Do You See Me?
April 25, 2019
Do You See Me?
by Krystal Mattox, DDS
Regardless of your practice setting, you encounter them also. Those uncertain of themselves yet confident in the need that has violated their entire body. That need for more, the need to fabricate pain just to get more. When I am sitting face-to-face with this patient, trying to understand the source of pain that landed them on my schedule as a limited exam, it’s hard not to notice the darting eyes or omission in their medical history—hoping to keep part of themselves hidden, not to be found out as they long to get what their body is violently craving. Although you encounter these patients, do you see them?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose is the number one cause of accidental death. To date, more individuals have died in the last two years of opioid addiction than Americans killed in the 20-year Vietnam War. Okay, but how does this affect me as a dentist? For those who treat adolescents for their wisdom teeth extractions, dentists are usually the first individuals that give these children opioids. In addition, sometimes it’s easier to justify ourselves and give the drug-seeking patient what they want, so we can move on to our already busy schedule and stop the theatricals.
However, for the adolescent patient, if we as dental professionals think it is prudent to prescribe opiates given the difficulty of the extraction, then we need to have a long conversation with the parents describing the risks of addiction. For an adult patient that is taking precious chair time with what may appear to be fabricated symptoms, our first thought should be to see the patient. Not pre-judge but to see them through the lens of Christ, whether they look homeless or well dressed. Unless we care enough to ask, we don’t know what led to this patient’s addiction and, to be frank, as with any of us “…you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14, NKJV).
Therefore, instead of simply prescribing because they said all the right things and it can be documented well to save you from a lawsuit, let’s step back, take a moment and be proactive. What are some other resources in your area that you feel comfortable recommending a patient visit to seek help for smoking cessation or drug addiction? Sure, all our patients that end up in the dental chair may not want to reason with us.
Nevertheless, it’s our responsibility to believe in their ability to recover and to treat them with respect, speaking the truth of God’s Word over them and simply seeing them. Underlying issues for addiction can only be seen with patience, true care and compassion outside of professional routines.
For Hagar, despite being mistreated by Sarai, feeling like no one cared about her, she fled. After an encounter with the Angel of the Lord, she emphatically stated, “…‘You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’” (Genesis 16:13, NKJV). May all our patients, regardless of their physical, emotional or spiritual struggle, through us also encounter El Roi (the God who sees me).
- Today’s Christian Doctor Spring 2018
- Christian’s Doctor’s Digest November 2017
- Journal of the American Medical Association
- National Safety Council
- Graph on Overdose Death Rates