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Ask These 2 Questions and Become an Instant Leader

January 22, 2019

Filed under: Leadership,Mastery,Trust — Barry @ 10:22 PM
Breaking Down Leadership

I recently sat in on a Facebook Live interview with a dentist who was discussing practice management for young dentists. Like so many times the interviewer asks the guest, “What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a dentist who is just starting out in his or her career?” And like so many “experts” he replied with a simple answer that I think would help —- no one. He said, “learn leadership.”

Quite confusing.

It was like asking for advice on how to live a long life and responding by saying…keep breathing. Yes, leadership is the right answer, but have you ever looked at the number of options there are on the leadership shelf at Barnes and Noble…not to mention Amazon.

Young dentists need better answers. More practical answers. Answers that allow them to apply what they know. Leadership comes in many styles and sizes. Leadership is a universal concept. Did the dentist mean the Leadership Lessons of Abe Lincoln…or the Navy Seals? There is a big difference.

A better question might have been in studying leadership, where should I start regardless of style, personality or even mission…or what is the one thing that all leaders have in common? The answer…duh…is followers. No one can be a leader without followers and in a dental practice that would be patients and staff.

So what is it that the followers in a dental practice want to know? Trust me, not one will take one step forward if they don’t believe that you are the doctor that will take them where they want to go. In order for you to create that belief you must answer the two silent questions that everyone has in their mind.

They want to trust you, and they have to trust you.

The first question is: “Do you care about me?” So that is your starting point. Don’t take for granted that you are being perceived as someone who puts their patients and staff ahead of themselves. In my time I have met many docs who believe that they cared more about others than they do about themselves. Generally I met them when they came to me for a second opinion.  It takes time —lots of time to develop that mindset and habit set—but the question was where I would tell the young dentist to start.

The second question is: “Can you do the job?” or “Are you competent enough to do the job?” Well, what that says is that as a young dentist, from a technical perspective, understand that you are still in your apprenticeship stage of your career. That means there is plenty more to learn. In my career I remember taking many technical courses that were disconnected and I had to make sense of them. It was more like a self-directed apprenticeship. Today I would advise the young dentist to find a mentor…a person to person mentor…who can answer these two questions for himself.

To that mentor (leader)—I would ask…do you care about me and can you do the job?

That would be my advice to any young dentist looking to learn about leadership, trust and even mastery.

The Motivational Power of Splint Therapy

October 16, 2014

Filed under: Mastery,Technical dentistry — Tags: , , — Barry @ 10:05 PM



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 hadn’t worn her splint in a long time, because she didn’t feel she needed it anymore.  Somewhere along the line my message didn’t stick.

That’s not the first time a splint patient either stopped wearing their splint, or lost the splint, or maybe even fed the splint to the dog.  It’s the same feeling I get when a perio patient goes back to the same bad habits that caused their disease in the first place, or I find out that their very expensive partial denture is lying at the bottom of their night table drawer.

The consequences for the patient are pretty grim, but for me I feel as if I am not doing my job because I place a high emphasis on doing meaningful work.

The key to meaningful work is to gain commitment from the patient.

Dentistry that changes people’s lives isn’t, and should not be restricted to, cosmetic dentistry.  Changing people’s lives in meaningful ways is about health, comfort and function as well.  Function is the one that lies under the radar.  Function is the one that requires more education, and splint therapy is the educational and motivational tool.

Let’s face it when people enter into comprehensive dental treatment some level of commitment is necessary in order to get the best long-term benefits.  People weigh the benefits of treatment against the consequences of treatment…the result is the level of commitment.  When the benefits far outweigh the consequences…the cost, the time, the levels of discomfort, real or imagined…then there will be commitment.

And the work will be more meaningful for all.


Many cosmetics dentists use a technique called a trial smile or cosmetic mock-up.  The purpose is to show the patient the benefits of cosmetic dentistry.  In sales they call that demonstrating the solution.  You see demonstrations on TV all the time.  The famous pitchman Ron Popeil would wow viewers with demonstrations of his Chop-o-Matic hand food processor or his Veg-o-Matic slicer.

Think of a splint as a way to demonstrate to the patient problems they never knew they had.  They will accept your splint like people accepted the Pocket Fisherman.  Just kidding of course.  The point is that dentists need to educate patients when they are not aware of the problem.

People will never accept a solution to a problem they don’t understand in their own mind.  Many will nod yes because of the positional authority of the dentist…only not to follow through with treatment or put the partial in the drawer and never come back.

Here are a few guidelines for using a splint as an educational and motivational tool:

  1. Splint therapy can be the gateway for patient’s accepting long-term comprehensive dentistry.  Become an expert in diagnosis and splint treatment options.
  2. Take the time to educate the patients as part of your new patient examination process.  Make sure they thoroughly understand the problem before treatment is presented.  Make use of photography, muscle palpation, diagrams, TMJ trainers, and of course mounted study models.
  3. Relate your findings to any signs and symptoms.
  4. If they do not acknowledge a problem…don’t treat through the occlusal issues.
  5. Once they own the problem…the splint becomes the ultimate demonstration.  The next natural question for them is “where do we go from here?”
  6. Slow down the examination-presentation process.

I started this post with a description of the uncommitted patient, but in reality nothing, except maybe cosmetic mock-ups and pulpotomies, has done more for educating and motivating patients than splint therapy.

That’s how you can continue to do meaningful work that patients thank you for.

How do you use splint therapy for education and motivation?  Leave your response in the comment section.