I love going to the dentist. Really. I love the feeling of freshly scraped teeth. I love the hygienist's validation of my meticulous brushing regimen.  So, naturally, I was feeling pleased with myself not having a cavity after my routine check up last month.  But my dentist was concerned about a cracked tooth, and she recommended that I undergo a procedure to investigate, clean and fill the crack.

On the afternoon of my procedure I was pleasantly greeted by the front desk staff.  “How are you today?”  

"Just thrilled to be here.”  

They politely chuckled.  They must know that their office is one of the least-desired locales to spend a sunny, Fall afternoon, ranking just above scrubbing toilets.

I was comfortably seated in the chair, my handbag was hung up for me, and I donned some thick, dark eye shades that rival my 87-year-old granny’s.  My dentist and her assistant were very professional and kind, and they explained every step of the procedure to me.  The shot of local anesthetic was unpleasant, as I had expected.  I involuntarily jumped a foot out of the chair when the dentist hit my lingual nerve with the needle.  The dental dam was secured over my tongue and around my teeth.  It looked and felt so awkward, I had to take a photo.  I’m too embarrassed to show you, but imagine me as Hannibal Lecter with granny shades.

The doctor began the procedure.  Her voice was very calm and reassuring as she narrated each step.  But my thoughts strayed, and I found myself noticing every detail occurring in the room.  The soft rock hummed through the speaker system.  The mist from the water sprayer swirled above my face and landed on my numb left cheek.  The dentist’s stomach gurgled; it was 2 pm, she must have just finished lunch.  I wondered what she ate.  

I began pondering what my patients must feel when they’re in my exam chair.  Do they stifle a jump when I inject local anesthetic?  Am I reassuring and confident when I discuss their condition and prognosis?  How could I improve their experiences in my office?  

I left the dentist’s office with a sore jaw, a numb tongue and chin, and composite material filling my cracked molar.  It felt good to have finally completed this recommended procedure.  But I felt even better about my renewed awareness of the patient experience.  

It had been a while since I was the patient.  Since my procedure I have felt a refreshed sense of compassion that I consciously extend to each of my patients.  Putting ourselves in others’ shoes is valuable to us as podiatrists, and as humans.  

If you want to have a great patient experience with a foot doctor, contact the Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City at 206-368-7000 or request an appointment online.

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