Alex Davis Explains How He Learned Dental Care Improves More Than People’s Mouths
This Preventist landed his role as a dental assistant at Louisville’s Lee Specialty Clinic – a comprehensive care center for people with special needs – and never looked back.
My name is Alex Davis III, and I'm 28 years old. I work at the Lee Specialty Clinic (LSC) as a dental assistant, and I help individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities get through their dental appointments.
I don't know how this happened, but the LSC Dental Director Dr. [Kristin] Compton contacted my mom through Facebook to ask if I could just give this dental thing a try. I was very, very unsure because it was such a drastic difference from what I had prepared for. I went to school for business, but my brother Terrance, who has autism and is treated at Lee Specialty, inspired me.
After getting to know Alex through several dental visits with his brother, Terrance, I could see he was very interested in the details of what we were doing. He would always ask very specific questions about oral hygiene and how can I help him to have better hygiene at home.
We needed an assistant and the one thing I tell everybody is I can teach anybody to be a dental assistant if they have the heart. The one thing that I can't teach is for someone to have compassion for this population. I knew he already had that because he loves his brother and he's so great with him, so we just decided that we would ask him if he wanted to learn to be a dental assistant – and he said yes.
From Computers to Oral Health
I remember my mom came to me in the living room and said, “Alex, [do] you want to try this dental assisting thing?” I was thinking about going into the field of computer information systems, but my externship was over, so I needed work. I told mom I don't know if I can do it because I have no idea of how to do anything with dental. I have no medical experience. The most I've ever done with anything medical was put a Band-Aid on somebody.
Through lots of soul searching, I finally said, “I'll give it a shot. I'll try it.” And in the interview with Dr. Compton, she made things very, very clear:
She said, “I know that you don't know a lot about dental, but I can teach anyone with interest how to do the work. I can't teach you the heart and compassion.” And then I thought, okay, maybe I can, maybe it won’t be as scary as I was expecting.
Now, here I am, making an impact on people's lives; making a difference in not just the patients' lives, but also in the caregivers’ lives.
How Preventistry Fits In
What I’ve learned here is that this is a last stop for a lot of people. Some people get rejected by providers in other areas for whatever reason. But here we are. We're able to see their sons, their daughters, their clients. And now I’ve seen enough crying, enough embracing, to realize that this is no joke. We’re actually making a real difference in people’s lives. Even though my title is dental assistant, I feel like I'm helping in a different kind of way … I don't know what kind of way that is, but I can feel it on the inside.
Before working here, I had no idea about what dentistry can do for people. And seeing how much of an impact it has on this population has basically changed how I view what dental is and what it can provide for people.
Many of our patients are behaviorally challenged. We might learn that a patient hasn't had dental care in a decade. And after we take care of their mouth, in time you experience some patients that have a drastic change in their behavior.
Patients will come out after being treated and their parent or caregiver will say, well, let me see your teeth! And that patient will start smiling really big, and the jubilation you see on their faces and they know in their hearts – it's super rewarding to see that.
And so, I realize now that when it comes to dental care, it's more than just cleaning or pulling teeth. Number one, it helps with behaviors, and number two, it helps with confidence.
But also, I’m part of the team that’s preventing people from having to get anything else too drastic done. Knowing you can stop a greater problem from happening, that's what would drive me to go back to school and do more in this field.
Meet the Preventists: Through this series, DentaQuest shares stories of people who are living Preventistry and advancing the core concepts of prevention-first and coordinated care. Find more here.