It is feared and dreded by all who come in contact with it. It's the pager. When you are a Pediatric Dentist there is one thing we all know about from the first day we started our residency. We were issued some sort of pager that was for after hour’s emergencies. When I was in residency at LSU in New Orleans, I was the recipient of a chunky box, which was an audio pager (ancient by today's standards). This beast would all of a sudden make a loud noise, and then the person on the line by phone would announce what number to call back. At the time it was the Children's Hospital emergency room. You had to listen closely to hear the garbled phone number, but you always knew it was some kind of trauma case that they needed you for. It sent chills up the spine! You knew it meant you would have to travel 30 minutes in the middle of the night to the hospital and deal with some poor child that busted his teeth in some fashion. Oh yes, no assistant to help. In fact I had to open up the dental clinic and turn lots of stuff on and then clean up afterwards and shut it back down. The whole ordeal would last three hours.
I learned that one of the first things to do was turn on the radio otherwise there would be dead silence which is a little unnerving for the child, the distressed parent, and the distressed doctor. Since that time I have learned that every pediatric resident had the same experience across the country. We all get a knowing look on our faces when someone tells of their after hours "pager" experiences.
Now that I am with APDA, we thankfully rotate call. I am on call every fourth week. With a practice this large the number of calls is even greater. The calls tend to fall into one of four categories: Trauma, Tooth Aches, Orthodontic Emergencies like broken wires, and then there are calls like lost separators, erupting teeth, the dreaded tooth just fell out "I think it was a permanent tooth" (it never is) and other milder concerns. Over the years I can sense the level of concern the parent has and can usually deduce what the problem is over the phone. It's always an interesting experience.
There seems to be a pattern as to when people call. There are assorted calls during the weekday evenings, usually nothing that can't wait till the following day. There are the inevitable calls Friday morning and around 5:00, (we are at the hospital most Fridays).
I do fear the calls Saturday and Sunday nights, which are usually traumas, bigger cases, sometimes from the local hospital. Those kinds of calls mean you can't really get too involved with a movie or anything else you can't walk away from. Yes, I have missed the last half of several movies and some church services. Every now and then there is a call in the middle of the night. One was a call at 2:30 am from a young lady from out of town, leaving the next day, that somehow dropped a barbell on her tooth. I had to go in for that one. Needless to say I was tired and grumpy as you might expect. Of course I always try my best to treat each child the best possible way and in a professional manner. It is often the parents that "need the treatment" worse than the child! Even now the sound of the pager going off makes the heart skip a beat.