Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Strange Days

There are days in a dental practice that can feel somewhat routine. This is true of any profession. Luckily, every once in awhile, something happens that is so unusual that you remember it for the rest of your life. Routine days quickly turn into memorable, strange days. Here are some examples from my career:

Have you ever had the police show up to arrest the patient you are working on? I have.

I was placing some fillings on my patient when, suddenly, the receptionist came in and said, “Doctor, the police are here and they need to talk to you right away.”

Since this was new to me, I asked the officers what the procedure would be. They informed me that they did not have the authority to interrupt medical or dental procedures in progress. “Take your time, Doc,” the officers said. “If you need an hour, we’ll wait. If you need two hours, then that’s how long we’ll wait.” The officers said I was to release the patient to them upon completing my treatment.

When I went back to the operatory, the patient knew what was going on since he had overheard the conversation. All he said was, “No problem, Doc.” Once we were done, the patient went to speak with the officers. They escorted him outside my office and arrested him there. I appreciated the fact that the rest of my patients didn’t have to witness the whole arrest procedure.

Have you ever been preparing a tooth for a crown when an earthquake hits? I have.

I was in the middle of a routine crown preparation appointment when we started hearing some rumbling. If you live in California, you recognize that sound. Then, about one or two seconds later, the ground started to shake. The dental chair and operatory light started shaking side to side. Even after having experienced earthquakes my whole life, it still takes a few seconds to realize what is happening. Unlike other natural disasters, such as hurricanes, you get no warning.

All you can do is make sure nothing falls on the patient. You and your assistant reflexively push instrument trays out of the way. The first priority is to make sure nothing falls on anyone. Then you wait out the earthquake. Most of the time that takes several seconds.

Afterward, you check to see if you still have water and electricity. In our case, we did, and my assistant quickly fabricated a temporary crown since, understandably, the patient wanted to go home to make sure all was fine. We also wanted to contact our families to make sure they were fine. Needless to say, that was a memorable afternoon.

Has your office ever called a patient’s parent to collect payment, only to hear, “Wow. That’s more than I charge for a crown in my office!” We have.

I have been seeing my patient since I bought my practice. He was about 5years old at the time. He is 17 now. Over the years, I have done A LOT of dentistry work on him. I’ve seen him grow up. Let’s just say he’s been “dentally challenged.” A year ago, we had to perform a root canal and crown. His mom also has been a patient of mine. When it was time for payment, she requested that we call her husband and that he would take care of it over the phone. That’s when my office manager learned that the patient’s dad is a currently practicing dentist. He was kind enough to inform us that he charges less for a crown than we do. That, of course, brought up a whole host of questions in our minds. He did pay for his son’s crown, though. In his defense, I must admit that my patient medical history form contains no line asking whether one of your parents happens to be a dentist.

Have you had any memorable, strange days? If so, let me hear about them.

Andy Alas, DDS

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I can only imagine how it must have been 'preparing a tooth for a crown when an earthquake hits' and how it is that you would react to something like that. Plus, you even make sure to move things out of the way and make sure that nothing falls on the patient. It is a good that your 'first priority is to make sure nothing falls on anyone' and then to wait out the rest of the earthquake. That way you can make sure that everyone stays safe.


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