We had close friends over for dinner last weekend and during our table conversation one of them referenced recent dental work that he wasn’t happy with. That reminded me that years ago he called and asked me for a dental office referral. At the time I was a new graduate, so I gave him the name of a few dentists that I heard were good. Now that I’ve been practicing for many years (at the best dental office in Columbus ????), I encouraged him to come to our office and let me clean his teeth.
His response shocked me. First, he explained that it’s too personal to allow a friend to clean his teeth. Whaaaat? Why?! I informed him that I wouldn’t hesitate to allow his wife to provide care for me. She’s a nurse and it wouldn’t bother me to allow her to provide my healthcare needs. I enlisted the help of my husband to assure my friend that my husband too would allow his wife to provide “nursing” care for him. My husband interrupted with a nervous laugh and said ummmmm it really depends on what “type” of nursing care we are talking about. (hehe)
I do imagine there are probably others who may feel the same vulnerability that he does when it comes to their mouth, dental care, and who provides it for them. So I suppose that makes sense.
But then his second statement shocked me. “You know, all you dental people are so ‘judgy’.” Whaaaat !!? I was crushed! I couldn’t believe it. He laughed, but I could tell he was serious.
I didn’t realize that people thought that. Could that be part of the reason why people don’t even come to the dentist?!
I won’t deny that many dental professionals are detail-oriented people. Some say Type A, OCD—we’ve heard it all. Our “pickiness” sometimes is as simple as that teeth are small and tooth pathology can be hard to determine. Judgmental though—yikes!
That’s the last thing I want my patients to think of me, and I’m pretty sure lots of other dental professionals feel the same. Your mouth is an integral part of your overall health. Whether it’s been six months or 20 years since your last dental visit, we are here to help. No judgement.
My job is simply to enable smart people to help themselves. I may inquire about your home care habits. You know the dreaded question everyone hates to hear: Are you flossing? Know that it is just to determine how to better help you. For example, if someone has gum disease as a result of not flossing, I am obligated (as to not be neglectful) to let them know so they might start flossing and remedy the situation. If a patient IS flossing and doing all they can with their home care routine, and the gum disease still persists, it helps me to make intervention recommendations.
Many dental professionals, including myself, have had crowns, fillings, gum grafts, and eat chocolate (me more than others). We may be more particular about how we go about brushing and flossing, but that’s because we see daily cause and effect. We see tooth infections, cavities, and gum disease every single day and know that some of those things can be prevented with the right tools and information.
Dental professionals love to pass information along to our patients. I let my friend know not to confuse “judgement” with the desire to inform and enable people with the knowledge it takes for them to be healthy. I know that most dental professionals, including myself, are particular people, but we are also people that truly care about others, especially our patients, and we love to help them.
Author: Heather VanVorhis
Heather VanVorhis has been a practicing dental hygienist for over 15 years. She completed her education at CSCC in 2002. In her spare time Heather likes to spend time with family, bake, and occasionally run — just to burn off all the baked goods!