How and When?
As a young dentist, I remember feeling the exhilaration of the possibilities of helping children. Therein lies worth to a young mother and to a young dentist, imprinted with the passion for helping children.
After all, what more is there, than helping to make the best life for my child and for other children?
One day, in the clinic at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, covering pediatric dental residents, I watched one of the residents impassionately counsel a young mother with baby in stroller and two toddlers beside. The resident explained the etiology of dental decay in this mom’s young children.
Because it was a residency program, we could spend the extra time with the parents - even when they had Medicaid coverage that didn’t pay much for that time. But today, this sweet mom and the pediatric resident had reviewed the four etiologic areas:
1. The "bugs" (bacterial plaque);
2. Food for the bugs (contribution of sugar and carbohydrates),
3. The teeth (tooth enamel and how well it resists the former two), and
4. Diluting the acids (saliva, content, volume, and hydration).
They had gone through the solutions to each:
1. Plaque control/oral hygiene practices,
2. Dietary changes to reduce sugar and carbs,
3. Regular recalls so the dentist can help evaluate how the enamel and teeth are doing, and
4. Lots of water intake.
Whew! This mom was “armed”.
She would work on brushing and flossing her children’s teeth, she said.
She was already careful with sugar, juices, soft drinks, etc., and rarely gave those, she said.
She would stay regular with the recalls, she said.
I helped her, as she wheeled the stroller out of the operatory and corralled the two toddlers.
“Hold up!” I exclaimed as I noted red liquid pouring out of the diaper bag in the stroller basket. Something was leaking.
“Uh oh,” said Mom. “It’s the Kool-Aid,” she stammered. “Sorry - I didn’t want you to see that.” (And it was in a baby bottle.)
Reboot. Now what?
Let’s regroup here. Take me - that passionate, loving, caring young mother who wanted to help children. Take you - the same. Life lessons in pediatric dentistry:
- As a young dentist, this is dizzying for you,. You work hard to encourage and educate, so your time and energy have the best chance of helping. (You hope and pray.)
- As a seasoned dentist, this is dizzying for you. You become disenfranchised with the whole thing, tired of working so hard for little and rare “success” in changing children’s hopes for dental health in their future. It becomes way too hard, way too frustrating, without obvious success or benefits, and your own worth as a professional is in question, in your own mind.
- A child can barely be helped if the mom isn’t truly interested, willing and capable. This sweet mom was not. Oh yes, she had brought the children to the clinic. Oh yes, she wanted to please us - by misleading us and telling us what she felt we wanted to hear. She wanted to be well-thought-of, loved. But she just wasn’t capable of facing the truth herself. She could not use what we offered.
- There are many parents who are not interested, or willing or capable - one or more of those limits.
- There ARE parents who are truly interested, willing and capable. These folks truly want your help. They want to work at helping their children, and utilize what you can offer.
- You can work to spend your time with the parents who will team with you to help their children. You can throw your passion in the ring where there are children who need your help, and in turn help your family in your best way. You can use your complex knowledge and understanding of preventive dentistry for the parents who show a reliable commitment to working with you for their children’s sakes.
- You will feel less stress, less hopelessness about dental health and about your practice.
- Then, surely, in your spare time, you can do "missionary work" - volunteering in clinics and programs where there are children who need primarily redundant restorative treatments, though many to most of those parents will not be able to partner with you for true dental health.
As the saying goes, “What is it that the rich cannot buy, and cannot be given to the poor? It is health.” Dental health is only reachable by the interested, willing and capable persons.
Put your passion, your energy, your love to all, and focus on the children whose parents partner with you in prevention. Then you will have given what you can - to those who will willingly take and use it!
We talk about this in ELEMENTS weekend seminars! Ask us about "chickens to concierge practice."
It’s amazing stuff!!