Q&A With Washington-Area Dentists

Local dentists answer our pressing questions.

What’s the best excuse you’ve heard from a patient who hadn’t been to the dentist in a while?

“A patient said he had been meaning to come see us for years but could never find our building. He was a fireman.”

—Dr. Paul W. Callahan, Sterling

“My best were ‘I was busy planning my wedding but then got divorced and now want to get back on the market’ and ‘I opened a beer bottle with my teeth and broke one, but I knew you’d be upset.’ ”

—Dr. Brian Gray, Tenleytown

What’s the strangest method You’ve Seen for putting a patient at ease?

“I have a patient who has two personalities—one completely dental-phobic and the other cool as a cucumber in the chair. The only difference between these two people is the Neil Diamond music playing softly in the background. We cue it up every time she sets foot in our office.”

—Dr. Kristen Donohue, Burke

“One woman brought with her a male friend who massaged her feet while she had the work done. Then they disappeared into the bathroom for 30 minutes together.”

—Dr. Danine Fresch, Arlington

Have you ever taken extraordinary measures to put a patient at ease?

“A patient desperately needed periodontal care but was too phobic to even enter the office because when he did go to the dentist, he passed out. I spoke to him on the phone and we agreed that, because it was spring and the weather was so beautiful, we would meet in the courtyard of my building to do the initial examination. My assistant and I and the patient laughed as we did a full exam outside, with people walking by. For the next visit, when we needed to move into his treatment phase, we again met him outside, then walked him—one of us holding each arm—directly into the office and to the dental chair, reclined him, and started his IV sedation.”

—Dr. A. Garrett Gouldin, Falls Church

This article appears in our March 2015 issue of Washingtonian.