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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When Speaking up for Yourself is Not Worth It

Monday I was sitting in the dentist's chair to have a crown done on one of my very back teeth. This is not my idea of a favorite way to spend a morning, but nevertheless, here I am.

The dentist has a new assistant. She introduces herself to me and then proceeds to help the dentist work on my tooth. In the process she has to move behind the dental chair in which I sit over and over. Every time she moves behind me, she brushes into my head and I can feel my hair being pushed into a new and unkempt position.

She never says "I'm so sorry," no "Oh, did I bump into you. Sorry," no "I'm sure it doesn't feel good for me to keep bumping you. The space is narrow, but I'll try not to hit you the next time I go between the chair and the XXX."

Part of the process even included making a mold of my back tooth using bright blue molding material. After long amounts of numbing, drilling and making a mold of my tooth, the passing back and forth behind my chair was done, but the assistant and I were not finished.

Her next job was to put the temporary crown in place. To do this she used a long instrument to poke around on the tooth. The instrument had a poking part on either end so as she was poking into my back tooth, the other end was jabbing my nostril. I couldn't say anything (cotton all packed in my mouth, numb tongue) so I wiggled around and got my own nose out of the way. She said not a word.

You may be thinking, surely this is the end of the story, but, no. As she is finishing up, she suddenly notices my lip and says as she rubs vigorously on it with a Kleenex, "Oh, there's some molding material on your lip." The molding material was very blue and had been sitting brightly on my lip at least 30 minutes before it caught her eye.

One of my jobs is to teach in the Department of Rehabilitative Medicine at Emory University. I teach the doctoral students in physical therapy how to develop a caring relationship with the patient. I teach them to approach the patient as a person, not the Knee in Room 203.

I don't think this assistant had a course like mine in her training.

I may have to work with her again in three weeks and don't want even worse treatment from her! I'm sure I'll feel like the Crown in Room 2, working with her, whether I speak to the dentist or not. I decided it wasn't worth it on Monday because most of the time my mouth was not functional for speaking, but if she is the assistant when I go back in three weeks, I plan to say something.

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