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What is the Practice of Dentistry?

April 1, 2013

Filed under: Art of the Examination,Case Presentation,Philosophy — Barry @ 10:00 AM



I practice Bikram yoga.  It’s Hatha Yoga on steroids.  We do it in a hot room, heated to 105 degrees and 40% humidity.  It can get uncomfortable if you are not used to it, but once you acclimate it’s really good for you.  Acclimation takes time and practice.

Besides all of the medical benefits I have enjoyed, like lower blood pressure,  more stable blood sugars (I am a diabetic), great looking skin and better balance and flexibility (but I still can’t touch my toes after two years), I have learned a lot about the concept of “practice.”

I always felt that the word practice was sort of a misnomer when it came to dentistry.  I mean dentists don’t practice like pianists, tennis players or even magicians,  consciously and deliberately practicing everyday.  Conscious and deliberate are the operative words.  After graduation most dentists don’t do much consciously and deliberately.  Many dentists get better just because of the repetition.  Yes, my composite resins do look a lot better…but only because I paid attention.

But there are many skills that we use that could bear a little deliberate and conscious practice.  Like communication skills.

I realized the methods of deliberate practice while doing Bikram Yoga.  Every class is the same – a beginner’s class.  Sure people get better…but it takes years to master every pose.  Yoga practice forces me to slow down the mind, like meditation with a purpose.  If you don’t slow down the mind you can’t focus on the complexity of the posture’s demands…muscular and respiratory.

Recently I handled my puppy at a dog show.  My regular handler didn’t get to the ring in time.  I was flummoxed.  There were way too many things going on at the same time.  I blew it.  I wondered if practice would help.  They say athletes need to slow the game down in order to get better.  Football players say the speed of the game is the biggest difference between college and the pros.  Breathing works,  It slows down the heart and the mind.

Just as I set her front legs down she dropped her tail.  When I brought the tail up…boom, there went the back legs.  When I zigged…she zagged.  Then I sped up and lost it.

Does that sound like some your days in the office?

The answer is practice…conscious and deliberate.

It forces you to focus on the technique and continually reduce the effort.  Mistakes are made and tolerated.  When it doesn’t go right, you take a step back, and try again.

It’s interesting that in practice there is always a teacher.  In yoga they call the teacher a guru.  There are semantic differences between the east and the west, but in the end practice should be monitored by a teacher, coach, mentor or guru.

To me the greatest advantage of deliberate practice is emotional control, because it is the toughest to learn and sustain.  I have studied emotional intelligence for years, yet just knowing about it doesn’t correct it.  It’s like knowing about nearsightedness…you still can’t see.

Slowing down the emotional brain or quieting the mind can be done with therapy, drugs or meditation.  Meditation is probably the most effective…it’s also a practice.

That’s why I do yoga.


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