“How’s Your Memory?”

By John Diamond, M.D.

I once gave a seminar for a dental society and there, as with nearly every other dental society, we found the following: When the dentists thought of dentistry, nearly all of them suffered a lowering of their Life Energy, indicating the stress of their profession and the fact that they are ill at ease with their work. When they were given the names of some of their patients, each was stressed by about ninety percent of the names. They were ill at ease with their profession and with most of their patients − unable to have what they consider to be satisfactory, therapeutic relationships with them.

Further, as I have demonstrated many times, when they looked at any piece of dental equipment, or even a picture of a piece of dental equipment such as a chair, a mirror, or a hand-piece, they were again weakened. The profession is indeed a source of great stress.

Then, when I asked a number of them to give me the names of the patients they had seen on their last full working day, they were most surprised to find that they could not remember the name of anyone they had worked on, again indicating stress. But what concerned me was their response to these findings: “Why should I bother to know his name? I’m just fixing a tooth. I remember their mouths, but I don’t remember their names, and I don’t remember them. But I sure remember the teeth!”

I do not believe that anything is gained by dehumanizing the patient and reducing him to a tooth, or a mouth, or a liver, or an X-ray. A great deal is lost. We lose an understanding of the person with whom we are having an intimate therapeutic relationship. To see him only as a tooth is degrading to the patient and even more so to the dentist.

This is not to imply, however, that dentists are by nature cold, inhuman and mechanical. Based on all my years working with them, I believe it is quite the contrary. They are sincere, dedicated, sensitive people yearning to do the best they can for all concerned. But the stress of dentistry cannot be denied. The physical working conditions are abnormal: the intimacy of the relationship − invasion by the dentist of the patient’s territory, and by the patient of the dentist’s territory − is a very stressful situation for both of them, as is the fear and apprehension with which the patient approaches the dentist.

Perhaps the most subtle stress is the overwhelming and heartbreaking disinterest in their own health that nearly all patients display to their doctors (or dentists). As I have stated previously, when I ask doctors of any profession how many of their patients carry out all their suggestions for improving their health, the usual response is only about five percent. No wonder dentists and doctors become disheartened and dispirited and concentrate on the mechanical! That seems to be all the patient wants.

What is the solution? It is neither easy nor impossible. It involves a complete reassessment of every aspect of the practice, and an attempt to reduce every stress on the part of the dentist, the patient and the staff, from the position in the chair to the angle of the dentist’s head, the type of illumination, the background sounds, the music and so forth. It also involves a change of heart on the part of the dentist, a rekindling of the therapeutic spirit, of the love for his patients that guided him into his chosen profession in the first place.

And it involves the activation of the patient’s will to be well so that the patient becomes an active partner with the doctor. The patient accepts responsibility for himself and enlists the help of the doctor to overcome his problem. This is what we mean by thymus activation − re-kindling the will to be well.

When the patient ceases to be a patient and instead becomes a student − when the low-thymus patient becomes a high-thymus student − the stress of the profession is reduced. And then the doctor will remember the names of his patients and remember them with fondness and respect, as individuals. He will now be proud of his profession, proud of his work, and will greet each day, each patient, with enthusiasm.