Seeing Beyond the Chief Complaint
January 29, 2019
by Caren Abraham, DDS
Not long ago, a patient walked in to my office and requested tooth whitening. After a brief exam, I found multiple abscessed teeth as well as loose restorative material that posed an aspiration risk. None of these findings seemed to concern him one bit.
Addressing a patient’s chief complaint is something we do every day. But what do we do when a chief complaint is insignificant compared to other coexisting dental conditions? We are trained to address the chief complaint while also taking care of the more pressing dental needs. Something I didn’t notice until recently is that this principle actually mirrors Jesus’ earthly ministry. Now, I know there are no documented miracles of Jesus healing a toothache, though I feel there easily could have been a few when the Bible simply states that He healed every one of them (Matthew 12:15, Luke 4:40).
Whenever people approached Him, they would always ask for physical healing, be it from blindness, paralysis, an issue of blood, etc. Jesus could see that though they thought their physical ailment was their greatest need, their spiritual ailment was far greater. What was His response? He never ridiculed anyone who truly sought Him. Instead, He forgave their sins, acknowledged their faith and healed them (Matthew 9, Mark 2, Luke 5). He always addressed their chief complaint, but He saw beyond that to the true need of their heart.
As followers of Christ, we are called to follow His example in all aspects of life—patience with our children, honesty with our words, compassion with our fellow man. But how incredible that we can even follow His example in addressing a patient’s chief complaint!