I remember the morning quite well. It was the middle of winter, it was raining, and the lobby of the Children’s Dental Health Clinic was full of children and parents. The appearance and mood of the room was best described as somber- with one shining exception, Erika. “Hi Dr. Blake, do you want to see my teeth?” she said, as I walked by. This one patient was a ray of sunshine that made me, and most of those in the waiting room smile. But like many of our patients, Erika’s easy and confident smile was the result of an extensive “dental journey”.
Our first contact with Erika was two years ago in the hospital emergency room. Erika, then 7 years old had an upper front tooth knocked out in a bicycle misadventure. Our dentist on call was able to re-implant and stabilize her tooth. As she returned to the CDHC for a follow-up visit we realized that she had never been to the dentist! She was terrified to walk through our doors and ashamed of her multiple cavity-ridden teeth. Erika literally put her hand over her mouth when she spoke so that no one would see her teeth. Our staff quietly and carefully guided her from the front to the back office. Our dental treatment team calmly used a “tell, show, do” approach to communicate what was going to happen at her visit. A few tears rolled down Erika’s cheek but she understood and was brave through the rest of her first “real” dental appointment. Her subsequent visits were each progressively less fear-filled as Erika gained confidence and understanding in our restorative team’s goals and approach. At her fifth and final visit, her hand remained in her lap as she spoke and we saw a glimpse of a beautiful smile!
Our dental treatment team did an excellent job in arresting her many cavities and restoring her teeth. But that was only part of her overall treatment. Over the course of her many visits Erika, her two brothers and her mother spent over two hours reviewing and demonstrating proper oral hygiene and eating habits. At the CDHC, we continue to believe that family education and prevention is the key to sustained oral health.
It took about two years for Erika to grow from a “dental phobic”, insecure patient to a confident, beaming 9 year old. Along the way she learned a lot about her mouth and more specifically her smile and how to keep it bright and healthy. Erika is now among that wonderful group of people that have sincere contagious smiles. Her future is indeed bright.
Many of us are blessed to grow up with well-maintained healthy smiles. Many of the children we treat are not so fortunate. All of us at the Children’s Dental Health Clinic know that each day may be the day we help another “Erika” along in their dental journey.