July-August 2014
Volume 93 - Number 4

Find Your Way by the Star of the North

Development of a National TMJ Implant Registry and Repository - NICDR's TIRR

The Thought That Counts

Golden: Recognizing the MDA's 25-Year Members and Retirees


Editorial: Words Mean Things

William E. Stein, D.D.S.*

It was a few months ago and Terry and I had just returned from the “Star of the North” meeting. This convention gets better and better every year. MDA president Dick Wiberg kindly invited me to attend the Board of Trustees’ meeting, held at an hour quite premature to my accustomed rising. Much to the Board’s surprise, there I was in all my bleary-eyed splendor. It never ceases to amaze me how hard this dedicated group of men and women unselfishly strives to keep the Minnesota Dental Association at the forefront of organized dentistry. I was impressed with the details that must be attended to by the Board, how important are the minutest semantic nuances to the smooth and legal workings of our association. Once again the old saw was driven home to me: “Words mean things.”

I made my escape as the board members repaired to the convention center to serve breakfast to our esteemed exhibitors. I returned to our room to rendezvous with my beloved and set out for the convention floor. As Terry and I closed the door to our room, we were met in the hall by our housekeeper, a cheerful lady from Eastern Europe. She was eager to tidy up our room, and after we exchanged pleasantries, she asked, “Is there no somebody in there?”

I was in a quandary if the correct answer was yes or no. Then it dawned on me: “There is no somebody in there; there is just some nobody in there.”

How important the simple art of communication is to our profession. Thirty-some years ago, at the behest of my mentor, Norm Holte, I took a class in clinical hypnosis, sponsored by the School of Dentistry. I learned two very important things: First, we know so little about the capabilities and potentials of our God-given bodies, and second, how we communicate with one another is of the utmost importance.

Using hypnosis, I was able to extract teeth without anesthesia, even doing surgical extractions requiring the sectioning of teeth and cutting bone. The patient under hypnosis could even control his or her bleeding at the suggestion of the operator.

Do I still do it? Not for many years. It was too damn hard. Not on the patient, but on me. My words and how I spoke them made all the difference between success and failure.

All this made me think of how important communication is between us and our patients. We all encounter dental phobics, but think about it: We all have our phobias. Through my life experiences in Haiti, snakes, spiders (BIG SPIDERS!), rats, and roaches don’t bother me, but ask me to climb a ladder and I’ll snivel in fearlike Al Gore facing a melting glacier.

So pay close attention to your words. Imagine the case, after spending many years making your dental phobic patient comfortable with you: “I’m just going to place some topical anesthetic to make your gums numb. Then we will gently numb your tooth. If you have any discomfort at all, just raise your hand and we’ll stop… Oh heck, you know the drill!”


* Dr. Stein is Executive Editor of Northwest Dentistry. He is a general dentist in private practice in Aitkin, Minnesota, AitkinDent@aol.com

Copyright 2007. Minnesota Dental Association

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