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How to Get Clear

January 28, 2013

Starts with Vision

In my long career in dentistry I notice one trait that dentists seem to have.  They seem to get in there are “do” things.  Most of the time they acquire the knowledge and then they “do.”  It’s not only dentists.  Bookstores are filled with titles that fall into the “how to” category.  The self-help genre sells millions of titles promising people how to do anything.  We all want to achieve…it comes with our software.  So we believe that the key skills for success are knowing and doing.

I would like to add one more key skill to the mix.  Maybe the most important skill of all, the one that every leader must possess to be effective.

That skill is vision.  Seeing clearly where you are going, or the “where” you are taking your patient.

We have all heard it before—Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.”  He called it a habit, but it is really a skill. And it requires practice and developing a style.

Think about writing…even this blog post began with a vision.  There are two types of writers.  Those that just write by the seat of their pants and those that use outlines.  Some use “jot” outlines and others use a very elaborate outlining process.  But all three have some ideas where their writing is going.

And so it goes with treatment and life planning.

I recently read a quote from Dr. Peter Dawson,

“This is why I have such great disdain for the hurry up…exam.  Unfortunately, this is typical ‘usual and customary’ dentistry.  It is what most patients expect, but it certainly sets aside any competent dentist who goes beyond these expectations.”


A strong word, but I agree.  Why do dentists do a hurry up exam.  They just don’t take the time.  Most know what to do.  Most can do it.  But most don’t have a style or process of visualizing the future.  The real shame is they don’t take the time to clarify their future.

Everything starts with the examination process…a dental exam or a self exam, it doesn’t matter.  In order to find problems we must take the time, and then discover new places to go to.  Get as clear as possible.

I call the skill of vision, getting clear.

It may be the most worthwhile skill you develop.  It will turn you from a dentist to a leader.






How To Get a Discount From Your Dentist

January 27, 2013





Nothing bothers me more than the bad rap dentists get these days.  It truly bothers me when I read how uncaring and greedy dentists are as told by dissatisfied patients.  I know that there are many people who love their dentist.   They are the ones who have the beautiful smiles and the pleasant breath.  In my forty years of dental practice I can say I honestly believe the majority of dentists are good, honest and caring people.  Sure they went into dentistry to earn a good living, like everyone else.  But remember they had to go through many barriers to entry like the high cost of education, the minimum four years of study and the tremendous amount of work needed to graduate.  A person really must be committed to their work to do that…and like most humans they want to “do good.”

I truly believe that most dentists want to help their patients first.

Then why all of the complaints about dentistry these days.  I have read some nasty rants on Facebook that really should have been censored.  But who am I to restrict someone’s freedom of speech.  Yes, dentistry can be uncomfortable but most dentists try to make it as comfortable as possible—no we’re not sadists.  There has never been a better time in history to get painless dentistry.  Yes, dentistry is expensive…but that’s not the dentist’s fault.  Your iPad is expensive too.  But between fear and cost…Houston, we have a problem.

Last June Frontline did a story on dentistry that was more about the current state of the economy than the actual state of dentistry…it is worth watching if you haven’t seen it.


People are staying away from the dentist.  I heard that even people with dental insurance are leaving 95% of the benefits on the table because they can’t afford or don’t want to pay out-of-pocket.

People believe that they are entitled to dental benefits.  That’s a political discussion I would rather not get into.  Entitled or not…most people aren’t covered to the extent that covers their dental needs…there will always be out-of-pocket under the current system.

After working with dental insurance companies for many years…generally I  can tell you they are not the hero of your dental story.  They are in business to make money.

The government?  Not yet…and when they do get involved…to the government it’s just a matter of making the numbers work.

So who can you turn to?

Yep—the man behind the mask.  He or she is your only friend if you want to keep your teeth.  Learn to trust him…stop saying such bad things about him, stop writing in the social media how greedy dentists have become.  Be nice, don’t cancel, pay your bills on time and be courteous to the staff.  When it comes down to it no one is entitled to anything in this world.  Be nice because if you truly need some important dentistry he’s the one who can discount it for you…if he likes you.

The Dental Myth That Never Dies

January 24, 2013

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Marketing,Uncategorized — Tags: — Barry @ 10:47 PM

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My patient cancelled her last appointment…”I forgot,” she said.

Considering her age (82) I accepted the memory breakdown.  She just needed a simple composite on her lateral incisor.

Another routine moment in a dental practice. Until I sensed some hesitation on her part.

So I asked if she had any reservations about the filling (it was clearly missing), and she said…”Well, I thought fillings last forever.”

And so, there it was…the dental myth that never dies.

So I took the opportunity to start a conversation about about this pervasive myth that most dentists have been fighting for years.

The heart and soul of a practice that believes in comprehensive care is these conversations that we get into with patients every day.

Business is a conversation.

During this particular conversation my patient learned the difference between the various materials available for treatment.  She also felt a lot better about the old dentistry that her brother had placed through the years.

She asked me to assess the rest of his work and how long I thought it would last.

Her brother did nice crown and bridge work that was holding up, and she felt good about that too.

Then she brought up her daughter who is in the middle of getting some older crowns replaced.  She had been wondering about that too…now she felt relieved.

All of these issues were generated from a mistaken belief and a good talk.

So I started to ask more patients about this myth…and lo and behold it was disturbingly popular…even in my practice.

Do a survey in your practice.  See what kinds of conversations a simple question can generate.  You may be surprised that it may lead to changing people’s beliefs about materials, hygiene and occlusion.

On my other blog CasePresenter.com I write a lot about getting our patients emotionally involved.  Destroying myths like these are quite emotional as you can tell by the “feeling” reactions of my 82 year old patient.Train everyone in your practice to open these conversations…especially the hygienists.

The Spear blog had a post concerning 5 Ways to Start a Conversation with Your Patient.  All of the suggestions were quite good.  But if you really want to home in on the subject at hand…destroying this myth is a good place to start.

It may also be good for dentistry…so many forces are out there teaching people things that are just wrong.  Start a grass roots campaign to help the profession.It’s worth repeating...Business is a conversation.





The Man Who Mistook his CT Scanner for a Hat

July 17, 2012

Filed under: Article,Marketing,Philosophy,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Barry @ 6:15 PM

How I imagined myself.

Okay fans…that’s not me.  But it is who I imagined I could be.  It just didn’t work out.  Let me explain.

Earlier this year I found myself in one of those newer discount malls you see around these days.  A sprawling, never-ending sea of brand names at marked down prices.  My wife was on a mission to get the deal of the century (she just didn’t know what it was yet), while I was out for a walk in the park.

I like the John Varvatos brand, so I naturally gravitated into that store.  While looking over the boots and leather goods I spotted a felt hat.  You know the type of hat…the one worn by just about everyone hanging out at the Promenade in Santa Monica.  Forget that I am 64 years old.  I tried it on and I became 25 again.  I tipped it this way and that…it looked great.  How much?  I asked. (more…)

Travis and Louie Teach Me The One Thing for Success

July 2, 2012

Filed under: Book Reviews,Philosophy,Uncategorized — Tags: , — Barry @ 10:57 PM

When I speak I tell the story of “The One Thing” from the movie City Slickers.  Remember the scene where Curly (Jack Palance), tells Billy Crystal that the meaning of life is just “one thing,” and everything else don’t mean shit.  Well, I have been looking for that one thing that will make my practice successful.

A few years later, Marcus Buckingham wrote a book, The One Thing.  He wrote about the one thing successful people do.   (more…)

The Master Key to Success

April 19, 2012

I opened the curtains to let the sun in, hoping the tropical storm had passed.  It was still very early but I could get a sense of how the day would unfold.  At 7 A.M. the sky was steel gray and the the tide was high enough to reach the edge of the condo at our St. Maarten timeshare.  Looking down the beach I saw one solitary figure running along the water’s edge, skidding through the surf on his brand new boogie board.

“Josh, is that you?”

He just looked up and kept on going like the Energizer bunny.  Few people showed up on the beach that day, but we couldn’t get my son Josh off the beach till dinner time.  He spent hour upon hour practicing on that board.  He fell off and was swallowed up by the tide more than most people could bear.  Every time he fell, he just laughed and got back on…over and over and over again.  Some would call it crazy, but really I thought it was special.

Years later I would never forget that day. (more…)

Who is the World’s Best Dentist?

December 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Barry @ 11:24 PM
ew Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees befor...

Sports talk-radio hosts love to get audiences engaged by asking who is “the best” in a particular sport.  During football season the debate usually centers around the “best quarterback.”  We all have our opinions, and we can do it on a seasonal basis or even look at it from a historical perspective.

This year the candidates seem to be Aaron Rogers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees,Ben Rothlisberger, Eli Manning and Tim Tebow (Yes, his name has been coming up a lot lately).  What I find interesting is not who is the best, but what the criteria are for being the best.  The Aaron Roger’s  and Drew Brees’ fans will cite statistics, but there are other factors...X Factors if you will.  That is where Manning and Tebow fit in.

It’s the criteria that interest me.  So I would like to hear from you regarding who you think is the World’s Best Dentist…and WHY?

In other words, what do dentists consider the most important traits that would contribute to being world-class.

Is it purely technical skills?  Is it the ability to teach?  Is it related to ethics? to business?  or both?

I am looking for your opinion.  You can mention anyone in the world…but please explain “why?”  If you want to mention a local dentist, that’s okay too…just don’t put yourself down.  If you want to give your opinion on the quarterback debate…go ahead.

Here’s my response—

Eli Manning – Super Bowl MVP…The X-Factor— he has ice running through his veins.  He never feels pressure.

My dentist…World’s Greatest—Let’s hear your votes first.  You can probably guess mine.

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Gatekeepers and Gatecrashers

July 25, 2011

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Marketing,Uncategorized — Tags: — Barry @ 10:47 PM

“He who defines the rules, owns the game.”       Barry Polansky…The Art of the Examination

Break through the gates

I wrote that line in my book a few years ago, in reference to the various forces that were controlling the dental profession at the time.  What I was implying was that dentists should do what blogger Chris Brogan calls, “creating your own game.”  Of course he is speaking about using the new media to compete in today’s connected marketplace…I was speaking about insurance companies.

Reflecting on my latest blog post concerning social e-commerce sites like Living Social and Groupon, I made the connection and revealed how these sites may be today’s version of dental insurance companies.  Third parties that enter the market to control the commerce for their own interests.  These forces are what Brogan refers to as “gatekeepers” in his book Trust Agents.

 A gatekeeper is someone or something that controls entry.  (more…)

5 Reasons Ryan Loves the Dentist

August 9, 2010

Filed under: Business of Dentistry,Technical dentistry,Uncategorized — Barry @ 2:52 PM

Ryan is like so many of our dental patients: he has some fear but he wants to get his work done when necessary.  Let’s face it, not many people line up for treatment, hence all those root canal jokes.  Ryan takes care of his teeth for many reasons, one of which is to stay away from me.

So when Ryan came in with a small chip on his upper front central incisor, he would have been fine to leave it alone…but not Grandma.  He hated needles, he didn’t want me to touch his teeth and he was kind of vain so he needed a perfect shade match.  When we were finished doing our magic (I promised him I would use only Weapons of Minimal Destruction), Ryan (and Grandma) loved us, here’s why:

1. No Needles

Although I only had to use the drill to do the least amount of shaping necessary, and to roughen up the surface.  Ryan felt nothing (he was amazed…I wasn’t).  I didn’t have to go anywhere near his gum tissue…I will explain that below.

2. No Mutilation

Who wants to get their teeth cut down for crowns and veneers?  I understand the price of vanity, but Ryan would have lived with his chip.  Don’t we all have patients like Ryan.  And in the center of the mouth getting one tooth shade corrected can be one of the most difficult things in dentistry…dentists today are jumping at the chance to prepare teeth.

3. No Shade Discrepancies

Okay, this is really where the lab takes over.  It’s pretty tough to make veneers that are this thin and esthetic.  We can match the underlying shade of the tooth by using feldspathic porcelain.  Note the contact lens effect in the center.

4. It’s Invisible

Both Ryan and Grandma were happy because it truly was invisible.  It was a case of under promising and over delivering.

5. Now We Love Ryan Too

The best part of this is that Ryan and Grandma have developed a strong trust in our practice.  It showed how competent we were to deliver on our promises.  They realized that we had really listened to Ryan and his latent objections.  Our intent was to do the very best for our patient under his circumstances and objectives (not ours).  This is how we build our practice.


There are many ways to do minimally invasive dentistry.  I believe the success of this minimally invasive veneer case was due to the expert use of feldspathic porcelain by Niche Dental Studio, and the use of fine Dialite polishing wheels which helped to make all of the margins invisible.

10 Ways to Become a Mediocre Dentist

April 7, 2010

Filed under: ARTICLES,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Barry @ 10:22 PM

Okay, a touch of sarcasm in the title, but I think it’s quite appropriate for our times.  The future of dentistry is in the balance. Unless you live in a cave, you can’t  have missed a cultural shift in our profession.  It’s been occurring for years, and now we are in a definite realignment.  It all started with the fragmentation of dentistry.  First with the institution of dental insurance in the seventies, then the onset of professionals advertising and the loss of meaning of the original ADA’s Code of Ethics in the eighties.

The nineties brought us the proliferation of (more…)

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