Note: The following story is for illustrative purposes and isn’t meant to refer to any specific patient. Rather, it’s a combination of multiple patient encounters distilled into a single event to simplify the story and protect patient privacy.
A 9 year old child was brought to the office for dental treatment with general anesthesia. He had previously tried to complete dental work without anesthesia, but the patient’s behavior quickly went south right before the numbing medication was to be administered.
He was with several family members, including his mother, father, and grandmother. On the day of the surgery, the patient was reluctant to enter the treatment area or even leave the waiting room. A considerable amount of time was spent attempting to explain to the child what to expect from the day’s appointment.
We finally convinced him to come to the treatment area to sit on the chair and watch a movie. The hitch was that the child would only agree to come if all of the accompanying family members could come, too.
Against my better judgment, we agreed and permitted the whole family to come in with him. When we got to the treatment area, the patient began to decompensate; tears flowed, bargaining followed, distraction was attempted, but all of it was to no avail. The family tried to help, but it was counterproductive.
Not being experts, they started pointing at the dental instruments and saying things like…
- Those shots aren’t for you
- Stop whining
- This isn’t going to hurt
- They’re not going to do anything to you — I won’t let them
This situation continued for another few minutes until the child became so worked up that he ran out of the treatment area, through the waiting room, and right outside toward his family’s car in the parking lot. We ran out after him, only to keep him from getting hurt in the parking lot.
After discussing options with the family, which included restraint to induce anesthesia and facilitate dental treatment, we ultimately decided to cancel the treatment. The family rescheduled twice, but canceled the day of both times because they were unable to get the child out of the house.