Terry Tyler loved caramel. But as he chomped on the sweet goodness of his mouthwatering treat, something bad happened, something really bad. Stuck in the gooey caramel, his crown popped off. The candy’s sugar assaulted the raw nerves of the now uncovered peg his crown once protected, sending shooting pain through his jaw and forcing tears from his eyes. He winced. He removed the caramel from his mouth, with the wayward crown enmeshed in his once savory indulgence. With each breath, the air hit the exposed stub of a tooth, sending a new wave of pain through his mouth. He rinsed with warm water. Tears flowed. The pain was intense; his situation, urgent. He called his dentist’s office wondering what they could do at this late hour. “Thank you for calling Dr. Anderson’s office,” the recording said. “Please call back during regular office hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. If this is an emergency, please go to the ER.” This wasn’t a full-blown emergency. Besides Terry worried his new healthcare plan wouldn’t cover the trip and he’d be stuck with a huge bill. Considering his options, he recalled the new dental office a couple miles away. Marveling over its close proximity and the smart new building, he wondered why he continued going to stodgy Dr. Anderson who charged too much and never smiled. Plus, the new dentist was “now accepting patients” or so his sign said. It took a while but Terry finally recalled the name, Family Dental Plus. He called to see what would happen. A real person answered. She sounded too youthful to be the dentist, but Terry launched into his situation anyway. “I’m with Dr. Koop’s answering service.” Her cheery, yet professional voice filled Terry with hope. “This type of thing happens often enough that Doctor left specific instructions. I can refer you to a web page that explains what to do if your crown comes off when the office is closed. It will hold you over until you can see your regular dentist.” “That’s just what I need,” Terry said. “What’s the link?” “It’s a long one,” the woman replied. “If you like I can email or text it to you.” “Text would be great.” Terry thanked her and clicked on the link in her text. It gave instructions for preparing the affected area, cleaning the crown, and how to temporarily reseat it. He marveled at how easy it was. Soon he was in bed and slept soundly. In the morning, he was even able to eat breakfast, albeit gingerly, without incident. He called in sick and waited for 9 o’clock, hoping Dr. Anderson could squeeze him in. At 8:05 his phone rang. The display showed “Family Dental Plus.” Surprised and impressed, he answered. “Hi, this is Terry.” “Good morning Terry, this is Dr. Koop. I’m calling to see how you’re doing with your crown.” “The link your answering service referred me to was really great. Thank you so much. I’m just waiting to call my dentist for a permanent solution.” “I’m glad you’re taking care of it right away,” Dr. Koop said. “Feel free to call me again if you need anything else.” “Well, since you mentioned it, there is one thing,” Terry responded. “How soon can you fit me in?” Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan. Contact us to learn how a telephone answering service can answer your patients’ calls 24/7.