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How Dentists Lost Dentistry

October 16, 2013

Filed under: Business of Dentistry — Tags: , , , — Barry @ 1:12 PM

Friends having having a drink in a bar-784467


I recently attended the 2013 Pankey Alumni Meeting in Orlando Florida.  One night, while sitting around the bar with fellow alumni members, throwing back a few, I realized that after all these years our practices had evolved similarly.

All very different but quite similar.

I began to reminisce about the first time I went to the Pankey Institute.  It was the late eighties and I was at the lowest point in my dental career.  After fifteen years of practicing without a clue…I was ready to be saved.  What I learned was a way of doing dentistry that covered not only technical dentistry, but the business of dentistry and the behavioral components as well.

Dentistry is about way more than tools and techniques.  As a practicing dentist, an educator a coach and an owner of a dental laboratory, I find most dentists run into problems because they over-emphasize the technical component.

Meanwhile…back at the Alumni Meeting…one of Pankey’s elders, an original cadre member made a speech.  He said, “The Pankey philosophy is needed now more than ever.”

I disagree.  What is needed now more than ever is a philosophy…any philosophy, that teaches dentists a way to work their way through this incredibly complex field of technical dentistry, human behavior, business ethics, sales and marketing…in an ever changing world.

Honestly, I got lucky.  I could have continued to learn more and more fragmented technical courses without any sense of coherence.

Back then there weren’t many choices—today there are many institutions that offer a continuum of philosophical dentistry.  Many dentists have benefited from taking their programs.

But too many have not — and that is a problem.

Dental schools do not prepare dentists for the real world (an ever changing domain).  Today’s young dentists do not have the same opportunities that were available years ago.  Their student loans are higher and the cost of opening their own practices have skyrocketed. 

Between those obligations and an enormous amount to learn…they are looking for other options.

Dentists are doing more marketing than ever before.  Dentists are joining insurance plans in order to get new patients and fill their chairs.  Dentists are joining DSOs (dental service organizations-aka corporate dentistry).

Along the way dentists are losing their autonomy.  Some would argue that we always have our freedom of choice, and that is true, but to exercise it takes a lot more “philosophical training.”

Someone once told me that philosophy was a tough sell.  And I might agree…What?  Do we really need Aristotle?

But if Aristotle were alive in the nineteenth century he would have been William James—a psychologist, and if he were alive today he would be Anthony Robbins…a lifestyle coach.

After all he did train Alexander to become great.

The paradigm for how dentistry is delivered has changed.  There is no going back.

As the Affordable Care Act and DSO’s  become prominent, only those dentists who understand the complete concept of dentistry will survive with their autonomy.

And the philosophy teachers?  That role will be filled by government and corporate dentistry.  They will tell dentists how to practice.  They will take over all of the other domains that we used to call philosophy.  They will infuse the practice of dentistry with their mission…their vision and their purpose.

There are plenty of advantages of the old way of doing dentistry.  Everyone preserved their freedom of choice,  Dentists, as much as people would disagree, had to have the patient’s best interests at heart in order to survive…their goal was to help people keep their teeth rather than just watching numbers and bottom lines.

That’s how dentists have lost dentistry…by not paying attention to learning a “way” to practice. 

That is also how I came to sit at a bar with dentists who all practice very similarly…yet differently.








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What Would L.D. Pankey Do?

October 16, 2011

Filed under: What Would LD Do Now? — Tags: , , — Barry @ 10:21 PM

Just to set the record straight, the title of this post may just be a rhetorical question.  I really couldn’t tell you what L.D.Pankey would do if he were alive today, but asking the question might open up some meaningful thoughts on how to live and practice in these difficult times.

History has no shortage of people who have left behind their philosophies on how to live.  Humanity’s very best ideas have been passed down from Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, and Montaigne’s Essays to Aldous Huxley’s Perrennial Philosophy.  These people have given us the tools to help us create happiness and success through core principles that work in any period.

I am often asked the question, you see above, from younger dentists trying to apply Dr. Pankey’s philosophy.  What separated L.D. from the multitude of educators was that he blended this perrennial philosophy with the dental science of his era.  The question, I believe, these students are asking is, “how can we use old wisdom with new science and technology?”

And that is a fair question.

You see what Steve Jobs was to computer science, Thomas Edison was to invention and Peter Drucker was to business management…L.D. Pankey was to dentistry.  Their legacy went way beyond their fields…they gave us more than information and knowledge…they gave us wisdom.

Think about Job’s commencement speech to the graduating class at Stanford.  He didn’t speak about iPods or iPhones…he spoke about life, just as L.D. Pankey spoke to dentists in 1948 at the Florida Academy of Dentistry, in his famous speech, You Are the Future of Dentistry.

That is why Pankey added the arm of “Apply Your Knowledge” to his Cross of Dentistry.  Application…action is not easy…for that we must turn to the perrennialists.  I am sure that is why Pankey himself turned to Aristotle for guidance.  He faced the same problems then as we do today.

The same but different.  Sure he didn’t deal with insurance, advertising or the Internet, but he had his own issues.

I was watching a football show last Sunday.  ESPN’s Chris Berman, Tom Jackson and Bill Parcells were discussing the future of quarterback Tim Tebow with the Denver Broncos.  Berman and Jackson argued that Tebow would do well because of his background.  He had all the tools to make him a winner…all of the character traits.  Parcells wasn’t convinced.  He said the quarterback still needed to throw an accurate pass.  When I heard that I thought of L.D. Pankey.

He knew that the philosophy included more than character.  It included the technical skills as well.  Pankey blended both into his philosophy and that is why, although times have changed…it still works.

Dentists have told me that they are thinking about leaving dentistry, selling their practices and just doing something else.  That would be a shame because there are ways to make things work even in tough times.

I will be using this blog to post specific questions about “What Would L.D. Do Now?”  Please help me by sending questions in… preferably in the comments section so readers can chime in.  I invite everyone to put their two cents in…because together we can can figure it out…because we just can’t ask him.

TAO The Book Installment 4 (Willie and me)

March 23, 2010

Filed under: TAO - The Book,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Barry @ 9:49 AM

Click for great video

The Great "Say Hey Kid"


CHAPTER ONE: Process- The Key to Success

“All happy families resemble each other, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind
 are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.”
–– Ben Franklin

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value.”
⎯ Albert Einstein

I grew up in New York City during the fifties. Baseball was my passion, and back in those days, you were either a fan of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, or Duke Snyder, depending on where you lived. I lived in the Bronx, just a few miles from Yankee Stadium, but I gravitated toward Willie Mays as my hero. When I grew up I wanted as much to be just like Willie as kids today want to be like Lebron James or Alex Rodriguez.  I knew I would never be a great baseball player like Willie, but I envied how he made a living doing what he loved. Even at age eight, I knew that living the dream was a rare occurrence, and I sensed that making a life was more important than making a living.

Like Willie, I wanted to do what I loved. (more…)