The Recovery Patient and Recovery Dentist Relationship
By Jamie J. Alexander, D.D.S.
Many a recovery patient finds themselves in my chair when they have a painful dental emergency. They arrive in fear, commonly experiencing some embarrassment for the condition of their mouth, and are uncomfortable interacting with strangers. We do everything we can to put them at ease and eliminate their dental pain immediately.
This isn’t the ideal way to start a new relationship, but the relief of pain, compassionate treatment, and interacting with nonjudgmental care providers enables these emergency patients to relax. The real work of building a trusting and supportive relationship can then begin.
The ideal relationship begins with open sharing in a private, quiet setting with total focus on the patient. My part is to begin putting together answers to these questions: What are the patient’s circumstances? Who is this special person? How can I help this person best? What might get in the way of my new patient accepting my assistance? What are my new patient’s oral health goals? What can we achieve today? What can we achieve next if this patient trusts me?
The patient’s part is to reveal information about his or her health and recovery history, oral health concerns and perceived needs, hopes, desires, and fears. This is accompanied by feelings of vulnerability and sometimes shame, depending how far along in the recovery process the patient has traveled.
Because of my personal family history, my knowledge of addiction and recovery through the University of Michigan School of Social Work, my training in medicine and dentistry, and years of experience treating patients who are in need of extensive dentistry, I know this is a tender time during which I can emotionally support the patient and provide honest hope and health guidance. I know this new patient is a brave individual deserving of my respect, love, and total attention. Everyone on my staff has been touched in some way by addiction. All of them care deeply.
When a connection is made between the recovery patient and the recovery dentist, subsequent appointments often are full of positive energy. This positive energy and an engaged collaboration between the patient and doctor grows and grows. In many cases, there are multiple milestones to celebrate as the mouth is restored. The trust of the patient is essential in order for me to use my heart, mind, and hands for the creation of optimal oral health, comfort, function and beauty. The greatest moments have been when a patients say, “Doc, you changed my life.” Each time, I have been able to honestly say, “You changed my life, too.”
If you are in recovery, want a dentist who understands everything you have been through, and long to have a beautiful restored smile and biting function, don’t hesitate to call my Boynton Beach, FL office. This is the place to come, no matter how complex your oral health problems. Hope and support abound here. Call 561-732-8877.