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August, 2010, Page 126
Photo by Michael Woodall
4444 N. 32 St., Ste. 208, Phoenix
What do you do when patients are scared of dentists?
The very first thing is to listen to them and understand why, because some people have really good reasons for their anxiety. I had a patient who, at one time, the closest I could get to him was down the hall and around the corner. He could look at me from around the corner if I was standing at my front door. And we would just have a conversation. We began to discover what his concerns were and address them. Now he’s a wonderful patient. Every time he comes in he brings us treats.
Besides brushing and flossing, what should people do to keep their teeth healthy?
When they unraveled the human genome, they discovered that there is a gene for gum disease. If people know they have the disease, they can do something about it from an early age, not waiting until it’s full-blown, and a lot of preventative things can be done. So screening and diagnosis are a huge deal. Also, they’ve recently discovered that the bacteria that every one of us has in our mouths, when it gets out of control, can be a trigger for everything from blood clots to heart infections. The mouth is more than a place to eat; it has to do with overall health in a big way. That’s a big part of what we do with our patients. We’re looking at overall health.… Cancer screening is a huge thing we do with every patient.
What was your first dental experience as a patient?
I grew up very poor. I’m the oldest of 10 children. My first dental visit I was 10 or 11, and I had decays so bad on my lower molars that they extracted two permanent teeth. I had abscesses so bad I used to pound my head on the pillow to go to sleep at night – for a year or two. I didn’t want to tell anybody because I didn’t know what it would mean. So my first dental visit was, in a way, traumatic. But I can remember going home that night and lying in bed and thinking, ‘I don’t have pain.’
Your sons are also dentists at harris dental. What’s the best part about being part of a family practice?
The surprising part was what they’ve taught me, because… they see things in a different way than I do. They relate to patients in a different way. I learn from them every day and I listen to them, and I know they listen to me. You don’t get that practicing by yourself. Practicing by yourself you become very confident in yourself, but you don’t often get the outward perspective.
— Interviewed by Keridwen Cornelius
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