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The Tao of Dentistry

Modern Dentistry

July 19, 2017

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Uncategorized — Barry @ 10:20 AM

 

I keep getting asked the same question over and over again these days.

And I don’t like it.

You see, I am very sensitive about the way I look. I think I am in great shape, and I feel better than ever…the results of eating well, going to the gym and doing hot Yoga six days per week. I will be 70 years old at my next birthday…but…

My patients keep asking me when I am going to retire. They need to stop that! But really I have some mixed emotions about it.

On the one hand, I wonder why, all of a sudden patients are saying things like, “Hey Doc, you have to let me know when you’re going to retire,” or “Doc, I hope you give me plenty of notice before you retire so I can find another dentist.”

I wonder if they are just doing the math, because I don’t look or act any older. It’s happening so often that it is beginning to bother me. But I should be flattered.

After forty two years of practice what they are really saying (at least how I interpret it) is, “Thanks for taking care of me for all of these years.” In essence they are expressing the idea that they need me and that they appreciate me.

And that’s nice.

So often I hear how dentistry is a thankless profession. Sure there are those who thank us for specific things, and there are those patients who are naturally very grateful, but mostly we do our work without getting the recognition. And I am not speaking about that big beautiful cosmetic case. I am talking about everyday routine dentistry.

It’s nice to know that working hard for so many years to develop a relationship based practice, that the reward is the greatest reward of all…being needed, having practiced with a purpose for so many years. When I look around dentistry today, with the growth of insurance based practices and corporate dentistry I see these rewards diminishing in favor of transactional dental relationships – or strictly functional relationships.

Practicing dentistry with meaning and purpose is one of its greatest rewards. More than money – meaning and purpose will keep the dentist and staffs practicing longer and staying healthier and living longer. Research has shown that meaningful work can add years to your life.

So I come to work everyday and get greeted by my patient-friends who remind me daily how much being their dentist has meant to them, then I go on social media and get reminded how modern dentistry is today. I marvel at our technical advances yet see how much less human we have become. I see dentists flexing their muscles, showing off their beautiful cases but I wonder if they truly understand the longterm value and meaning of the relationships – or is it just about the teeth?

I see cases with no sense of diagnosis and treatment planning. I see cases presented by “financial people” who never get to understand the patients real needs and desires. I see some nice dentistry. I see some lousy dentistry but mostly I see evidence of people not being understood at a level this profession should be doing.

We could do better. Dentistry used to do a lot better. That is why I stayed “old school.” Maybe my patients are also saying something else…not only that they need me but that we truly miss the way dentists used to be…before these modern times.

 

 

 

 

What Good is Philosophy?

July 11, 2017

Filed under: Happiness,Positive Psychology,Self-development — Tags: — Barry @ 10:11 PM

 

 

Throughout my career in dentistry I have been known as a “philosopher.”  While many of my colleagues focused on technical dentistry in order to find fulfillment and success in dentistry, I read the works of Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius and Anthony Robbins looking for answers to life’s biggest questions. Just about everything I ever wrote offered a philosophical point of view.

And most people didn’t like it. One friend, many years ago, told me that philosophy just doesn’t sell. Yet I always believed in what the great motivational speaker, Jim Rohn once said, “your personal philosophy is the greatest determining factor in how your life works out.” It seemed the more I spoke about philosophy, the more I annoyed people. Just ask my kids.

But I am hooked, so I continue to look for the answers to some of my biggest questions about life and work. I just happened to be a dentist so my work is dentistry.

Three of the biggest influences in my life have been Dr. L.D. Pankey’s philosophy which is based on Aristotle and the Greeks, Abraham Maslow and the humanistic psychology movement and most recently the work of Martin Seligman and positive psychology. The problem that I saw with all of these was not in the analytics or thought processes, but mostly in the application. In other words…how do you bring this stuff to real life?

Pankey’s philosophy was great. Once I learned to know myself, my patient and my work…I was still lost. The biggest void came in the “apply your knowledge” arm of his Cross. Maslow really turned my head around because now I understood why I couldn’t take the next steps without fulfilling basic needs. And until I had enough of the lower needs I couldn’t move up the hierarchy. Marty Seligman’s PERMA model was the one that really opened my eyes because now I finally knew that philosophy was based in real science. My last book, Short Guide to a Long Career explains his PERMA model in detail- and how to apply it in dental practice.

Seligman recently added a “V” to his model. It stands for VITALITY.

And the “V” ends up being a key to the whole puzzle of application.

When one reads his Well-Being Theory, there is an implication that we follow it as it reads—P-E-R-M-A-V. Maybe that’s just because I am a dentist and see life very linearly…dentists like step-by-step instructions.

Allow me to digress. Those of you who have read The Art of the Examination know that I am a type 2 diabetic. I have been for thirty years, and for all of those years I have controlled my blood sugar with diet and exercise.

But no longer. I recently went on insulin. No biggie…really. When you go on insulin it forces you to become even more aware of the cellular and micro-changes of diet and exercise. I now pay much more attention to basic biochemistry—yes I now realize just how philosophically important the Krebs Cycle is to all of our lives. Metabolism – is the key to our lives and our vitality.

Metabolism is the key to our energy – and how we create and spend our energy is how we live our lives. Most of us concentrate on managing time and money to create successful lives…but I implore you that the payoffs are much greater when we focus on managing our energy.

Throughout my entire career, looking back, it was high amounts of positive energy that was responsible for most of my successes.

So what is the lesson here? That the V…the Vitality module of Marty Seligman’s Well-Being Theory is the starting point for a successful life. The V includes diet, exercise, mindfulness meditation and sleep hygiene. Once the V is covered, you will have the energy to exercise more willpower to make better choices and focus on being more optimistic, more resilient, applying more effort and more grit, better focus and concentration in developing better skills, using your strengths, building better and more fulfilling connections, working with meaning and purpose…and of course…accomplishing much more.

 

 

Do You Have to be Happy to be Successful?

April 17, 2017

Filed under: Happiness,Pankey,Positive Psychology — Barry @ 1:41 PM

 

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only expressing personal opinion.” Proverbs 18:2

 

 

This is my first blog post in a long while. I bet many of my readers thought I just quit blogging. That is not in my nature…let me explain.

I just completed an eight month certification in positive psychology. It was intense. Most people truly don’t understand what positive psychology is all about.

On the night I received my certification we had dinner with friends of ours. I told them that I had completed my certification and the my friend started talking about positive psychology as if she were an expert. Then she asked how I could be a positive psychologist because I wasn’t so positive…or even happy for that matter.

For those of you who have read my book, A Short Guide to a Long Career (free download), you know that positive psychology is much more than being about finding bliss (although that is part of it). It’s about living the life worth living. It’s about living the good life.

Anyway, I went on to explain to my friend that positive psychology was more about living the good life. More about fulfillment than pleasure than the smiley face. The good life is more than just having fun. It is about building good days, one after the other so that we can accomplish what author Annie Dillard says: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Our well-being is mostly composed of our work, how we spend our time and who we spend our time with. In other words, what we do for a living, and who we do it with matters. When we ask ourselves the very important question, “what really matters?” our answers usually reflect work, family friends and service.

So, no…positive psychology is not just happiology.

I first became interested in positive psychology when I went to the Pankey Institute many years ago. L.D. Pankey was onto something when he created his “philosophy.” My gut tells me he would have been very interested in studying positive psychology which wasn’t defined until 1998 by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania.

He put science to philosophy and created the psychology of optimal human functioning…or how to flourish. Yes…today most of Pankey’s philosophy is backed by empirical evidence…and there are so many new ways to apply the knowledge.

Practical application is the key to any philosophy – and that is where most philosophy falls apart.

I meet so many people who do not put a lot of stock into the “softer,” human side of  work. Today there is an overemphasis on technology. They think the soft stuff–the fuzzy stuff is just pop psychology.

After finishing my certification I can tell you that dentistry needs to take this very seriously…for the well-being of every professional as well as the well-being of the profession itself.

Not only have I completed this program but I also completed another book which should be available in the Fall. The book is titled The Complete Dentist–Positive Leadership Skills for Success.

Yes–I have been busy, but I will be bringing you more and more articles and information on this very important topic. It just may be the key to your own career and well-being.

 

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Reach for a Better Thought

October 26, 2016

Filed under: Happiness,Leadership,Positive Psychology — Barry @ 12:41 PM

nigel-holmes-graphicThe first piece of advice that comes from Dale Carnegie’s seminal book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is don’t condemn, don’t complain and don’t criticize. In other words be happy and stay positive.

Carnegie published the book in 1936, and it has gone on to sell over 30 million copies. The book went on to be named #19 on Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential books in 2011. The book may be responsible for launching the entire self-help industry. And his first piece of advice was about mental attitude.

I come into contact with so many people in so many professions and industries that have read the books and taken the courses – yet, I still hear so much criticism, complaints and condemnation. Especially these days. You can bet that if you have a stressful work-life there is plenty of complaining going on.

I assume if it were that easy then we would have happier people working in happier workplaces. I also guess that happiness must be in high demand if so many people have been spending their hard earned money on the search for joy.

Maybe they’re just going about it in the wrong way.

My recent blog posts have centered around my latest book, A Short Guide to a Long Career, which you can download free from this blog. This post is about improving your point of view which may just be a better starting point for happiness than trying to remember never to complain, condemn or criticize. I am a big fan of simple ideas that I can create habits of thought around…let me explain.

Tip #3 in  my Short Guide suggests that we improve our point of view. You know, as the famous guru once said, When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” 

The problem is that is hard to change the way we look at things. I love the idea of reducing complex ideas into simple rules of thumb. This is known as a heuristic which is defined as “Pertaining to the use of the general knowledge gained by experience, sometimes expressed as “using a rule-of-thumb.”

And heuristics can make our lives easy…if we can pull up the right rule at the right time. That’s why studying what truly creates positive emotions and happiness is more effective. Once we know what creates happiness and success then we can use our rules of thumb to create habits that will guide us on how to live a happy life.

And it all starts with mindset.

If you are unfamiliar with that word, or use it like just another common piece of your vocabulary, then I suggest you read Carolyn Dweck’s very remarkable book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

It’s a good starting point for those of us who fall into the “oh so human” trait of negativity through judgement which leads to —complaining, criticizing and condemnation.

In time we develop a more positive worldview or perception of how really is rather than some of the negative explanations we create that lead us down a gloomy path.

Dweck’s research led her to describe two basic mindsets: the fixed mindset which is also called the judging mindset, and the growth mindset. I won’t spoil this movie, but I will tell you that the growth mindset is preferred.

Short Guide to a Long Career centers around the growing field of positive psychology. After studying this field for the past ten years, I have enrolled in The Flourishing Center’s program for becoming certified in positive psychology. I am realizing the truth in what Michelangelo said after his career was over: “I’m still learning.”

I guess that is what is meant by having a learning mindset. But it’s not just about dentistry (or any vocation)…we really have two tasks—to learn an occupation that we love and to be a good person.

So if you don’t download my book – and you find yourself complaining, criticizing and condemning —here’s a little heuristic to get you through your days whenever you realize that your thoughts are making you feel bad:

Reach for a better thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Questions? What’s Your Role? SGLC 2

September 12, 2016

Filed under: Happiness,Leadership,SGLC — Tags: , — Barry @ 10:37 PM

Short Guide to a long career

I hope you are enjoying my new book, A Short Guide to a Long Career, if you haven’t downloaded your free copy, go ahead and do it now.

My last blog post revealed what the book is about: creating a career that provides the dentist with a vehicle to help him or her to thrive and flourish through their years in dentistry, using Dr. Martin Seligman’s Well-Being Theory—PERMA, which stands for:

  1. P-Positive Emotions
  2. E-Engagement
  3. R-Positive Relationships
  4. M-Meaning and Purpose
  5. A- Accomplishment

This past July I had the opportunity to go to the first-ever festival for positive education. I believe I was the only dentist in attendance. I got to meet some of the superstars of this burgeoning new field, including Dr. Martin Seligman himself.

I came away excited about the future of positive education. I truly believe, as Seligman states, we are looking at a “sea change” in education that will help young people to become the very best versions of themselves. I was excited because this is the heart of what I have been writing about for years.

There is no reason that we can’t bring positive psychology principles to dentistry…and medicine.

So excited that I enrolled to get my Certification in Positive Psychology.

But I digress. This blog post is about the most recent tips that were e-mailed to those who have downloaded A Short Guide to a Long Career. I want to discuss Tips 1 and 2 through the lens of PERMA.

The first Tip: Ask Yourself the Big Questions: – Dentists are obsessed with “how” to do things. I’m no different than most – I constantly seek out advice on “how” to do this new procedure or that new technique. The problem is that most of us don’t take the time to answer the bigger questions. Like why we even entered our career (yes, this isn’t restricted to dentistry).

I remember the first amalgam filling I ever did (over forty years ago). I remember how proud I was. So proud that I called my father to tell him. He asked me how long it took – I said two hours. He said, “How are you going to make a living doing that?”

That’s a true story. The problem is that it created a lens through which I looked at my entire career. Until I burned out.

Then I asked the deeper questions—like what is it besides money, that I need to get from dentistry?  I started asking the deeper questions after I was in dentistry for ten years. The answers are still coming.

There are plenty of people in dentistry who seem to have the answers – but it’s the ones who have the best questions that interest me more.

The biggest question for me is, “how can I reconcile the paradox between duty and desire?” To be a wonderful competent dentist and still create a great life. It’s a paradox we all must answer.

Tip 2- Establish Your Role:- Another speaker I heard at the positive psychology meeting was Dr. James Pawelski, the Director of Education at the Positive Psychology Center at University of Pennsylvania. He presented his famous thought experiment that you can see on You Tube if you like – it’s well worth the time.

The thought experiment asks us to consider if we were going to be super-heroes, what color cape would you choose to wear?

The choices are red and green. He tells us that if you choose the red cape then your role starts out as you having the power to fight against the bad things in our world. That’s pretty powerful in itself.

If you choose the green cape you have the power to grow good things in our world.

You must choose as part of the thought experiment. I sat there smiling to myself because as a dentist I thought how this fundamental question means so much to the role we play with our patients.

Either color works, and Pawelski has some advice (hint-reversible cape?).

As I said, it is worth going to YouTube to watch his presentation, but he also claims that the red cape/green cape paradox answers the fundamental principles of positive psychology.

The real question for me is: can I flourish and become the best version of myself (and can my patients?)- if I only wear the red cape and put out fires all day.

Think about it — Tips 1 and 2 are meant to get you thinking about that long career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Being Positive Help Grow Your Practice? SGLC 1

August 26, 2016

Short Guide to a long careerHello again! It has been a long time since my last blog post – and a lot has happened in the world. I promise not to give you any of my political opinions – that would be a short guide to a very short career.

In the meantime I want to let you know that the TAO of Dentistry is alive and well. I have been working on a new book project, and it has taken up significant time. I also published my third book, an e-book, that is available for free when you join the Academy of Dental Leadership. The e-book, A Short Guide to a Long Career is also the title of this blog post.

For those who have already downloaded the book, I will be discussing the 31 tips that get e-mailed to you every two weeks or so. There is so much packed into that little book that when I re-read it I thought I had so much more to say – and besides I would love to hear from the dental community on how to create a thriving sustainable dental career.

I have decided to add commentary to Short Guide to a Long Career, through a series of blog posts beginning with this one. The titles of the post will be numbered to follow the e-mails that subscribers receive.

As I mentioned, for the past months I have been writing another book on leadership and communication. I have also furthered my education in Positive Psychology. Those two things have added to my own perspective about creating a long sustainable career in dentistry.

Essentially the relatively new field of positive psychology comes down to helping people “live a life worth living.” It is about thriving and flourishing rather than just surviving and languishing. Positive psychologists work in all domains from the military to medicine to education. While studying positive psychology, I couldn’t help but think about the philosophy of Dr. L.D. Pankey.

For so many years I referred to what I learned at the Institute as a “philosophy.” That word isn’t very exciting. Dentists would fall asleep whenever I invoked words like “philosophy,” “virtues,” or “Aristotle.” But throughout history from Lao-Tzu and Aristotle to Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, it’s truly only been about living a life worth living.

The positive psychologists have backed all of the “philosophy and psychological principles” up with real science. In other words – this stuff works–it’s real.

My book is about how to make your career in dentistry worth doing – long term.

Dentistry has changed. There is still plenty of opportunity in dentistry. Try to remember why you went into dentistry. No better yet…imagine the day you were born. Imagine what your parents wanted for you more than anything else. Now think about the day you leave dentistry…is there anything you will regret. This book is about helping you find what it is you want from your work in this field – yes it’s more than money. But achievement is there as well. It’s about Martin Seligman’s Well-Being Theory and PERMA—

Download the book…let’s discuss PERMA and well being through the comments below. Let’s also discuss the Commitment Equation.

Dr. Madoff I Presume

February 8, 2016

Filed under: Ethics,Leadership,Philosophy — Tags: — Barry @ 2:30 PM

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I don’t watch much TV these days, but last week I found myself watching two made-for-TV specials, one about Bernie Madoff and the other about O.J. Simpson.

Most would agree that these two were possibly the greatest monsters of our time. Most of us got to witness the behaviors of these two men. Madoff was particularly interesting to me because we came from the same town, and we went to the same high school.

My brother-in-law was in his graduating class. And Peter Madoff, Bernie’s brother was the president of my college fraternity.

Yes…they walked among us.

No real surprises there, but something struck me about the screenplay. Three times during the show Bernie Madoff repeated the line: “Trust is the basis for all long-term relationships.” Most of us who watched it heard the line because it was repeated again and again.

But most of us probably let it go by like a sudden chill in the room, or a fleeting pain.

Not me. This blog is about Trust, Appreciation and Ownership, and I have been writing about the importance of trust for dentists, in every human interaction…it is not only the basis of all long-term relationships, but the entire substructure of any well-functioning organization from a family to a country to a planet.

A few days later I got a phone call from a dentist who questioned what would happen if Bernie became a dentist, or a doctor rather than going to Wall Street. It could have happened considering his socioeconomic background.

Now, granted people like O.J. and Bernie are special cases…people who totally lack even a trace of empathy, and we all know that the opposite, people like like Mother Theresa, are just as rare.

So they don’t shock me.

What shocks me is the public’s reaction…to the SEC. The SEC is a government agency that is set in place to protect the public.

Who can we trust if we can’t trust those who are there to protect us? My friend, the dentist, was saying that we see this in our profession all the time…frtom every angle…the dentists, government, corporations, insurance companies and even the public itself.

In 1979, during the more idyllic days of dentistry, I traveled to Los Angeles to hear a presentation of alternative ways to deliver dental care. This one discussed the new retail dental office concept that was being set up in L.A. The first one was in a Sears store in El Monte California, a small industrial town just east of Los Angeles.

Two very polished salesmen spent two days trying to convince dentists that this was the future of dentistry. They were brothers, very well trained and very convincing. I left L.A. with a bad taste in my mouth…not because of the business model, but because of the way they objectified patients.

That was in 1979. I lost track of that concept, but not the language that I continued to hear over the last 35 years, from non-dentists and dentists alike who have objectified the patient experience and used trust as their method to persuade.

Very effective…and unethical. A paradox that would make anyone shiver.

Trust…the force that can be used for good or evil. We can choose to be Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader…yet mostly we sleepwalk through these choices.

I have witnessed dentists and doctors using the force for good and evil…it all comes down to —who are you?

For years, we in dentistry have seen outsiders take what used to be a “noble” ethical profession and turn it into business as usual. Who protected the profession?

Certainly not the dentists. Most went along with the status quo. I wonder why? Because we sure express our displeasure to each other.

Certainly not the insurance companies or corporations. They only talk about the human side of dentistry but continue to look at numbers and take away our autonomy- in one way or another.

And most important…not the patients. Many actually are crying out for more of the same.

At the end of the Madoff movie there was a voice-over as Bernie, thinking he was innocent, was blaming the system…the SEC, the public who he cheated because they wanted to make money because of their own greed.

He has a point…yes, my dental friends…we see this playing out everyday.

 

 

 

Is Dental Burnout a Public Health Issue?

February 2, 2016

Filed under: Happiness,Leadership — Tags: , — Barry @ 12:12 PM

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I haven’t blogged in a while. No, I am not getting lazy. I have been busy. I am writing a new book on leadership and communication for dentists.

I know…it’s a bland subject. I know…what can I tell dentists about leadership and communication that they haven’t heard before. I see their eyes light up when the speakers show them beautiful photographs of smiles.

I know where they spend their time and what they focus on.

But not me…for forty years I have focused on the human side of dentistry…the behavioral component.

And I have learned a lot, more everyday as strange as that seems. So I have decided to write a book about leadership and communication because those two terms seem to capture the entirety of the human side of dentistry is every way.

I truly believe what leadership expert John Maxwell says: “Everything rises and falls with leadership.”

If you want to be effective…study leadership.

If anyone has a better way to describe this highly complex subject, I am open to suggestions.

While doing my research, and trying to keep leadership and communication on the positive side of life because one of my core beliefs is that optimistic leaders are more effective and more successful; I found my self writing about  actual problems in dentistry.

The individual, the organizational and the community problems…the darker side of dentistry.

Stress.

Now, I know that’s an old story. We have all heard the news that dentists commit suicide more than any other group. I never got into that conversation…but I do know some victims. I know a lot more sufferers of depression and burnout.

Whenever we hear about a professional suicide we march out that old cliche’ about suicides and dentist…then we go back to work – as a friend of mine once said, “we are either crying or lying.”

One thing we all know, workplace stress is real and professional burnout is very common.

But we’re doctors, we are expected to have everything under control, right? Maybe that is why professionals have swept this problem under the rug for so long.

For me, the giant basket of information for the cure for burnout was to learn how to connect with people better and learn how to become a better leader. It worked for me.

For others this has become a big issue. And it’s finally beginning to trend.

A friend tipped me off about a physician in Oregon, Pamela Wibles, who has become an evangelist for physician suicide and burnout. She has written a book, Physician Suicide Letters Answered. The book describes the problem in the medical community through her own personal story.

After publishing an article about herself, she received hundreds of letters from physicians who have shared similar feelings.

I contacted her and told her that we have similar issues in dentistry.  Her website is www.idealmedicalcare.org/blog/. In her book and on her website she discusses some of the solution to this growing problem.

Of course this can be viewed as a blessing and a curse. Professional education is in dire need of reform…in every way. This problem has many causes….from professional school bullying and hazing to the extreme pressures young professionals go through in private practice.

The public needs to become more aware because of the implications of this problem. Mistakes in diagnosis and treatment will cost the public in the long run. Lawsuits will go up.

This is the tip of the iceberg. When this problem is more deeply explored we will find many more implications.

In the meantime if you have been effected by dental suicide, and burnout…leave some comments below.

 

 

 

 

Dentistry Then and Now

November 30, 2015

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Leadership — Tags: , — Barry @ 2:30 PM

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In 1973, while in dental school I read the influential bestselling book, Working⁠ by Studs Terkel, the late Pulitzer Prize winning author.

In that book Terkel reveals a well-founded conviction, that our universal search is the one for meaning, the subject of Viktor Frankl’s classic book Man’s Search for Meaning.

Terkel calls our jobs a search as well; “for daily meaning as well as for daily bread, for recognition as well as for cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”  The book is composed of interviews of people with many various jobs.  The common attribute in all of the interviews is “meaning to their work well over and beyond the reward of a paycheck.”

I recently re-read parts of Working.  I was particularly interested in the dentist, Dr. Stephen Bartlett who at that time had been practicing in a Detroit suburb for nineteen years.

The interview could have been done today.  Bartlett’s complaints about dentistry: that it was physically demanding (he stood all day and refused to change to 4-handed sit-down dentistry), that most patients were under stress, that he had to deal with cancellations and mostly that only he knew when he did a good job.

He also spoke about what  was appealing to him:  that he could practice dentistry as he liked (autonomy), that he had the opportunity to play a role in the lives of his patients by changing their appearance (meaning), that he was his own boss and could make his own hours.  I thought how similar the job is today…but like Viktor Frankl during his life—something happened…beyond his control…World War II.

In other words the landscape has changed. The human factors have remained the same.  Our jobs provide us with a sense of meaning and purpose.  No matter how much technology has made dentistry more pleasant…people still have fears and cancel.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Some might say, and I agree, that the sixties and seventies were the Golden Age of Dentistry.  It was a time when a dental practice offered as much autonomy as a dentist wanted.  It was the the ultimate in free enterprise.

We knew the score, graduate, specialize or open your own practice, hang up your shingle and go to work.  Easy-peasy.  If you were a people person, even better.  If not, no problem, just work some nights and weekends.

There have been many changes since those years.  The effect of insurance and third parties, as many dentists know, is not a simple equation.  Insurance has had the effect of lowering the standards and quality of dentistry by discounting fees and creating their own networks—no matter what the insurance companies tell us.

Pay peanuts—get monkeys.

Advertising may be the holy grail of the free market economy, but under the guise of “educating the public,” it has been abused to the point of bringing out the worst in dentists…and once again creating conditions that force (too strong? I know) dentists to work for less.

Then there is the economy and the shrinking middle class…and the expense of opening a practice.  Yes…there was a price to sitting down and doing 4 – handed dentistry, Dr. Bartlett.

Enough with the bad news.

There is good news—those things that appealed to Dr. Bartlett?  They still exist.  They’re timeless…and just like Frankl’s response in the death camps of WWII…it is up to us to respond to our present conditions.

It has become more difficult to practice with meaning and autonomy.  We must make our own meaning.  Leaders are meaning makers that is why I feel leadership needs to be emphasized in this profession.

 

Do You Do Emergency Crowns?

November 3, 2015

 

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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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