Images are from Medical Teams International, please visit their website at http://www.medicalteams.org/
April and June 2013
I enjoy volunteering with Medical Teams International a few times a year, which is about as often as I can. I think I “get” as much as I “give”. So many of the patients are in so much chronic pain!
During a normal volunteer stint I will review the medical history with the patient, find out “where it hurts”, take the radiographs (x-rays), start cleaning the teeth like mad, and sometime prep the patient for the doctor by giving the patient their local anesthesia injections.
Most of the time we treat adults who don’t have the money or the dental insurance for dental treatment in a dental office. Our priority is to get the adults “out of pain” and treat any infection. Generally, children are taken care of through Oregon Health Plan, but some kids do fall through the cracks given their specific circumstances.
I had the pleasure of taking care of one 14 year old. When I placed the lead apron on him prior to the radiographs he asked “why are you putting this on me?” I answered, “to protect you”, he freaked out and asked “to protect me from WHAT?!?” It then dawned on me that he had never been in a dental office EVER. He had no idea what we do, how we do it and what it entailed. I stopped what I was doing to explain EVERYTHING that was around him – from the air/water syringe, the suction, the chair positioning, the light, the x-rays, the mirror, etc… and I saw that he started to calm down. The X-rays were easy now. Then the doctor asked me to anesthetize him for an extraction. While I’m confident in my ability to provide a comfortable injection to my patients, in the back of my mind I thought “great! I get to be the bad guy!” and I was a little nervous that I would be this patient’s first experience. So many patients are traumatized by dental experiences and we work so hard for them to be as comfortable as possible! I explained to my patient exactly what I was going to do, what he would feel and how it would happen. I could tell he was nervous, and I explained that while he would feel a slight pinch, to trust me, he would much rather have a local anesthetic injection than NOT, for his extraction. I followed all the protocol that had been drilled into us in hygiene school, to go SLOWLY, take our time and give an “atraumatic injection”. I told my patient to close his eyes, he followed all my instructions and after it was all over he was “wow, that wasn’t bad at all!”, then he was amazed at how fat his lip started to feel! I had to give him a mirror to convince him that his lip wasn’t changing shape.
After the doctor performed the extraction, I asked him how his total experience was. He shrugged his shoulders and said “not too bad” through the gauze packed between his teeth! That made my day! While I would always want patients to have a GREAT experience, if a 14 year old kid’s very first dental experience is an extraction and if it “wasn’t too bad”, then I guess we have to celebrate that as a success!
One day we won’t need Dental Vans to help get people out of pain, because in my ever optimistic view, we will find a way to avoid all oral diseases and find a way to keep people healthy- mouth included!
Ann Ossinger is a Registered Dental Hygienist who owns DoorStep DentalHygiene, LLC, a mobile dental hygiene service that provides dental hygiene services to people who would otherwise be unable to go to a regular dental clinic in the Linn-Benton Counties of Oregon. 541-990-0814. Please contact Ann if you have any questions!