Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My profession. My learning.

When I first started learning the "art and science" of dentistry - I did not understand the head and tail of the subject. I knew all the individual pieces of knowledge very well - well enough to recite it backwards, mid-slumber. But, collectively, it did not make sense. I did not comprehend how I could use all that information and actually make a living or more importantly make a difference in a life. 

My education in the US - both in terms of the actual education and all the experience at work - opened my eyes to the collective knowledge of dentistry; to the profession's achievements; to it's ability to truly make a difference in a world where most people pay attention to their teeth only when they are in pain from it or more so when the front tooth mars their aesthetics. Over the years of learning, practicing and dealing with people who were equally unaware of the marvel of this profession, I've come to recognize that what I love best about being a dentist is  how it reflects chapters from the how-to-make-most-from-life guide book.

Day in and day out, in my practice, I watch as I make a difference in a child's life - as much with their teeth as with their growth in social interactions. We build relationships based on trust.We clean castles of germs and fight them with water bombs, shower brushes and tickle brushes and all this -  as equals - warriors that would lay down their life for the one common goal - destroy the castle of germs and put in a "band-aid". I take complete advantage of their clear mind and immense imagination and they take complete advantage of the kid inside me. In the end, we both walk out of the room smiling, patting each other's back for the great effort we put in as a team. I've had a lot of parents tell me, how much going to the dentist had changed from being nauseous in the car & racing heart- to smiles, fun and earning the Dr's hug and sticker. Yes, it took me a lot of effort to learn the technicalities of what I was doing, but, the true difference was learning ways to go past people's fears , my own fears and get a chance to use those skills.
In a world where trust is such a precious commodity and so fragile, here I am, finding it so easily in complete strangers and giving it so easily to strangers. Wouldn't it be a lot easier in this world if everybody trusts and keeps trust?

There is always the other set of people, who have been betrayed so much in a prior experience that they are unwilling to let you reach out to them. You pledge in blood to them that nothing will go wrong and they would not care to believe you. What do you do then? Do you also give up on them? With time, I've noticed myself, nurse them like a mother that caresses a scared child and soothes their racing heart only to find herself give the "talk". The one in which she reassuringly nudges the child to get back into that dark room he was scared to go and tell him how the fear would go away if he just turned the light on. If the monsters did come, she would be right there to fight along. When they listen and miraculously give the profession a second chance, I know it's a make it or break it situation. Sometimes I make it - I see them cry, in seeming relief. Other times, I don't. It makes me still thank them for giving themselves a second chance. I make them aware of how much more positively they had reacted to this episode and how far they had come from the past. I try to tell them that, if they gave themselves more and more chances, there would be a time, when everything they felt would be so insignificant, that it would not matter any more. 

The first time I heard myself saying this, I wondered where the thought came from. I realised - life always teaches everyone this. We just don't care to learn. When these patients give the profession a second chance despite their past experience, I know, I should do the same through all those times when I feel betrayed by life. With more and more chances, betrayal or not, the feeling would get insignificant and would not matter anymore. I could then start looking at the betrayals positively, take it in my stride and work at making it a part of an impending change.

Yes, Dentistry is my profession. It is my job. But it's biggest contribution to my career has been how it mirrors life's simple lessons in the way it lets me impact people.