Recently, I received a hand written note from the “Tooth Fairy”. Apparently, she visited the little girl I took 2 teeth out of. During the appointment, my little patient was so nervous, I tried to be funny and only got a chuckle out of her. When it was all over, she asked if I was done because I told her I only needed a minute and the minute was over. Evidently, she counted to 60 in her head. That would explain why she didn’t laugh at my jokes. She wasn’t paying attention! So she came back with a present from the Tooth Fairy. It was a note with a green marble taped to it. On the other side of the note, there was a coupon for a 3 minute hug from the patient. It was so adorable. It made my day as I redeemed my coupon immediately.
Then just a few days ago, a letter came addressed to me. It was a sorry note from a patient who slammed the door on his way out. He wrote, “I’m sorry for slamming the door…It’s not who I am. I hope you could see who I really am…” in one of the hardest to read handwriting I’ve ever seen. It took a couple of minutes to read the few lines. The patient has moderate autism and was trying his best to show his remorse on a piece of paper. It warmed my heart. So when he came in for his appointment, I thanked him for his sweet words. He replied, “My dad made me write that letter. I didn’t want to write a letter but I am sorry for slamming the door. I was mad at myself. I just want to tell you I am sorry in person.” By the end of his appointment, he said,” Thank you for working on me. I want you to be my dentist.” That was even better than the letter.
Today, a patient called to say he was doing fine after he had undergone some cosmetic work yesterday. He couldn’t believe how nice I was after he yelled at my team just the week before. He was even more appreciative of the fact that I listened to his complaints about non-dentally related issues “without bias or judgment.” I explained that sometimes when a patient is antagonistic, it’s normally not because of us or what is being discussed. It’s usually independent of both. We try to give each person a benefit of a doubt. However, he was on his last “benefit” with us. He called me his “angel” as our conversation calmed him down. Admittedly, he was on the verge of “losing it” on a matter that was not dentally related. Just to have someone listen as he was talking was enough to sustain an impact. It made him listen to his own thoughts, which turned out to be not as bad as it seemed. I know… being called an angel could totally go to my head. But the irony of this is that he believes dentists are “sadistic”.
It’s funny how gratitude comes in many forms. Don’t overlook yours. Just being courteous to a contentious person can change a bad attitude on so many different levels. Imagine being nice and not reacting to every distasteful incident. You, too, could be someone’s angel for that one moment. (Did I not say this could go to my head?)