to cry myself, being fairly new to actually working on patients.
She was dressed in a sage-green dress, and was holding a bright pink water bottle. She was staring down at her feet, not saying anything. I slowly approached her.
“How are you doing today?” I had asked her, smiling widely at her in what I hoped appeared both kind and confident.
She looked up at me and promptly burst into tears. I panicked. I had no idea what to do. Believe it or not, they don’t teach a class in dental school on how to help patients when they are crying. I didn’t know if she was in pain, if maybe she just had a parent pass away, or if my face was just so hideous that she couldn’t bear to look at me. So, I did what I would do with anyone else. I sat down besides her and patted her shoulder.
“Hey, are you doing okay?”
She looked at me, tears still streaming down her face. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” She wiped her eyes and then told me her story. We actually spent an hour there in the waiting room of the dental school, talking about herself and her life. She had been recently trying to change her life – exercising, eating right, and drinking only water (which is why she kept the pink water bottle with her at all times) and she wanted to get started on her teeth, but she was scared.
It’s been many years since I sat down next to her in the waiting room of the dental school, but I will never forget that experience. I kept that experience with me throughout my career. It’s one of the things I am proud of at Academy Dental Care—that we ensure that each and every patient receives that same experience and level of compassion. We’re not just about the teeth; we’re also about caring for the person. We want to understand the patient so that we can help them as much as possible. That’s what we’re all about.