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By-Products of an Examination Process

February 17, 2014

Cover of "The Checklist Manifesto: How to...



By far the most important lesson I ever learned in dentistry…one that I wrote a book about…and one that changed my life even more outside the profession than within the profession…was to commit to a comprehensive examination process.   For that I thank my mentors Peter Dawson and Irwin Becker.  That one change in my philosophy lead to the creation of more positive habits, more consistency in behavior and more success than anything else I ever applied.   That’s a bold statement, but if you have committed to a comprehensive exam process then you know how true it can be.   One of the advantages of doing a consistent, comprehensive examination on every patient is that it reduces the number of errors we make in treatment planning our patients.  Make no mistake— planning treatment for patients…all patients…is the most difficult thing we do in dentistry.   Why?   Because regardless of the eventual treatment, we are doing it on the most complex system ever created — the human body…both the physical component and the mental/emotional component.  Dentistry and medicine are complex fields if only because of who we work on – people, not machines.   And so many dentists…and those who have a lot to say about health care in this county – devalue it.   Why?  I’ll let you answer that because the number of reasons is equal to the number of dentists who don’t do it.  That alone is a good reason to do an exam on every patient.   Some years ago I wrote about and praised the book, The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.  I still recommend it.  In that book I compared his “checklists” to our examination process.  He wrote about complex situations like what goes on in the operating room and in preparing airplanes for travel.  Of course these situations can be a matter of life and death…but that doesn’t reduce their meaning for what we do in our everyday lives.  Checklists lead to better predictability and control.  Is there a goal you haven’t been able to achieve?   In a new book, The Upside of Down, author Megan McArdle refers to Gawande’s book in an effort to explain how to reduce errors by creating a checklist/process.  She reminded me of a quote I once read by W. Edwards Deming:

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.”

I firmly believe this, because the examination process for me was the starting point for understanding everything I know about this field.   McArdle then cited University of Penn sociologist Charles Bosk who studied types of errors we make.  His work focused on medical mistakes. This is where it gets interesting.   Bosk classified four types of errors:

  • Technical errors.  These would include things like the drill slipping…these things do happen.
  • Judgement errors.  Includes errors of waiting too long to treat or using questionable techniques.

Both of those types of errors occur with some frequency and although I hate to say it…are expected.  Into everyone’s life a little rain falls.   The next two types are not expected and this is where taking the proper precautions and using a process can keep us on the straight and narrow,

  • Normative errors – or failing to get and use all of the information that is available about a patient.  This one calls into question the personal fitness of the doctor.  This is why dental schools taught us why cheating was so bad.  These are the ethical errors.
  • Quasi-normative errors – these are the ones that dentists do because someone suggested that they do it.  Hmm…who might that someone be?  I call this the Flip Wilson error…the late comedian who became famous for saying “the devil made me do it.”

So why do these last two types of errors occur?  It’s easy to blame people, but if you could build fail-safes into your process, then it’s more likely you will avoid these errors.  No guarantees, but what McArdle says makes sense:

“People who commit normative errors are generally too focused on outcome and result, and not enough process.  They are willing to cut corners, to bend rules, and that is a very dangerous thing.”

So the lesson is,  if you want to minimize the risk of catastrophe, you focus on the process much more than the outcome.   But there’s more.  The examination process even beyond dentistry, helps us understand ourselves better.  It can be a self-development tool…it was for me.  Remember what Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”   And he wasn’t talking about teeth.

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Four Approaches to Health Care

February 12, 2014



Biologically, man hasn’t evolved in 50,000 years.  Culturally we are evolving faster than any other time in the history of the world.  The human masticatory system hasn’t changed.  Our understanding of it may have changed but the biology has remained the same.  What has changed is our culture.

Cultural evolution more than biologic evolution is the dominant and most powerful engine of change.  This is now the most powerful force on the planet… And one that is radically transforming our bodies.

Dental caries and periodontal disease is what the modern biologists call mismatch diseases…like heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.  Our biology is mismatched to our current culture.  In many ways, because of these mismatches, we may be devolving rather than evolving.  This “mismatch hypothesis”applies evolutionary biology to health and disease.

Theodosius Dobzhansky prominent geneticist and evolutionary biologist says, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Now add cultural evolution evolution to that.

The biggest changes from the Agricultural Revolution through the Industrial Revolution and now to the Information Revolution has centered around how people think and behave differently.

We have a unique and totally unprecedented ability to innovate and transmit information and ideas from person to person.  “Greatest cultural advances occurred thanks to more effective methods of transmitting information…language (human speech), writing, printing press, telephone, photography, Internet, downloads etc,” according to Harvard paleoanthropologist, Daniel Lieberman, author of the book The Story of the Human Body.

Cavities and gum disease were not issues for the hunter-gatherers – that picture above just about says it all.

Besides the diet and the overabundance of processed foods available today, the way we provide health care is devolving as well.  Health care sometimes neglects the real science of prevention and uses technology to bail us out of the mess we behaved our way into.  What I mean is that we confuse science with technology.

Today’s technology is amazing…but it’s value lies in helping us to do our tasks better and faster…and sometimes much more expensively.  Culturally we have created problems in such great numbers that we have become dependent on the technology to save us.

How’s that working?

That’s why there is such big interest these days in the Paleo movement.  I’m not arguing for a diet filled with meat and fish but rather for a simpler way of life…a way of life that made more sense for our overall health.  Hunter-gatherers were more in tune with their circadian rhythm and ate, moved and slept so that they didn’t have to adapt to processed foods, driving, and sleep deprivation which leads to the aforementioned mismatch diseases.

Before cooking and food processing… Losing your teeth could be a death sentence.  Today, as we evolve, dentists are more and more concerned about fixing the disasters rather than preventing them.

Lieberman suggests that there are four ways to approach health care...and like him, I don’t judge because we are where we are in time.  But I do have my preference…but that comes with certain responsibilities:

  1. Let natural selection sort the problem out.  Most of dentists know how that works.  Think chronic inflammation and visceral fat.

  2. Invest more in biomedical research and treatment.  Let’s just keep throwing more money at this giant health problem.  How does 58 billion sound on heart patients?

  3. Educate and empower.  The one I rely on—for me and my patients—mostly for me.

  4. Change the environment (Make it law)–Sure…good luck with this—freedom is more precious than good health

I don’t know about you but I vote for number 3.  I have become fanatical about truly understanding the science—and only relying on the technology when necessary.  This works for me at a personal level – but as I attempt to empower my patients n- it works for them too.

I encourage all health care providers to see our health care problems through the lens of evolution – because if cultural evolution got us into this, then shouldn’t cultural evolution be able to get us out?


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Focus on Function

November 25, 2013

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Philosophy — Tags: , , — Barry @ 1:18 PM

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When I speak I tell dentists that their patients come to them for four reasons: health, comfort, function and esthetics.  That’s today, but the profession has evolved into that position.  I am sure that the very first dental patient sought treatment for pain (comfort).  That particular type of patient probably dominated the dental landscape for the majority of history…at least before George Washington’s wooden teeth.

Modern times brought more and more patients seeking treatment for the other reasons listed above, but right through the days of Doc Holliday and Dodge City, and Painless Parker, the main reason was for relief of pain.  Then somewhere in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, dentistry became legitimatized with the advent of the the American Dental Association and an organized system of dental education.  Dentists became doctors—and health and saving teeth was added to reasons people sought treatment.

But “health” is a vague term that means different things to different people.   To many it means keeping teeth for a lifetime.  Certainly a worthy goal, that requires quite a bit of attention to not only teeth but to gums as well as to bites.  My feeling is that too many dentists and even dental educators fail to describe what real health is.  But the focus on dentistry has been “health” for many years.


A new focus on cosmetics replaced comfort and health.  The “Cosmetic Revolution” started in the mid-nineties and it remains today as the focus of dentistry for many doctors and patients.  For other dentists it has become a distraction to the “health” issue and helping patients keep their teeth for their whole lives.

I agree that comfort, health and esthetics are very important goals for any dental practice—but as my practice evolved over the last forty years and my patients have gotten older, I have found a new perspective on the fourth reason…function.

Dental disease is chronic disease.  Not as life-mandating as heart disease, diabetes or cancer — but chronic, preventable disease, that if left alone will cause the body to break down and threaten quality of life and longevity.

Lately, I have been treating a significant number of nonagenarians (those lucky enough to reach the age of ninety).  For these patients, optimal health and esthetics take a back seat to loss of function.  It’s a whole new ballgame when these patients have to alter the way their bodies worked for so many years.

Even at my spry age of 66, the most important thing in my life is to wake up every morning and have everything working properly.  The old cliche’ about flossing only the teeth you want to keep, takes on new meaning when you look at it through the lens of function.

Norman Mailer wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Executioner’s Song, about serial killer Gary Gilmore.  Notably, the thing that Gilmore regretted more than anything was that he had no teeth to eat his last meal consisting of steak, potatoes, milk and coffee.  He only had the milk and coffee.

I hope I don’t sound too morbid, but I have learned to live better by trying to understand how I will make my final exit.

My elderly patients teach me that everyday. 

 In my book The Art of Case Presentation I refer to my friend Dr. Ken Myers of Portland Maine.  Some years ago he started his 80/20 Club.  In order to become a member, the patient had to be at least 80 years old and still have 20 natural teeth.  When I see photos of the club that they take at yearly luncheons, I am always impressed by how vibrant and happy they look.

Some years ago I read an excellent article by Dr. Atul Gawande, about frailty and the elderly.  Gawande, the author of The Checklist Manifesto is an excellent writer who has a very good handle on healthcare in America.  His philosophies have changed the way I think about health…and dental practice.

He describes frailty as a loss of function.  Some of it comes with natural aging…but some can be prevented…

with a focus on function.








How to Give Up Your Freedom of Choice

September 17, 2013

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Ethics,Philosophy — Barry @ 2:15 PM



Did you ever wonder how a long-time loyal patient ends up opting in for an insurance plan that restricts him to going to a dentist on a list?

Shocking, isn’t it?  Well it happened to me recently.  A patient for the past thirty years called and asked to have his records sent to another dentist because I wasn’t on the list.  He was so sorry, he said, but his HR person explained how that was what most people in his company were doing.

For years I suspected that there were forces at work that were beyond our control that led to patients to leave practices where they were completely happy.

I always believed it was the economy.

I am happy to report that the patient I mentioned above is back in our practice…after a nice hand-holding conversation.

But…what I learned was that there are more forces involved than just the economic situation.  There are cognitive biases and principles of influence at work…some of them just human tendencies and others may border on unethical uses of influence.

Influence is a powerful motivating force that can be used both positively and negatively...a force for good or evil.  Just think, Charles Manson’s favorite book is How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The free market has always been a jungle.  Caveat emptor is the only defense in a world where new rules reign everyday.

For some reason I believe “health care” should fall outside of the boundaries of free market capitalism.  But I digress.  There are many interests in the health marketplace that have intentions other than the specific care and benefits of the patients.

There are two cognitive biases that some special interest groups may be applying that further their businesses and have tilted the playing field.  One is the social mirror, popularized by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence, and the other is the default bias as described by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

The social mirror is obvious — people look to their close social group for making decisions.  On a positive note this is what makes referrals and positive word of mouth marketing work.

Did you ever notice how many white cars there are in the sunshine state…is that the default bias at work?  This is when people cling to the standard options.  I know white works well in the sun…but it is the default.  Like your computer settings…most people choose the default settings.  It’s familiar and just easier.

In the book, Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the authors illustrate how a government can direct its citizens without unconstitutionally restricting their freedom of choice. 

They do this by offering a few options – always including a default choice for indecisive people.

They gave an actual example of how New Jersey and Pennsylvania presented two car insurance policies to their inhabitants.  The first policy was cheaper but waived certain right in case of an accident.  New Jersey presented this as the standard default option…and guess what…that’s what most people chose.

In Pennsy they reversed it with the more expensive item as the default…and, you guessed it…that is the one they chose.

So how do you reconcile that?

Cars, people, different states…just the way it’s presented.

You tell me…is that freedom of choice?

Is that how governments and insurance companies train us to give up our freedom of choice?

I don’t know if we can change this…but at least we should be more aware of the cognitive biases that exist and are being used to bend minds.






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Because I Can

August 20, 2013

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: , , — Barry @ 11:57 AM

images-2Stymied.  Stuck.  Shamed.  These are some of the emotions I felt when I clicked on a website shared by Mike Florio of ProFootballtalk.com. 

Florio is a lawyer turned blogger who generally offers some very good if not controversial sports opinions.  You may know him from his TV spot on NBC’s Game of the Week.  In yesterday’s list of posts was a strange title that led to the website of Martin Manley, a sports blogger who decided to kill himself at age 60 ( I am still uncomfortable writing about this).  Strange as it was to find this on a site devoted to football…I posted it on Facebook where some friends commented and felt the same way I did…compelled to keep reading and somewhat disturbed.  Uncomfortable may be a better word.  The subject, suicide, can be considered taboo in many circles.

Manley wrote a massive amount of material on the site.  He divided into two categories: his life and his death.  He claimed that he was healthy, financially secure, not lonely and mentally stable.  The writing indicated that he certainly had a grasp of language.

Many of the comments indicated one question…”WHY?”

But on one of the early pages he tells us why…“Because I Can.”

And that’s what stirred me.  That’s what bothered me to the point of those 3 words echoing in my head through the night.

“Because I can” is a matter of free will…his freedom of choice.  By deciding to take his life, he relinquished his will to live.  This is so contrary to everything in my life at every level.  I watch living organisms struggle for their last breath to hold on in an effort to maintain and sustain life.  I also watch people give up way to easily because of fear, and never get the most out of life.  Martin Manley, in the end, abused his freedom of choice…and then left it on the web to show us how much courage he had.

He was a man who committed the ultimate cowardly act.  It’s easy to say he was mentally disturbed.  Mental illness is a terrible thing.  Manley committed an act of arrogance.

It takes more courage to fight life’s daily challenges. 

The vast majority of people reading this blog will never consider suicide as an alternative…but people do.

At the risk of sounding sophomoric – Manley’s act should be an example of using our freedom of choice to overcome ours fears rather than submit to them.

In the end–the ultimate message is the the timeless one…Choose Life!


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Reality Dentistry

August 7, 2013

AlokOnLake_t479There is a Zen story about a woman who goes to a calligrapher to have a painting made.  The Zen master interviews the woman to find out exactly what she is looking for.  He tells her to return in 3 months.

When she returns she is told that the calligraphy isn’t quite ready…he needs 3 more months.  She understands that he is a master and grants him more time, but she is a woman of some wealth and is a bit frustrated.  Three months latter she returns.

This time the master apologizes, saying that it is becoming quite difficult to complete the job.  He will need 6 more months.  The woman is close to pulling the plug, but she agrees to wait.

In 6 months, exactly one year from the time she made her original request…she returns.  This time the master leads her to a room where he is about to reveal the calligraphy.  The woman looks annoyed and says “What in the world could have taken so long?”

The Zen master opens a cabinet and out falls thousands of drawings of her calligraphy as he reveals the one master-piece.

My question is how realistic is it for us as dentists to try to mimic that level of mastery?  The answer lies not only in the commitment of the dentist but also in the patience of the clients.  The dentist must find the balance of providing the best he or she is capable of and the desires of the marketplace.

Of course, if the dentist chooses he can create a practice that concentrates on only those clients who expect the very best and are willing to wait for prodigious results.  Those practices exist.  Those patients exist.

But is that reality?

Dentistry, since the late nineties, has been portrayed to the public as a profession that caters to those patients who desire these exceptional cases.  And dentists attend courses that depict dentistry as something only worthy of masters.  But that isn’t what we see everyday.

We see patients who refuse to look at the crowns and veneers that we labored so hard to reach.  We see patients who come into our practices because of our outstanding reputation in the community only to reject the best dentistry.  As a lab owner I see dentists expecting the finest cosmetic cases without providing the best information.

There is a gap.

That gap leads me to the premise of this blog…trust, appreciation and ownership.

It proves to me what author Jim Collins said in his landmark book, Good to Great:  “First who…then what.”

A practice…a life… should be built on relationships.  Your success and happiness depends on it.  That’s reality….everything else…just talk.









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Who Does the Future of Dentistry Belong To?

July 24, 2013

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Philosophy — Tags: , , — Barry @ 11:42 AM

shutterstock_73633585I come from a long line of small businessmen.  Independent taxi cab owners, hardware stores, candy stores.  When I look back on those businesses I don’t see many modern day versions.  Like pet shops and bookstores things change and continue to change.  The same is true of dental practices.

For those who are too young to remember there was a time when a dentist either went into the military, or public health or opened up a fee-for-service private practice.  Most dentists chose private practice.  Those were the days that we refer to as the Golden Age of Dentistry.

I used to take pride in thinking I was an entrepreneur because I owned my own business.  In truth I was no more than a small business owner.  Yes, it was something to be proud of, but I wasn’t an entrepreneur.  Today, in order to run a successful fee-for-service dental practice, the dentist must develop significant entrepreneurial skills.

There are books that discuss the entrepreneurial mindset—they call it the start-up mindset these days.

Just today I was reading a blog post at Spear Education titled What if Steve Jobs Had Been a Dentist.  It discussed Jobs’ entrepreneurial spirit.  Who was more iconoclastic than Steve Jobs?

He was never satisfied with the status quo…a true innovator who always looked to create a better future.  One of his famous quotes was, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself someone else will.”  That quote reminds me of my favorite quote by Jack Welch:  “Create your own future or someone else will.”

Both of these great men were entrepreneurs in the true sense of the word—not just business owners.

In Mitch Joel’s new book Ctl Alt Delete, which is geared toward people who need to change or reboot their careers, he defines an entrepreneur as someone “who has an uncanny desire to create the future—a future that doesn’t exist.”

The true entrepreneur is someone who sees the inefficiencies in the way we work.  They actually fix the stuff that we complain about everyday.

What do dentists complain about everyday?  A lot more these days than when I first started.

The problem with most business owners including myself, is that we get complacent.  The older we get and the more successful we get—the more content we become with the status quo.  We lose our innovative spirit and our desire to change.  As Mitch Joel says, “Business owners just try to mitigate risk and minimize mistakes.”

As time moves on—they stop creating their own future.

The gatekeepers are taking over the profession.  Fee-for-service private practice, as a business model is being threatened.  Those with an entrepreneurial mindset will control their own future.

The future of dentistry belongs to the entrepreneurs…not the business owners.

Forty years ago, when I started, being average worked.  Today new skills and mindsets are required.  The key to success is to destroy the gatekeepers (metaphorically—so calm down…I am not starting a movement), and take responsibility for our own lives.

 Today, in order to compete at a higher level the dentist must become an artist.  Learn new skills.  Develop his or her core message, make it clear, learn to express himself through excellent presentation, learn to use social media, write a blog, and use photography.

Essentially it comes down to what we already know…create your vision, develop your core message and your core promise.  Then, and here is where things have changed, use every tool available to get your message out.

People receive their information differently these days…make sure your message is clear and your reach is tightly targeted—then YOU will own the future.



My son Joshua a ceramist knows exactly how to do this—he actually teaches me.  Child is Father to the Man when it comes to today’s entrepreneurs.  Here is a link to his latest YouTube Video—clear message—expertly delivered.



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Here’s to the Crazies

June 24, 2013




During a conversation about cosmetic dentistry, my  patient turned to me and said, “Oh you Americans with your white teeth.”  She is from Belgium and she said it half jokingly.  When I reflected on the comment I realized how uniform dentists and technicians tend to make teeth…People Magazine’s version of cosmetic dentistry.

I used to have a painting on the wall of one of my treatment rooms…A New Yorker’s View of the World. 

Being an arrogant New Yorker at the time (I’ve changed and mellowed significantly), I resented the way the artist portrayed east coast myopia.  But, in both cases, the painting and my patient, I listen now when others suggest to open my eyes and take a different view of the world.

When patients present for cosmetic dentistry I ask them to bring in photographs of what they want their teeth to look like.  They always bring in the same pictures…Julia, Tom, Jenifer and an assortment of the same models hawking different products.  The smiles are very regular, very standard…stock teeth.  When I point out that most of these people have natural teeth, they tell me that’s what they want.

But in the end, what they want is not natural…it’s white, bright and regular…the same look that my Belgian patient was referring to.

What I am suggesting is to break that mold…destroy the status quo and really create beauty by taking a few risks.

That’s what artists do.  They create new things by destroying the status quo…not just teeth, but ideas and approaches as well.

The dentist and lab technician of the future will have to be creative…they will have to see things differently.  Competence will no longer be enough—even expert may fall short…only the masters, the inventors and innovators will compete in the future.

In the book Iconoclast, author Gregory Berns tells the story of Dale Chihuly, a master glassblower.  His work can be seen in the lobby of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas (picture above), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in 1986 he had an exclusive showing in the Louvre.    Chihuly’s story is an evolutionary tale of an artist, and a true iconoclast.  The word comes from the Greek eikonoklastes which means “destroyer of images.”

Essentially it is what Steve Jobs referred to when he said, “Here’s to the crazies,”  or “Think Different.”  Yes…we can do that in dentistry.

As Berns tells Chihuly’s story, as a novice glassblower he stuck to the rules.  He only produced symmetrical, balanced pieces.  That was the expected protocol, and it was rarely challenged.  He was always a freethinker and struggled to do things differently, the the available tools only allowed him to produce the same old symmetrical pieces—colorful, innovative but symmetrical.

In 1976 Chuhuly was in a car accident in which he lost his left eye.  He began to wear a patch which cut off his peripheral vision.  His handicap forced him into a new way of working by giving up holding the glass to a gaffer in order for him to get more accurate depth perception.  As a result, this adjust

English: Dale Chihuly

ment allowed him to see the glass from different angles, and his results were asymmetrical, and actually mind-blowing.  He created a new art form—he broke the existing paradigm of glassblowing.

He went from competent, to expert to master by breaking the mold—by breaking the rules of glassblowing.

Dentistry will not move forward without masters—those who break the rules—the crazies.  If our culture continues to reward the same old, same old by confining dentists and lab technicians into creating the “American Smile”  we are holding the profession back and placing cuffs on individual dentists.  They need the freedom to practice.

These days it is the “crazies,” the artists that are breaking the staus quo—and they are meeting lots of resistance.  Maybe then we won’t be making pearly whites for seventy five year old patients.












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The Truth About…

June 17, 2013



Just when I think I’m out…they pull me back in.  Last week I wrote a blog post warning readers to be aware of chauffeur knowledge.   Of course I am always on the lookout for potential chauffeurs, so when it came to my attention that TV doctor, Mehmet Oz did a series of shows called Toxic Teeth: Are Amalgam Fillings Safe? my chauffeur radar sounded an alarm.

Just the act of Googling Dr. Oz will show you that he has an opinion on just about everything known to man, and with a surgeon’s credentials and the backing of the media…you always have to wonder about his purpose.  Not that I am the suspicious type, but when he treads on my industry…I prefer the truth…if there is a truth.

I don’t want to get into the so called facts about amalgam.  The Internet is filled with conflicting information (of course if you have a dog in the fight you won’t think the info conflicts).  That’s why we may never know the truth about many things.  Yet we all have to make decisions…everyday.  Amalgam? Composite resin? Gold (there’s one Dr. Oz never mentioned)? X-rays? Centric relation occlusion? Neuromuscular occlusion?

Did you ever notice how all the chauffeurs start off by saying, “The Truth About…”

That’s what Dr. Oz did—he used words like poison, firestorm, potential toxicity, all the while an ominous soundtrack played like the one you hear when a political candidate has an ad about his opponent.  Well done production…but it doesn’t get us any closer to the truth.

I know the truth.

Well it’s my truth anyway.  Another word for my truth is opinion...I formed it by observing the field for over forty years and working in the profession…I’m not the chauffeur.  At the end of this post I will give you my truth.

Rolf Dobelli, in his fascinating book, The Art of Thinking Clearly, writes about two ideas that may come into play when making choices like the ones above:  Neglect of Probability and Zero-Risk Bias.

The first one, Neglect of Probability is our tendency to make decisions based on magnitude rather than true probabilities.  For example many people invest money in start-ups because of the high potential of profits to be made, and ignore the poor odds of a business actually making it.

Another example is the way many more people play the Mega- Jackpot lotteries even though the odds of winning are so much smaller compared to the normal lotteries.  Magnitude over probability…got it? Good.

Now let’s talk about Zero-Risk Bias…this is a bit more complicated.

The example Dobelli gives is to examine two methods of treating drinking water.  A river gets its water from two equally large tributaries.  One is treated with method A and the other with method B.  Method A reduces the risk of dying from contamination from 5 to 2 percent.  Method B reduces the risk of dying from 1 to 0 percent.

So which would you pick? (more…)

Don’t Get Fooled by Chauffeur Knowledge

June 7, 2013

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: , , , — Barry @ 10:00 AM

images-4Today’s world is quite complicated.  We live in an age of information overload.  It is difficult to feel secure in knowing that we are keeping up when so much information floods our senses everyday.

If you think that you are suffering from information overload then you may be right – a new study shows everyone is bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data a day.

My new favorite book The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli, which I referenced in another post, discusses a way to think more critically about some of the information we are exposed to.

Question who the information is coming from.

Make sure the person who is guiding you doesn’t have another agenda.  More equipment, supplies and advice is sold by people who just don’t know what they are talking about—they have what Dobelli calls chauffeur knowledge.

What’s chauffeur knowledge?

Well it goes back to Dr. Max Planck, one of the inventors of quantum physics.  Back in 1920, before the days of television,  and the Internet, words spread very slowly.  When a famous scientist had to teach, he had to travel and give lectures.  Planck had a chauffeured car to take him all around Europe to spread the word about his new theories.

One day his chauffeur asked, “Dr. Planck, you must be tired of giving the same lecture night after night.  I know it like the back of my hand.  Would you like me to give the lecture for you tonight?”

Planck, being kind of a fun guy agreed.

So off they went, and the chauffeur gave the lecture while Planck sat in the front row, posing as…you guessed it…his chauffeur.

When the lecture ended a doctor stood and asked a question.

Without missing a beat the real chauffeur said, “I am so surprised doctor, that someone of your esteem would ask such an elemental question…as a matter of fact, the answer is so simple I will let my chauffeur answer it.”

With all of the information coming at us these days in the form of e-mail solicitations, internet advertising and the intense pressure to keep up, dentists must use their ability to think critically about who is providing the information…or they stand to use mis-information and suffer the consequences.

In today’s world, information is our currency…we can convert good knowledge, principles and information into tangible success…one way to stay safe is to watch for the chauffeur.







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