Friday, November 5, 2010

The big D - and I don't mean Dallas

Hey all,

My daughter Madison turned 10 last week. Double digits. If she is 10, that means I am 41...s!#t! (I could swear I just started this profession.)

She had a great little party. I tell you this because my assistant and one of my front desk staff started a specialty cakes business. I don't think they have been paid real money for anything yet but they are doing lots of cakes for friends and such. They have purchased everything they need to make any type of cake. They made the cake for my daughter's party. It was pretty special.

SmileyBandz are in, and I have to say, they are pretty cool. I had an orthodontist come in and he bought 100 packs (for $1.19 each. We are selling them to our patients at $2 per pack). Now hopefully he will tell two friends, and they will tell two friends and so on and so on. And then you will find me on a beach in Malibu somewhere. Yeah, like that's going to happen...

I am reading a book called The Charm School, and I really like it. This is the second book I have read on my electronic reader, and I have to tell you, it is tough. I am still getting used to not having a book in my hands. I think it is ruining my reading experience.

One last thing before we get started: it is supposed to be in the 40s this weekend. Two days ago, it was 89 degrees here and today I am busting out the fire pit and the marshmallows. It is going to be nice. Good times.

Today I want to talk about divorce. (No, honey, if you are reading this, this is not about our marriage.) I want to talk about having a seemingly-wonderful family in your practice. You like the whole family, parents and kids, and they really like you.

But then things start to happen in their house. You only see them twice a year, but you start to notice things are different between the two of them. They used to come in together (sometimes the whole family came together). But now they come in individually. You can tell something is wrong when you ask them, "How's it going?"
The next time they come in they drop the bomb on you. "We are getting a divorce."

You hate it for them. You know they are both good people and it is tearing them both up. It affects everyone. The little kids appear to be okay, but the parents seem to go in stages. They are upset but quiet. The next time you see them they are a bit more outspoken about their spouse.

My assistant has to know. Most of the time she will break down and ask the wife (who will usually sing like a bird). I spend a lot of time talking to my patients, and my assistant is right there with me. So she will be invested as much as I am.
She is very personable and genuinely likes them. (I have to admit that when she is on vacation, some patients are visibly disappointed that she isn't here.)

My assistant and I will go back and forth. "You ask him."

"NO WAY! You ask her."

So when they are checking out or when the hygienist leaves the room, she will ask them. We once had a young couple that got a divorce but they continued to live in the same house. So she told us they had gotten a divorce and that they were living together, but didn't say anymore about it. We wanted to know what really was going on; it was like a soap opera. About three years later, my assistant just couldn't take it anymore and asked her. Crazy story, but she ended up marrying his best friend.

After all the dust clears, how does it affect our relationship with this particular family? We try not to schedule them on the same day. We have had a couple of bad scenes when the two come in at the same time. (I mean, they used to come in on the same day and when they left 6 months earlier, putting them on the same day did not seem like a problem.)

We had one man call and say that he wasn't going to be able to make it to his cleaning because when he pulled in he saw his wife's car in the parking lot and he didn't want any part of that. We had one woman waiting in the parking lot for her ex to finish. I think we had to call the cops that time.

The kids are a totally different story. Now I said earlier that the little ones seemed unfazed. If they are a teenager, you can tell something is wrong. Teenagers are kind of a weird bunch anyway, but they almost seem more reclusive. It is tough for me to watch.

Usually when the family unit is in place, one of the parents is in charge of the teeth. After the divorce, when the other parent has some teeth responsibility, it can be difficult. One parent brings them and they have 7 new cavities and they then blame the other parent because he/she doesn't make them brush their teeth, or care about what they eat or drink. Then we, as dentists, are kind of put in the middle. That isn't that big of a deal, it just something we have to handle.

Divorce must be so hard. I watched my parents go through it, and it was rough on both of them. When it happens to your patients, you go through it with them. It can be easier sometimes, but most of the time it is tough, as a professional, to handle all the emotions of your patients.

Just something to think about. Have a great weekend. If you need me, I will be hanging around the fire pit with a cigar and a glass of red wine (and a marshmallow on a stick).


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