“No one has believed me; I don’t know what to do anymore. Just take all the teeth out; I’m sick of them.”
A walk-in patient sat in my operatory chair, eyes filled with tears, and a look of despair on her face.
She described an upper tooth pain that has come and gone for months, but whenever she has had it evaluated, everyone had said the same thing. Nothing appears wrong, just take some ibuprofen and learn to live with the occasional pain.
I sat with her for several minutes while she explained her frustration, and I just listened. I asked her if I could evaluate the area too. I completed my evaluation, looked at her radiographs, did a few tests. And similarly, I found nothing obviously wrong with her tooth.
I took the time to explain that while there was no frank sign of inflammation, I completely believed that she had pain and would do my best to address it. I asked her more questions, probed about her life—any new stressors going on, any changes in diet or habits, any recent medical evaluations.
She explained that she had recently lost her job and that she had been putting off having her teeth evaluated. She knew that it had been a while since her last dental exam and she was ashamed at the state of her mouth.
I looked her in the eyes and told her, “It is never too late to be here, and I am grateful I get to help you.” A look of relief washed over her. I believed she was full of goodness (see Romans 15:14).
I have many patient interactions similar to this one. And I remind myself that each patient is a child of God and should be treated with respect. Even the ones who yell at me. Even the ones who doubt my ability. Even the ones with mistrust in the healthcare system. I show up for them. It’s those simple moments of connection that make us feel seen and understood.
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Thank you for being here.
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