‘My Favorite Doctor:’ Nine-year-old loves going to the dentist
Published on Thursday, September 26, 2019
By: Kate Royals
A desperate Eva Harper brought her 9-year-old granddaughter Marsha Jones to the Col. Harland Sanders Children’s Emergency Department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center one day in July.
Marsha, who lives in Jackson with her grandmother, had been in terrible pain for several months. Her mouth was riddled with abscesses, cavities and decay. She didn’t have insurance at the time, Harper said, and everywhere they went asked for payment upfront that they couldn’t afford.
“I cried more than Marsha did (during that time) ... We were up during the night, I was giving her Children’s Tylenol, but it wouldn’t help,” she recalled.
Marsha would often have to come home from school at Wilkins Elementary School because of the pain in her mouth, resulting in a lot of missed days and a dip in her grades.
When Marsha and Harper made it to the emergency room that day, the staff called Dr. Susmitha Koti, chief pediatric dentistry resident. When Koti heard how badly Harper wanted her granddaughter treated as soon as possible, Koti made room in her schedule and brought Marsha upstairs to the pediatric dentistry clinic on the sixth floor of Batson Children’s Hospital the same day.
“She had a lot of teeth that were severely infected and filled with cavities,” said Koti.
Since Marsha had never had any type of dental treatment done before, she was extremely nervous.
“She’d never seen the tools that are used, never had any anesthetic, so we walked her through all the equipment we have,” Koti recalled. “… She was really nervous but did well with positive reinforcement.”
Koti said it’s extremely helpful to have an established relationship with pediatric patients to help with their anxiety and discomfort. But for whatever reason, Marsha was at ease with Koti after her first tooth was pulled. Marsha said she “didn’t even feel it.”
Koti also utilized several other tools to help put Marsha at ease: distraction, which involved singing or asking about movies she’s seen, and a technique called “tell, show, do,” or TSD for short. TSD involves telling the patient in detail what is involved with the procedure, then showing the patient the tools and equipment that will be used, followed by actually performing the procedure.
The positive initial experience was helpful for Marsha, who would need to return to see Koti for more extractions in the coming months. Fast forward a few months and eight tooth extractions later, coming to see Koti is now one of Marsha's favorite things to do.
When she came to her follow-up appointment in September, she had written and drawn a book for Koti titled “My Favorite Doctor.”
“I did this because I love her, and she pulled my teeth without me knowing,” she said.
The book also included the lyrics to a song: “When you pull my teeth I don’t feel anything at all, at all.”
Not only does she love her dentist, she loves the colorful walls and drawings on the ceiling in the waiting room and clinic – in addition to the panoramic view from the dental chairs.
“It’s so pretty here,” Marsha said, staring out at the view from the waiting room.
Harper said she is somewhat baffled by her granddaughter’s love for coming to see Koti, even when it means getting her teeth pulled.
“For some reason she likes coming to get her teeth pulled,” she said, laughing. “But Dr. Koti has taken care of my baby really good.”
Harper said her granddaughter has improved in several ways over the past few months.
“She’s started focusing better and she definitely eats better,” Harper said of the third grader, who was having trouble eating every day foods like chicken and other meat.
The calls from the school telling her Marsha was having problems or not feeling well because of her mouth have decreased, and Marsha’s grades have improved.
Marsha is also more excited about daily oral hygiene like brushing her teeth and flossing, and is now in the normal routine of seeing Koti every six months for a cleaning and exam.
In fact, Harper has a new incentive to encourage Marsha to do her homework and study: going to see Koti.
“I tell her things like if you get your grades good, we’ll go see Dr. Koti,” she laughed. “It always works.”
Koti feels honored and encouraged by her relationship with Marsha.
“Pediatric dentistry is always an uphill task of overcoming the fear and anxiety of kids. Whenever we see our patients react positively it gives us an extra boost to keep going,” she said. “I feel fortunate to be the person to have encouraged Marsha to see a dentist visit as a positive experience. If these experiences happen more often, we will have changed the general perception of a dentist in our society in the long run.”