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Relationship-Based Dentistry Brings Satisfaction.

April 8, 2012

A new patient waited for me to do her examination.  She held a book in her hands.  When I entered the room, the first question I asked was, “What are you reading?”  She told me, and so began my preclinical interview.  I learned she was an avid reader and she was recently diagnosed with diabetes.  Audrey H. became my patient.  I completed her dentistry twenty five years ago.

Audrey never missed a dental appointment.  She always carried a book with her, and we traded reading lists.  My first questions to her were always, “What are you reading and how is your blood sugar.”

Through the years she slowly lost her ability to read.  First she went to Large-print, and then to audiobooks.  She had a difficult time controlling her blood sugar and eventually had to go on dialysis.  Through all of this, she never missed an appointment.  Audrey couldn’t drive after a while so she would take a taxi to her appointments.

Eventually she went to an assisted living facility.

She still came for her hygiene appointments.

About one year ago I found significant caries under her fixed bridge.  It would have to be remade.  Audrey explained that her money was running out and she couldn’t do the work.

I just couldn’t see her in a denture after all these years…now more than ever she needed her teeth.  So I told her I would remake the case…pro bono.

And I did.

We put the case on the books, but we never asked her for money.  The lab bill was on us.

Some time went by and I noticed that Audrey hadn’t been in for her appointment.  Seemed strange.  I wondered if she felt bad about accepting charity.  My concerns were soon answered.  A few days ago we received a check in the mail.  The check was for the work we completed…it was from the estate of Audrey H.  Audrey had passed…but she paid her bill.

Why am I writing this?  Because this blog is about trust, appreciation and ownership...TAO, the essence of relationship dentistry.  When it’s there we feel good about doing dentistry on our patients.  When it’s not there…well, sometimes the dentistry is just not worth doing.  It feels good to know that Audrey ate her last meal with her own teeth rather than a denture…and that her family will remember her as she looked for the last twenty five years.

Dental practice today seems to have lost these values…I write this blog to keep the values alive.


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  1. Wow! What a beautiful story! It just goes to show that the relationship is a two-way street of communication and compassion. It’s a great reminder of what this really is (or at least should be) about.

    Comment by Lolabees — April 9, 2012 @ 9:20 AM

  2. Laura…It’s been over 25 years since I committed to relationship based dentistry. I could not have survived in dentistry with any other philosophy. I would be lying if I said that it was easy to apply…but the fight was worth it. I used to say that when I retired I would take an ad out in the local paper…blaming all those people who drove me out…then I would say I would take an ad out out, thanking those people who made me stay. I am glad I stayed…and glad some people moved on.

    Comment by barrypolansky — April 9, 2012 @ 12:42 PM

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