I remember the initial days at the restorative dentistry clinic. We had to arrive a few minutes early and set up ourselves. We had to wipe our patient chair with alcohol and set up our pre-sterilized cloth instrument pouches and ‘make our own cotton rolls’. Yes, we had fluffy cotton and we made rolls just enough for that days procedure just before the patients started coming in. I had to be sure my suction was working and my handpiece was in good shape. I was a self sufficient and relied on myself for getting it all done.
Years passed and I got into school again. NYU had a crazy schedule. Students needed to be super efficient and super self reliable to get through the program. Amazingly the school got all three fifty of them in a class to develop those skills. It was a better version where I got self stick tapes on chairs instead of alcohol to wipe them clean and abundant supply of premade cotton rolls to go! I got my instruments in disposable presterilized paper pouches instead of reusable cloth pouches. I still had to make sure that I had my instruments all set up and my chair working to get the job done on time. I had to manage my own schedule and my own patient input.
Being in control for such a long time, it became a new challenging experience when a dental assistant stepped into my life. ‘Doctor, I can bring your instruments and set up your chair.’ ‘I can hold the suction for you’’ I can mix the amalgam for you’. I was finding it so hard to see that someone else being there would get the process running smoother and faster. I had only heard of them, but when I started working, I actually saw them in action- helping me!
The first few days, four handed dentistry was a totally different experience. I was so used to starting off on my own with the suction in the patient’s mouth by the side. I now had an assistant holding off the water to speeden up the process. I was used to reaching out for the condenser and the carver while working on amalgam depending on the situation. It took me a while to unlearn and learn the sequence to coordinate the process with an assistant helping me out.
Working in a new set up and having someone to do the work for me made me learn a lot more than I thought. I had choose my words when I spoke so that I got the right result. I worked in a fast pace environment. I needed to find the right words everytime to get what I wanted from the assistant. Even though I spoke English for many years, I could not find the right ones when I needed them the most! It took me sometime to get the right tone and the assertiveness to get the point across. Having to work with many assistants at the same time, I had to find the right pace with each one to get the patient treated on time and in the right way. Not everybody had the same training and understanding about assisting. So I had to train the new ones and learn from the old and experienced.
I thought I had learnt so much in dental school. But work taught me more each new day. The experienced dental assistants I worked with brought with them so much more that I could not have learned in dental school. New ways to deal with patients, talk to them, ways to make them cooperate, get the right things on the table to get the work done on time. I have always admired their patience and understanding that each doctor is not the same and help many different doctors in new ways they can.
Four handed dentistry I learned is not just four hands to get the work done. Its two minds and four hands at work. I had to make sure that both the minds vibed and hand worked with that vibe to get the treatment done successfully. Wrong vibes have been there in the past and I have learned from those experiences and tried to better myself. Communication and body language played a big role. I know I will see many more assistants to work with in my career and hope that every new day is a positive learning experience for both me and the assistant.
Dr Meenakshi Umapathy is a General Dentist who graduated from India. She moved to the USA and completed her DDS from New York University College of Dentistry. She is currently practicing General Dentistry for Kids in Indiana. She shares her stories about dentistry in India and the US through her narratives at the DentistryUnited every Saturday
Disclaimer : The views expressed in this blog are solely the views of the author and need not reflect the views of DentistryUnited.com . For any clarification you can get in touch with the author directly at the address mentioned above.