On a recent trip to central Pennsylvania, in order to prevent myself from dozing, I read road signs.  Road signs can really get your attention.  They can be just as creative as some of the better television ads I see these days.

They can be real conversation starters, like those digital WANTED signs that warn us to be careful of criminals on the loose.  And of course those redundant GEICO billboards.  Yes, billboards can be a sign of the times.

That’s why, on my way into Harrisburg I found one sign that really made me laugh.  I guess this is the devolution of what started out as, “If you’ve been hurt in accident…call.” 

This billboard implied the same, but it instructed the viewer to call “”  (Name changed).  Hmm?

Back in the eighties it became legal for professionals to advertise.  For years professional organizations fought advertising.  Many dentists are aware of “Painless Parker,” a flamboyant street dentist described as “a menace to the dignity of the profession” by the American Dental Association.  “Menace to the dignity of the profession”…in the thirties.  I wonder what the forefathers would say about our dignity now?

Dignity.  What does the word mean?  The dictionary definition tells us it is a sense of pride in oneself; self respect, an honorable rank or position.

Well, I guess it is up to each of us to protect our own dignity.  I certainly wouldn’t do what Larry did and display it all over my hometown for the sake of getting people’s attention.

But who protects the dignity of the profession?  The collective dignity of the profession.  Does anyone have that role?  I know in sports like football and baseball, players must answer to their undignified behavioral issues (sometimes anyway).  Someone is in charge of protecting the public image.  Because it’s important.

For what you ask?

Public trust.

And that’s the big problem with today’s professions.

Today the professions have narrowed and distorted the idea of dignity.  I wonder if advertising had something to do with it?  Maybe there was something to letting the professions police themselves instead ofd giving way to the free market.  After all health care ethics is a bit more complex than selling cars or insurance.

Maybe it doesn’t stop with the health care professions.  Just last week I was watching Barak Obama interviewing Glozell Green at the White House.  Check her out…she has this unbelievable following on YouTube.  I guess he did this for the same reasons Larry the Lawyer takes out billboards…to get the public’s attention through shock value.

Maybe it’s time we all took a deep breath and put some dignity back into our jobs…it wouldn’t hurt.













There I was in the belly of the beast.  Well, not exactly, but that’s how I felt when they wheeled me into the cardiac catheterization lab at my local hospital.  Before you start worrying, I’m okay.  A little blip on my stress test culminated in this recent episode.

Before I get too far along, let me just throw out this little piece of advice:  if you are over the age of sixty, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a stress test.  I’m okay, but this may be the best preventive medicine I know of…and as a dentist, I am all about prevention and prediction.

Back to the lab…the first person I meet is Steve.  He has an identification badge on his smock.  He makes small talk and I accommodate.

“Hi, I’m Steve, what’s your name?”

“Barry,” I tell him.

“Nice to meet you, what do you do?”

“I’m a dentist,” I say.

“Oh really…I could use a good dentist, where is your office?”

Okay—at this point I’m thinking I’ve heard this conversation before…too many times.

So I tell him where my office is located and he tells me it’s too far…he goes to a guy in another town.  Just for the record that town is further away than my office…but this is small talk remember, and to keep it up I ask him what that dentist’s name is.

He struggles to find the name.  “Hmm, I forgot, but he’s a really nice guy.”

At this point I’m wondering if he even has a dentist or am I just involved in some conversational dream, but then I think about my own practice and the state of health care in America today.

Are we all involved in some conversational dream…or can we not establish relationships anymore?

I think about the TV show Cheers, the bar where everyone knows your name.  Remember Sam Malone, Rebecca, Diane, Carla, Norm and Cliff, Dr. Frasier Crane and of course, Woody.

I wonder if Steve remembers the name of the guy at Starbucks who serves him his coffee everyday.  Times certainly have changed.

I still remember Dr. Weltman and Dr. Kaplan my doctor and dentist when I was growing up in the Bronx.  One thing I do remember is how my parents trusted them, they were “go to guys” for everything.

Today healthcare has become a commodity.  Doctors look at computer screens rather than into the eyes of patients.  Patients shop online for Groupons and deals for elective healthcare.

Now if you’re a dentist reading this, I am sure you built your practice on some degree of friendliness, after all dentistry is an intimate, personal service.  I don’t believe healthcare workers created this level of commoditization…it’s just the times we live in and I’m sure how we got here is quite complex.  I also believe that those old “mom and pop” enterprises of years ago were on to something.

They really knew their customers.  Intimately.  Those relationships were the basis of the many rewards they received from their practices.  From the patient’s perspective…everyone ends up on the metaphorical table eventually.  It would be nice if you knew the name of the person on the other side of the mask.






The Path of Most Resistance – Key to Goal Setting

January 13, 2015

      January 10, 2015.  The second Saturday of the New Year and my 8 AM Bikram Yoga class is way too overcrowded.  It happens every year.  January always shows an increase in attendance at Yoga, gyms and Weight Watchers.  “It’s okay,” I tell myself, all will be back to normal by February.  Leo […]

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It’s Not About the Teeth

January 5, 2015

Every so often a patient enters my practice with a very interesting problem  The case that is pictured above is a good example that had me stuck.  The patient came in with a toothache in the lower left quadrant.  She was convinced it was gum disease and wanted “laser surgery.” Well, for those who know […]

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Wor$hiping Fal$e God$

December 29, 2014

  Breaking rules always comes back to bite us.  All patients come into my practice through my new patient examination process.  Except this one time! The patient wanted a cleaning and then have her teeth bleached.  She had a baby at home and time was a big issue…so we allowed it.  Her first appointment was […]

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Spirit- Body- Mind The Natural Order of Things

December 16, 2014

  Breathe. Think. Move.  Three simple words repeated over and over again by Leo, my Yoga teacher.  There is no better instruction for Yoga than those three words…in that order.  The first step or the starting point is to breathe, followed by a thought and finally a movement.  The Latin word for breath is spiritus.  […]

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Defend Yourself Against Bad Reviews

December 3, 2014

You have to have a strong stomach to check yourself out on Yelp or some of the other review sites that have become so popular in this digital age.  I recently visited a few sites to see what people were saying about me…and boy, was I surprised. Now I will say that I have a […]

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The Motivational Power of Splint Therapy

October 16, 2014

  I check my splint patients at their hygiene appointments.  Imagine how I felt when I asked a patient if she was wearing her splint, and she said “yes,” and when I asked to see it she handed me her old orthodontic retainer. She looked up at me and said, “Oops, you caught me.”  She […]

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The Game of Dentistry—and Blackjack

September 8, 2014

The day after Labor Day…the unofficial start of the new year.  The Tuesday after Labor Day has always been my New Year’s Day and I haven’t been in school since 1973.  I left the beach in St. Maarten on Sunday, where I made my yearly goals, read a few good books, worked on my tan […]

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The Garden of TAO

August 18, 2014

    I love metaphors.  They help me explain things better. Metaphors not only make our thoughts more vivid and interesting but that they actually structure our perceptions and understanding.  And perception, as you know is everything. Think of the metaphor, “time is money.”  I used to think of that as a rule.  That I […]

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