"Hi, this is Mrs. Martin. My daughter has an appointment scheduled for 8:30 this morning and she won't be able to make it. Why? She can't get up that early. Oh, by the way, she is going to be a bad patient. She hates doctors." This was the Monday morning voice message that greeted us recently. Wow. This was strange on so many levels.
First, this new patient's mom called to schedule an appointment for a preschool checkup. The little girl is "2 years 7 months." We offered her several days and times, and the mom decided on the 8:30 a.m. appointment on Monday, as she wanted to get her in as soon as possible. So the mom not only agreed to the time and date, she agreed to the in-person phone confirmation the week before week. Then, on Monday morning at 7:30, she left the above message.
We did something that we usually would not do. Since we had some time available at the end of the day, we offered her a later time in our schedule. Normally, if a patient does not show for their appointment or cancels the day of the appointment, we will book a few weeks out. But, this was a new family with the potential of two new adult patients joining the practice, so we extended the offer.
The little girl came in and, as advertised, did not open her mouth. We did manage a peek at her teeth even though the mom kept saying, "She hates doctors." On a bright note, she didn't cry, and I did manage to get my finger out of her mouth before she decided to close.
With all the great apps, videos, and storybooks around, kids are usually coming into the office with a better outlook for their first dental visit. Up and down on the chair. Wearing the cool glasses. Checking out the equipment. New toothbrush. However, when the parents are not helping us by reinforcing the negative aspects of dental care, sometime we don't even stand a chance.
At her next visit, the girl will be 3-plus years old. We are going to try to work our magic to give her a different experience, one that will eradicate the preconceived notion of dislike. After all, we are fun people. Hopefully, she will be a touch more cooperative.
The mom did schedule an appointment for her own initial preventive visit, at the date and time of her choosing. We only hope she is able to keep that appointment and won't have issues getting up.
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is currently vice president and president-elect of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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