Keeping calm

Following on from my last article, my second story about being defensive features a long-term dental phobic.

The first time we met she was jumpy and restless, but I calmly explained the chronic periodontal problems she presented with, showed her in the mirror what she had to do, and very gently started to scale. We managed well and she was quite happy when she left.

When she returned for her next appointment, I was treating the preceding patient when a message was sent via the receptionist saying this lady was in a hurry due to another appointment.

At one time I would have been exasperated and irritated. Patients know their appointments last half an hour so this puts extra pressure on us; however I was running to schedule and thought I’d simply do as much as I could in the time.

When I was able to read her notes, I remembered her and immediately recognised these tactics as an escape route. If things were getting a bit hot, she could look at her watch and bottle out – it also meant she was more in control. She had probably forgotten how well the last session had gone and in reality she had no reason to panic.

Armed with this knowledge, I fetched her and said: ’I understand you have another appointment in half an hour, so we’ll just do what we can today.’

I was able to be calm, and offered to anaesthetise the sensitive areas if necessary but she said it would take too much time. When I looked in her mouth I was stunned with the improvement.

She had listened and put into practice my advice with amazing results. I was able to do further deep scaling without any problems, and she completely forgot the fictitious prior engagement.

I ended up having to chivvy her out of the chair when the appointment was finished.

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