Dentists love telling stories. They have so much in common with each other. Humor is a great bonding agent and also a great healer.  When you are lying in a hospital bed after your illness or accident, you will find that the best medicine is often just talking with your peers. Family aside, your dental friends have such a strong identity with you;  that you cannot avoid the benefits of that friendship.

Patients with similar conditions sharing stories with each other about what their everyday lives are like is extremely effective in relieving anxiety and stress. As the old saying goes, “misery loves company”.  The idea is to elicit insights into your illness or injury that may not be readily apparent to family and physicians. Dentists tend to hold back and denial is a major problem. People are willing to discuss things very frankly when they are together with others who share in their experiences.

Focus groups are very common in almost all medical centers. Cancer survivors, diabetic support groups, cardiac experience groups are just a sample. Many illnesses have national support groups for their specific diagnosis. They have proven to be extremely effective. Lead by strong facilitators, they team up newly ill patients with veteran survivors and the outcome is very promising.

The unspoken challenges that each us face when ill or injured are hiding just below the surface. The goal is to get and stay healthy. Most physicians don’t have the time during short clinical visits to gather enough information on each specific patient to provide the level of care that is most effective.  One of the most beneficial comments made to an injured/ill dentists by his peer is “that happened to me too”.   Realization that you are not the first or the last to undergo the daily stress/anxiety associated with recovery, rehabilitation, and survival is life saving.

Professional facilitators in disease specific support groups have learned to back away and let people talk among themselves. Stories start bouncing off of each other and the patients begin to realize that one and most important fact. THEY ARE NOT ALONE.   As a dentist speaking with other dentists you will find that the truth of your condition is apparent and by speaking freely you can gain significant comfort.  No two patients are the same,but a pattern of experiences and care exists.

Not surprisingly, newly ill/injured dentists frequently find that they support the veteran dentists just as much as they are helped.  It is a two-way street and this peer support is essential to survival. We can’t stress enough the benefits that just talking to another veteran survivor can bring.  Peers not only provide emotional support.  They can provide valuable information regarding treatment.  One patient may be exposed to innovative therapy that another never even knew existed.  Experience groups have proven to be effective and are a valuable tool in treatment for many diseases.

The ability to survive an illness/injury is proportional to the social influences that affect your health. People will improve and recover or worsen together. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. A dentist who has been there and done that can bring such relief to an acutely ill or severely injured peer.  Understanding what life is going to be like through the eyes of someone who has already been there is earth-shaking.  Fear is lack of knowledge. As President Roosevelt once said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.   Arm yourself with the hard fought knowledge gained by those who have gone before you.

Putting your disability into context is very important. Whether you are facing illness, addiction, or severe injury; the results can be the same.  Having the support of others who live with the same situation every single day is invaluable.  Forming a community of survivors allows for conversations that heal and relieve the anxiety of the unknown.

If you are a newly injured dentists, see our posting on the ten steps to survive disability.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY. This will get you started. None of us gets through life alone.  Seek out your dental friends/peers for real help and support.  You have value and will survive the ordeal;  just look to the survivors of the past for inspiration and guidance.  We will be there to help.

WE ARE DENTISTS HELPING OTHER SICK/INJURED DENTISTS, WE CARE.

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