In your dental career you will have to become quite adept at what the patients interprets as “pain”. Deciding when and what to do for a patient will often hinge on the doctor and patient’s interpretation of this critical word. And telling a patient what to expect ahead of time can make all the difference (and perhaps a late night trip) in responding to an emergency pain situation.

And although each patient has a unique pain threshold, most people make a definite distinction between sensitivity (something intermittent and bothersome), soreness (something uncomfortable but tolerable for a time) and pain (something requiring more immediate attention).

Mrs. Smith, I know this procedure was difficult for you today and we have the weekend coming up and I just wanted to go over what would be normal for you and what would not. I expect your jaw will be really sore for a day or two and that tooth may be very sensitive at first, but you should not be “in pain”. I want you to take your prescription medication and while you still may feel soreness, the medication will be in your system and helping a lot. However, if you are in pain that you cannot stand, then you call our emergency number.

Then you call the patient yourself that same night and ask if they are “handling it ok?” You will be surprised how many will say “Well Doc, like you said, it’s really sore but I guess I’m getting along OK and I really appreciate you’re calling to check up on me”

By these simple explanations and call, you will have raised the patient’s personal pain tolerance immeasurably, avoided many after hours emergencies, and demonstrated your special kindness and consideration that the patient will not forget nor hesitate to tell others.

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