Easing their Fears
Elizabeth Bortell, DDS, director of pediatric dentistry, knows what it’s like to be nervous about going to the dentist.
“Because I was a child who was apprehensive about going to the dentist,” said Dr. Bortell, “I understand where children are coming from.”
As a parent, Dr. Bortell said she also understands the adult perspective and works to ease the concerns of her young patients and their families from the first time they visit the hospital’s Dental Program.
“I let them know we’re all on the same team,” said Dr. Bortell. “From the moment they arrive, we make them feel welcome. I like to focus on the child but I also involve the parent in the exam so they understand what’s going on.”
For Levonne, Dr. Bortell’s comforting manner is the reason she drives an hour from her Stafford, Va. home twice a year for her son’s dental check ups. When Levonne’s son, Robert, was 18 months old, she noticed black spots on his front teeth. Unable to find a local provider willing to see such a young patient, Levonne made the trip to Richmond and Children’s Hospital of Richmond. Nearly seven years later, she’s still making the drive.
An Unwilling Patient
Despite Robert’s uneasiness during his early dental exams, Levonne said “he absolutely loved Dr. Bortell and the dental clinic from the first visit.” He’s entertained by the games in the waiting room and televisions in the exam rooms and loves that he gets to choose a toothbrush, stickers and toys after his visit.
During Robert’s first visit, Dr. Bortell determined that his four front teeth had early childhood decay and would have to be removed. Because of his young age, Dr. Bortell recommended the procedure be done in the operating room.
“Before the procedure,” Levonne recalled, “Dr. Bortell talked to Robert and me. She was very comforting. I felt very good about letting her work on Robert.”
After the surgery, Robert, who also received some fillings and crowns on his back teeth, returned to the hospital every six months for regular check ups. Over time, the child who initially cried inconsolably and wouldn’t sit in the dental chair, became so relaxed that he was able to receive a filling during one of his regular clinic visits.
“Robert is a model patient,” said Dr. Bortell. “He’s always so happy to be here.”
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