on November 02, 2022

According to Brene Brown, empathy is the ability to relate to how the other person feels and communicate the incredibly healing message of 'You are not alone.' Compassion is the practice of relating to others and, as a result, acting to ease their suffering. In essence, compassion is empathy combined with action.  I believe we all suffer in some way. We all have something we are battling, especially as parents.  Empathy is the thread that connects us all as humans, and when done right, it is incredibly powerful.  It is incredibly healing, and it is incredibly moving. When there is an empathy miss, it can trigger people to feel flawed, judged, alone, and shamed. 

In my 10 years of practicing dentistry, I feel dentistry can be a risky field of emotional triggers. What do I mean by that? There are emotional land mines around oral health and it's so important to navigate them in a way that empowers, inspires, and serves parents in making decisions that are best for their child.  It is easy to share news with parents when everything looks beautiful and their children are in excellent health. It is when the news being shared involves several cavities, several appointments, and possibly an operating room visit under general anesthesia that requires the empathy and compassion.  Parents have expressed that they feel embarrassed or ashamed of their child's oral health state. At this point, the dentist is in a powerful position where they can choose to shame a parent for their child's oral hygiene, diet, etc or they can empathize with them and begin resolving the problem at hand in a healing way. As a mom myself, it is heartbreaking seeing parents that are too hard on themselves and are really just doing the best they can. That is all we can do as parents. There is no instruction manual on how to parent and many times parenting is making a decision with the information at hand and doing what you feel is right at that moment. We all have our imperfections and battles we face everyday as parents and at the end of the day, all that really matters is that we show up for our kids wholeheartedly. We do our best, we give our all, and that's what matters. Kids get cavities. It happens and we can take care of it, and focus on prevention moving forward. There is no room for shame. We empathize because we understand, we can relate to obstacles, and we care.