The Most Important Technique: A Good Hugâ€‹
It wasn’t so long ago that a new mom, weeks-old baby in tow, visited Dr. Jean Garripoli Wahl of Wilmington for a tooth extraction. “She was a perfectly nice, gentle, lovely person,” Wahl says. “But when she got into the chair, she became someone else. She screamed and pulled at me. And I get it. I’m just like you. It’s a scary place.”
So part of Wahl’s professional mission is to put patients at ease. As the readers’ choice for gentlest dentist—and as that new mom’s—it seems she has succeeded.
“In the end, she couldn’t believe how easy it was,” Wahl says. “She came for her post-op the other day. We just looked at each other and hugged, then she just started giggling. I told her, ‘I’m just so proud of you.’”
Dental treatment is a two-way street. When a patient needs work, the dentist needs cooperation. Wahl does her best to educate the fearful about technology that makes care easier. She educates them about the procedure. And she educates them, by example, about the healing power of hugs.
“I explained to this woman, ‘You can’t stay up another night in pain,’” Wahl says. So she held the patient’s hand until she was calm enough to get back into the chair.
Attribute her chair side manner in part to her training and experience and in part to being one of nine children. “Even when we were young, we were all trying to take care of the little ones,” she says. Attribute it also to the lessons learned from motherhood. “I think having kids teaches you patience,” she says, “and when you need a little tough love to get through something.”
And finally, there is Wahl’s genuine compassion. “I listen,” she says. “I can put myself in the patient’s place so easily. We’re just two people trying to get through the moment.”
And once they have, they quite often hug.