Sounds are a part of every experience that a patient has a dental practice. Are you doing what you can in your practice to mitigate sound-based stressors?
As a patient, what do you hear? Entering the building, people greet me and make a comment about the beautiful weather. I search for the office I am looking for on the board and Security says, “Can I help you?” I know where I am going, so I just thank him and head to the elevators.
The elevators are on the small side and, with COVID-19 looming, I am not comfortable entering a small box with the 2 others waiting. So, I head for the stairs. When the door slams behind me in the stairwell, the echo reverberates up the empty stairwell. I start to question if I should turn around and jump on the elevator, but I am in it this far. I am late, but I can get to the third floor faster by retracing my steps to the elevator.
The challenge is that I am in heels. The "click click" of me moving up the stairs as quickly and safely as I can creates a hollow sound like someone running down an empty hallway in a hospital after hours, but I am determined. My breathing is labored, and I am winded when I get to the third floor. Again, the door is heavy and loud when it slams after me.
I arrive in the office and there is only 1 other patient, or maybe Uber driver, sitting there. The television is humming along with a nature documentary. What is with these offices wanting peaceful non-threatening programs in their waiting rooms? They take my name and ask me to have a seat. I see the Keurig® coffee machine and watch the other patient make herself coffee. Boy would that taste good right about now. I hear the whirring of the machine and salivate as I watch her nurse her coffee. I tell myself I will grab some on my way out.
I hear, “Lisa” and look around the room. Oh wait, that is me. I really am not a fan of being called my first name unless we are in a conversation. It feels very personal, but that is a bone to pick another day.
I follow the dental assistant into the office and have that awkward moment where she is holding the door open for me. I have no idea which way to go when I walk past her. We do our little dance, and she gets ahead of me and leads me to the room. Thank goodness she did not ask me to get on the scale like other doctor appointments. But who knows…that time may come in dentistry? Ok, I digress.
I hear the crinkle of the paper as the assistant starts to set up the room and instructs me to hang my purse on the hook and climb up on the chair. I hear the drill going in the room next to me. (I hate that sound). There is the hum of low voices as they work on that patient. Unfortunately, I can hear that it is not going as smoothly as they hoped for.
Suddenly, I hear a crash of metal hitting the linoleum floor. Is the patient having a seizure or something? Voices get louder. People come running. I am curious, but figure it is not my place to jump off the chair to gape around the corner. Someone yells “Call 911.” This is all a little too much for me. I just wanted my teeth cleaned.
Now Emergency Medical Services is arriving. You can hear the cart banging against the wall as it is tight in here. Meanwhile, no one has come back in to check to see if the patients like me are ok. Everyone is just standing around frozen in time watching the paramedics.
Things do not sound good. I hear, “Stand back.” The patient’s heart has stopped and needs to be shocked. Then you hear that horrid sound of the defibrillator. I know, it is saving a life, but it is truly a retched sound. Then you hear that the heart is working again. Who would think something like this happens at a dentist office? Well, it did.
I stop my story at this point to ask you: do you ever listen to what is going on in your office? Just sit down in the waiting room or in an empty dental chair and be silent? If you have not, you should try it. We do not realize what patients are hearing. These offices are not soundproof. Most do not even have doors. We need to be aware of the sounds of a dental office. Do what you can to make it a peaceful atmosphere. That is a challenge for all of us!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you hear.