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The instructors in dental school would often say that the greatest reward in practicing dentistry was the relationships that you would develop with your patients. At that time, we heard it so often that it seemed like a cliché, and it seemed like there would be so many other challenges and rewards that patient appreciation would be on the list but possibly not at the top of it.

Over the years, I realized that they were right and that there would be no comparison to the friendships and relationships that you developed with your patients. This relationship was not equal with all patients, but there was something special and unique about each of them. After all, they chose you to be their dentist, and there was enough mutual trust and respect to keep that relationship going. And for that, I felt honored to provide their care.

Today I had the epiphany that there is an element missing from this story, and that is the feelings we have when we lose a patient. It is remarkable to reflect on the growth of our relationships, seeing it grow from patient to friend, and becoming a part of our family circle. We witness milestones, we see children grow up, we see children become parents, and then their children become patients, and if we practice long enough, sadly, we see and experience loss.

Today I found out that I lost a brother. He was a patient who, over time, became my brother. We spent time in the office after hours and at the coffee shop, talking about life and experiences. He was retired, and I was still chasing the dream, so it seemed like he had more free time than I did, but I never felt like I did not have time. He wore his heart on his sleeve, was quick to give a hug, and it was just as easy for him to say that he loved me in a way that a lot of brothers wish they could but never do. We always parted with an appreciation for the time and the promise to do it again.

Life is a circle; it is not linear, and we need to remember to live our lives with appreciation and not forget that what goes around comes around. Birth is the begging and death completes the circle, but the memory of our shared experience is like the circle and never-ending.

I am grateful for having had the opportunity and privilege to provide my patient his care and to be able to say that, at the end of our time, he was my friend and my brother. My life is so much richer for it. I will celebrate his life and my good fortune for being a part of it.

Sepk’eec’a saMaks Thank you, my brother