It was in the nascence of my dental career, barely two years after graduating from dental school, when I met Carol. She had been a longtime patient of the dental practice, which I had just joined in Forest Hills, the place I was to call home for the next 11 years. My relationship with Carol truly “took root” during my early formative years as a dentist. I literally “cut my teeth” on Carol. (Actually, it was I who was cutting Carol’s teeth under the mentorship of my three senior partners.) Never once was she resistant to being treated by the new kid on the block (that be me) even though her prescribed treatment took me longer to accomplish or required an extra visit or two to complete. She was always gracious and subtly supportive of my striving for excellence even when it meant more hours in the chair.
Over a 32-year time span we developed, and still enjoy, a genuinely warm and easy relationship based on mutual admiration, trust and affection. Thankfully, my efficiency and speed have improved immensely since those early times! When I relocated my practice to Manhattan (in what I have come to think of as my professional do-over), it was especially comforting when Carol scheduled an appointment in my new digs. A familiar face in an as yet unfamiliar environment meant the world to me. It was a kind of reassurance that was both welcome and needed. In so many ways, I consider myself fortunate, indeed, to have the privilege to call Carol my patient and friend.
Over the more than three decades of our dentist-patient relationship, I have had the opportunity to log quite a few hours providing Carol with a wide and varied range of dental care – from root canal and crowns to extractions and permanent bridgework. And, of course, let me not forget to mention our time spent together during her faithfully scheduled dental hygiene and examination visits. After all, it is as much Carol’s vigilant homecare and commitment to preventive care that has kept her (dare I say) 89-year old mouth in an optimal state of health.
With the frequency of her re-care visits (3-4 times every year), as well as periodic dental treatment that was needed, Carol and I have visited each other countless times over the years. I emphasize visit because there’s always time to schmooze and catch-up with each other because Carol possesses one of those endearing personalities that draws people to her – myself included. In spite of the best of care and the best of intentions, life happens and dental mishaps like a broken tooth occur. Two years ago Carol cracked an upper molar, which required extraction. True to form, Carol wanted to know about tooth replacement. “I’ve had this tooth my whole life and I’m not about to start losing my teeth now.” Such is the spirit of those who are young at heart. So, Carol and I discussed dental implants. When I suggested the possibility of her coming to NYU to be my patient in the Implant Program I was enrolled in, she graced me with her big smile and said, “Of course!”I felt as if we had come full circle.
From my earliest days as a beginning dentist Carol was a willing recipient of some of my earliest, yet earnest, endeavors. Fast forward some 30 years and she characteristically gave me an enthusiastic vote of confidence by participating in my professional growth. She bounced into the NYU Dental School and wowed everyone with her positive energy and youthful charm. I brought headphones and an iPod for her use during surgery. And while she listened and swayed (I kid you not!) to Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 Rock and Roll Songs, I performed a sinus lift and placed two dental implants. The NYU clinical staff and fellow participants practically lined up outside the operatory to behold the wonder that is Carol. No one could believe she was 89-years old! And perhaps as surprising is her familiarity with the music she was listening to (her son is a music engineer and she knows how to rock.)
Six months later, Carol was back in my office where I completed her implant-supported crowns. As we were finishing up she casually mentioned how remarkably advanced dentistry has become and how she wishes she could turn back the clock 40 years and prevent her long-ago dentist from filing down and shortening her upper front teeth. I never realized that she had this issue! I seized the moment and happily restored her front teeth by performing a little magic with bonding.The joy in her eyes and the beaming smile that erupted is payment enough.Thank you Carol, you light up my heart.
Michael Sinkin practices dentistry in New York. He loves being a dentist and is known throughout the city for taking wonderful care of his patients and for his wicked sense of humor. To contact Dr. Sinkin, link here.