How One Patient Shaped the Future of Sedation Dentistry

By sharing patient stories we encourage and uplift each other – reinforcing why we do what we do. Let this serve as a reminder that sedation dentistry has a profound impact on our patients, and even on the most difficult days, it’s always worthwhile.

By Coni Fadigan, RDH, BA

Everyone who chooses a career in healthcare ultimately does so out of a desire to help people. For me, I wanted to have a positive effect on the lives of others. Over the years, I’ve learned that working in sedation dentistry plucks at your heartstrings in the most unexpected and truly wonderful ways.

“Elinor” has just that story to share. *

Elinor’s first communication with our practice was over the phone. She only called to ask for an information packet, not to schedule an appointment. Over the next nine months, she continued to call the office, asking questions and if she’d be accepted if she waited just a little bit longer to schedule her appointment. “Of course!” I told her. I knew she was experiencing anxiety, and with every call, she became more and more comfortable with us.

And then the day came; she scheduled her dental visit.

On the day of her appointment, Elinor’s husband brought her in for an early morning exam. It was no surprise that they were both delightful. I could see that Elinor was shaking, but she was telling jokes to calm herself saying, "Yea though I walk through the valley!"

We had booked two hours to collect what data we needed to diagnose and create her personalized treatment plan. We knew full well we might not get impressions, x-rays, or probing. And we didn't. What we saw was a fistula leaking from her chin. Was this the straw that broke the camel's back? “No, it had been like that for quite some time,” Elinor said. She didn't realize that it was related to her mouth.

The teeth inside her mouth were just what you would expect after years of neglect, and most could not be saved.

We presented Elinor and her husband with a treatment plan for extractions, perio, and an upper and lower overdenture. The price was substantial, but she had worked up the nerve to come in and was committed to getting the treatment done. Elinor was determined to show her smile again.

Through all of her visits, Elinor was an absolute delight. Our entire staff looked forward to seeing her. At last, the day came when the final dentures would be placed. Usually, we love the complete cosmetic restorative of a crown and bridge, but that wasn't an option here. However, the impact was just as wonderful! Elinor took one look at herself with her newly restored smile and collapsed on the floor crying in absolute joy. Elinor then pulled a wedding photo of herself from her pocket to show us ­– that beautiful smile was back.

It was Elinor who was one of the patients that motivated Dr. Michael Silverman to establish DOCS Education, ensuring that more people just like her could get the care they need and deserve. Even after Dr. Silverman moved away, Elinor would call to fill us in on her life.

We still talk about how Elinor thinks we changed her life; when in fact, she had no idea how much she changed our lives. She ultimately impacted the teaching of sedation dentistry and the dental care thousands of others receive to this day.

We encourage you to share your “Favorite Patient” stories and what brought you to sedation dentistry. If you’d like to share your story with the Incisor, please visit our website and submit your information here.

*Pseudonym used to protect patient privacy.

Author: DOCS Education's Chief of Staff, Coni has been a central figure in its founding, growth, and ongoing development. A former dental hygienist, she’s been an essential resource for founder and president Dr. Michael D. Silverman, as well as the more than 24,000 dentists and dental professionals who have embraced sedation dentistry on behalf of their patients over the past 20 years.

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