Having spent the previous week recapping and revising all that I had learnt so far studying Dentistry the day came to treat my first patient. A hurdle that every Dentist has to get through, preparing for the encounter had not left me any less nervous.
Better early than never
I arrived to clinic an hour early having made sure that I had everything I needed for the day. The morning started with my clinical partner and I setting up the dental bay for the day ahead and making sure we had the relevant equipment that we would need. The nurses then brought around our patient notes for the day. Reading through the patient notes involved a lot of frantically looking up drug names in the British National Formulary, looking over what previous treatment they’d had done at the Dental Hospital and looking into what treatment they would need during their visit.
Machine is man’s best friend
Strangely one of the greatest difficulties of the day was getting used to writing patient notes and the online patient record system. We had a quick tutorial in the morning prior to our patient arriving to recap the noting system and thankfully I had a very computer savvy clinical partner would wrote up the notes for me.
Going to collect my patient from the waiting room I was very anxious, however after introducing myself to them and some small talk I felt more at ease. I started the appointment by carrying out an extra and intraoral examination to check for oral cancer and other abnormalities such as in the temporomandibular joint. Following this I carried out a basic periodontal examination which involves using a probe to measure the gum pockets to determine the level of gum disease present.
One of the reassuring aspects of treating my first patient was that my clinical partner was able to support me and make sure that I didn’t miss any key steps. Our clinical tutor then came over to check my assessment and explain the findings to our patient. We were lucky to have a really lovely patient who was understanding that being treated by students could be very time consuming.
Be kind to dentists, they have fillings too
I finished the appointment by doing plaque disclosing and discussing oral hygiene advice with the patient. Unfortunately, dental treatments are unlikely to be successful in the long term if a patient has poor oral hygiene so this is a key step. I then started scaling the teeth to remove the calculus. I was surprised how quickly the time went as I soon ran out of time and booked my patient in for another appointment.
Overall, although I was nervous my first patient encounter was definitely an enjoyable one. It was such a great opportunity to apply what I had learnt in lectures and practiced previously on my course mates. I’m looking forward to seeing more patients in the future and developing my practical skills. My advice to those seeing their first patient would be to not underestimate the importance of documenting the consultation properly and to relax as your clinical partner, nurses and tutor will be there to help you.