As I reflect on my more than 28 years of private practice, what enthralls me most about being a dentist is that I’ve be given the opportunity to improve the quality of someone’s life and the gratification of the relationship that is born of that experience.
There is no melodrama intended in that statement.
Relieving someone’s pain; recognizing and compassionately addressing a person’s crippling fear and anxiety; restoring a person’s ability to enjoy life’s simple pleasures like eating in comfort or spontaneously smiling without embarrassment or inhibition. These can be life-changing encounters and the most intriguing, if not amazing thing about such personally and professionally powerful interactions is that they can happen on any given day of any given week.
These seemingly spontaneous experiences are not planned, unlike the actual treatment which most certainly is and meticulously so. They begin like so many human relationships: with a phone call and a first meeting.
There is a scene in the movie, Jerry McGuire, when Rene Zellweger says to Tom Cruise, “You had me at “Hello”. Well, such is the philosophy and ambience of my office: we want you at the first “Hello”. You feel the smile through the phone and see it when walk in the door.
No one comes to his or her first visit to a new dental office with euphoric enthusiasm. Quite the contrary. There’s often an underlying feeling of uneasiness or trepidation. In order to lighten the mood (break the ice, so to speak) a quick and comfortable rapport needs to be established. People are like musical instruments and the proper melody, which resounds within them, must be sought. One must find the proper chords to play.
It is human nature to establish physical comfort zones that can be measured. The more familiar you are with a person, the closer you allow them into your personal proximity. Whereas arm’s length might be a comfortable distance for an acquaintance, for a stranger is probably too close for comfort. As a dentist, meeting a patient for the first time, I’m not just brushing up against their comfort zone, I’m in their personal space, literally and figuratively.
And it is with this awareness and sensitivity that I approach each patient, find their melody, and await “the invitation” to enter their space. It is only then, that the “magic” of trust can occur and what may be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.