Empathy as a Pediatric Dentist

It’s Sunday night, and it’s bath time.  The weekend was fun.  There were birthday parties attended, movies watched, and games played.  You think to yourself as a parent – time for the four B’s… bath, brush, book, bed.  Excitement runs over you.  Completing the four B’s means time to yourself.

Imagine this scenario.  Your toddler is crawling up the stairs.  She has mastered the art of navigating the stairs on all fours.  Then it happens, Bam!  She loses her grasp and takes a fall tumbling down four to five steps face first.  In a panic, you rush to her aid.  She is in a froth.  Is she hurt?  Everything seems to be alright.  And there it is, staring your right in the eye, the tooth has moved!

Immediately, you take your daughter to the bathroom to assess the injury.  Teeth are still in perfect alignment.  She can open and close.  Wait a minute, the right front tooth is slightly loose now.  How loose is it?  Worry sets in.  This has happened to me many times as a parent!  In fact, as my worry would increase, all my emergency dental knowledge would go right out the door…  why did this happen?  The answer was clear, because it was my child!

This scenario actually happened as a Pediatric Dental Resident and splashed water in my face.  The concept of empathy can be powerful.  I think back to all the emergencies I have seen as a younger resident.  Many times I gave my dental opinion.  I have to ask myself, did I truly understand what the frantic parent must have been feeling?  Could I place myself in their shoes?  This scenario has added to my experience of learning how to treat children.  A take away message for me is that not only are you treating the child but we as pediatric providers also need to be there for the parents as well.  It’s easy to find resources on dental trauma, there is no book that teaches someone how to be empathetic.  Empathy can be an innate quality, but also can be an attribute that can be developed over time.  As a clinical faculty member at a dental school, we discuss this with fourth year dental students getting ready to graduate.

At Peak Pediatric Dentistry of Carlsbad, we draw upon years of experience to deliver the best and most empathetic care possible.  Appointments are available, call to schedule your child today!