Everyday, all over the world, there occurs an opportunity to raise dental intellect.  In case you haven’t noticed there has been a shortage of dental intellect and that may be a big obstacle to achieving better dentistry.

I heard former Arkansas Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee talk about curing the health crisis in this country by educating people about the chronic illnesses of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Altzheimers.  He contends that by educating the public we will save billions of dollars in healthcare costs.  I agree…but it’s difficult when no one is listening.

Huckabee has an emotional stake in this cause.  He’s a diabetic.  His personal story about weight loss and diabetes is quite compelling.

I am a diabetic.  I have personal stake in controlling my health, and I do.  But not everybody takes their health that seriously.  That is why it’s up to the health professionals to act as leaders and communicate the importance of all health, dental or otherwise.

So, let me get off of my soapbox and explain how many dentists ignore this, by not taking the opportunity to communicate, educate, motivate (choose any word you like), and lead people toward better health.

Patients show up to dental practices everyday with urgent problems.  The emergency is generally pain, but it may include swelling, infection or cosmetic compromises.

In my practice I treat the emergency.  Even if I have a twp hour hole in my schedule…I treat the emergency.

After years of doing it this way, I am convinced it is the right thing to do.  I never do definitive emergency treatment.

In my youth I did.  I did emergency crowns, veneers, root canals, and even once I did a complete maxillary restoration.  Most of the time, all I did was create a short term relationship that never changed anyone’s long term heath, or attitude toward health.

Leaders understand the value of providing long-term value.  They have a different set of drivers.

This causes me to think about what is driving dentistry these days?  Who is driving dentistry these days?

I think that is a problem that effects the whole dental community, from patients to doctors and staff.  Short term thinking has long term effects (Strawberry shortcake anyone?)

Dentistry has changed over the last 50 years.  I wonder if this short term thinking had anything to do with it.

I used to call this single tooth dentistry, or body part dentistry…but it goes much deeper.  It’s a way of living.  A philosophy of practice and of life.

My solution?  When a patient comes in with an urgent problem…they are at their highest emotional level.  They listen because they truly have skin in the game.

What an opportunity!

Step back.  Take care of their felt need (not yours).

Use the opportunity to explain (this is a skill in itself) why dentistry is important.  They are all ears at this point.  You may not succeed with every new patient, but at least if enough dentists began to do a complete examination geared toward long term health—well that might just make a dent in the universe.

That is why I promote the complete examination for every new patient.  Sure it takes time…but time well spent for all concerned.  Help make the complete exam a standard operating procedure.  So many mistakes can be traced back to ignoring this one thing.

I think that is what Mike Huckabee means when he says chronic disease is our biggest problem.  We need leaders at every level…especially at the level of the health care professional.








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I am a sucker for self-help books. I am not into the Kardashians, Dancing With the Stars or Entertainment Tonight, but put a self-help book in front of me and I’ll devour it in a day or two.  I have read them all – under the hope of becoming a better person, improving my business or my favorite…setting and achieving goals.

I am not alone.  Self-help books moved from a niche position to being a cultural phenomenon in the late twentieth century.  It is estimated to be an $8 billion a year industry in the US alone.

A self-help book is one that is written with the intention to instruct its readers on solving personal problems. The books take their name from Self Help an 1859 best-seller by Samuel Smiles.

Some respected psychologists like Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi have argued that self-help books will clearly not help people to become thin, rich and well-adjusted; indeed they will probably have no effect whatsoever.

Worse, some have claimed self-help books are actually bad for us by promoting ‘false hope syndrome’.

And that is what brings me to America’s first self-help movie, The Martian, Matt Damon’s new blockbuster that is drawing massive attention and attendance.

For many it’s a thrilling story, but for me, the sucker for self-help, it was another guide to goal setting.

I mean if his goal was to get back to earth from Mars (that’s 50 million miles), then what the hell, my production goals are a joke.  Take a look at that photo of him—all smiles and thumbs up.  Talk about having a good attitude.

Without giving away the plot (duh), I will attempt to point out some of the many self-help principles Damon used to get back to earth…principles that have actually guided me through my own personal journey.

  1. Be a life-long learner.  Commit to knowing your work as they taught me at the Pankey Institute many years ago.  Damon’s character was a botanist.  Think how handy that knowledge could be when you are stranded on a planet without water.
  2. Be a goal setter and monitor your progress.  These two go together because just setting a goal without understanding your deadlines and progress is just a dream.  Our film’s astronaut knew exactly how many days he had to get back to earth and how much rations he needed to get there.  The story really takes off when they have to figure out every component of his rescue was necessary.  As an author I can tell you that writing a book is nothing compared to getting home from Mars – so reaching your monthly production goals—piece of cake.
  3. Fail Forward.  Look, no one bats .1000.  Murphy’s Law is always in play, besides, what kind of movie would this be if nothing ever went wrong.  The key is to pick yourself up and use the failure as a learning experience.  It’s a good thing Matt was familiar with Thomas Edison’s lessons learned from inventing the lightbulb.  After failing 10,000 times he told a reporter he learned 9,999 ways it didn’t work.
  4. Be Persistent. Overcome Resistance and Do the Work.  Those three points may look like three separate lessons but they are all related.  Everyday we face resistance.  Our tendency is to put things off.  Damon could not…he was in survival mode.  He had to act with a sense of urgency everyday.  To me this is life’s greatest lesson.  The clock is always ticking.  Our job is to continue to move the ball down the field.  Most of us (and I mean our patients as well) don’ understand that without forward continual motion we get stuck.  Sure there is resistance—our job is to overcome it.  Calvin Coolidge said it best:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”


5. Have Fun.  Once again, as you can tell by the picture above, Damon continued to maintain a positive attitude throughout his mission.  Tough to do?  Sure, but attitude means everything.

6. Leave Your Legacy.  Once again, I won’t ruin the movie for you but understand that Damon had people on Earth that needed him back.  He becomes a mentor—a teacher—because in the end we are all here to pass the baton.

Enjoy the movie.  Hollywood has an agenda.  How else can we learn life lessons these days?  The Kardashians?




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