Friday, December 7, 2012

What's the Goal?

What's the goal?

It's that time of the year again.  Every December, I sit down and look at the past year and set up the plan for the next.  I do this both personally professionally.

Time to keep score - How did I do?  I definitely fell short in some areas.  And, I definitely over-achieved in others.

I look at personal accomplishments, family accomplishments, professional accomplishments, etc.

In 2012, (Tangibles)
What worked?
What didn't?
What was missing?

How do I feel about all this? (Intangibles)

Review of my Mission Statement, Vision Statement, and Core values

What are my goals for next year?
What are my priorities?

I highly recommend taking a little time to look at these things.  Living with intention is much better than blowing in the wind.

How about you...What is the goal?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Carpe Diem

This is a reprint of an article that I penned for the Journal of the Colorado Dental Association, Summer 2012 (Vol. 91, No. 3). I currently serve as Vice President.

Carpe Diem…

“If you live each day as if it is your last, one day you most certainly will be right.”  Steve Jobs, in his commencement speech to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford University. (Quote attributed to H.H. “Breaker” Morant)

Quite the statement, I must say.  Especially since cancer recently took him away from our world and into the realm of the unknown.  

Now, after reading Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson, it was very clear to me Steve Jobs was a visionary.  He was not, however, a saint.  In fact, the book showed an accurate and honest depiction of a man that knew what he wanted and would do almost anything to get his way.  Often, he was selfish, self-centered, mean, inconsiderate, and eccentric. Hardly the traits of a saint…

But he was a visionary.  One thing that is certain, he stayed true to his vision and his vision changed the world.  The computer industry (Apple), the music industry (iPods, iTunes), movie animation (Pixar), the retail experience (Apple store), and the smart phone (iPhone) all have been re-invented through his innovation and subsequently changed our lives.

In his commencement speech he continued, “It (quote) made an impression on me. And since then, for the past thirty-three years, I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’  If the answer is no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

I know of many dentists that are not happy in their current situations.  In my life, there have been times that I, too, have been unhappy with my situation.  Like my colleagues, I felt trapped, the walls caving in on me.  One day, something inside me gave me the courage to make changes.   I made a call for help.  

That call was instrumental in me turning my life around in ways beyond what I could have ever imagined.  There have been many mentors in my life that I have called upon. I am grateful for their guidance. I would not be the man I am today without them. The key point is I called and asked for help. Help did not find me, I sought it out.

Dentistry is stressful.  A mentor, Jerry Gropper, DDS, once said of our profession, “Dentists must have the eye of a sculptor, the hands of a surgeon, the insight of a therapist, the knowledge of a scientist, and the financial acumen of a businessman.” It is no wonder so many of us have struggles. This is a tall order indeed.

How then can we get out of our proverbial “ruts”?

Thoreau said, “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”  Uh-oh....He is saying that it is going to take some work.

First we must seek out who we are and what makes us truly happy.  It could be our family life, our practice model, our friends that we surround ourselves with.  It could be small changes or big changes.  One thing that is certain - Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Stephen Covey’s book, The7 Habits of Highly Successful People, describes this necessary change eloquently in the first habit, “Be Proactive”.  He talks of courage being the most important attribute.  Courage is not the absence of fear.  It is recognizing the fear that is within you and with a leap of faith - taking action. In this case, being proactive means to make the decision to make positive changes in your life.

Next, he encourages us to “Begin With the End in Mind” (Habit 2).  In this habit we are to create a vision of a better future. Covey writes,  “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.  It means to know where you are going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction”.  

Our happiness is determined by how well we live within our core values and to what extent we discipline ourselves to our vision.

Everyone has a bright future, if we choose to have one.  

The last book I will reference is from John Ortberg When the Game is Over, It all Goes back into the Box.  He gives the analogy of life as a calendar.  Each square in the calendar is a frame for one episode of our lives.  Nobody knows how many squares one gets, but each of us must choose how we fill them.

When we think of our day, is it filled with meaningful events with our families, patients, colleagues, etc.? Or, are we stuck in our rut, allowing the world and its pressures to create unhappiness in our lives. 

You get to choose…Carpe Diem.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is Orthodontics Enough?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Many times adults inquire about getting their smile fixed with veneers or orthodontics.  To maximize the aesthetic result, sometimes they need both.

This patient was recommended orthodontics to correct her upper and lower crowding. Due to the position of her teeth, they have worn down though function - both chewing and grinding of her teeth. She was also recommended veneers to restore the ideal and aesthetic tooth form.

Figure 1: Pre-op smile

Figure 2 illustrates what the teeth look like after the completion of orthodontics.  Her teeth are now in the correct position, but due to the wear on teeth edges, they just don't "look right."

As we were getting close to finishing her orthodontics, we had a discussion about veneers and how they can help create an amazing smile for her. 

Figure 2: Orthodontics complete

The day we removed her braces, we began the veneer process and created a more aesthetic smile with provisional veneers made of a hard plastic.  No one knew that she had any work done, except that she got her braces off.

Figure 3 illustrates the smile with the new veneers in place.  We chose to do simple teeth whitening and place veneers on only her front 4 teeth. Because we were able to idealize the position of her teeth, we could create a perfect bite and be super-conservative with the dentistry. This is the ultimate benefit of true comprehensive care.  Her smile will look amazing for years to come.  Needless to say, she is very happy!

Figure 3: Post veneer placement and teeth whitening

We love to create natural looking smiles.  A smile is a window to the soul - we do everything we can to help our patient's souls shine though! 

We offer complimentary consultations for anyone with questions about the best ways to improve their smile. To set up a free consultation, please call 303-321-4445, visit our website, or our facebook site

Fig 1: Pre-op
Figure 2:  Post - orthodontics, pre-veneers
Figure 3: Veneer delivery, whitening.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Integrity Marketing

I am working on a leadership presentation that I am giving in January at the Rocky Mountain Dental Convention.   I am also giving an abbreviated version of this presentation at the American Dental Association's New Dentist Conference (NDC) in July.  The  NDC planning committee asked my friend Rita Zamora to follow me with a presentation on Social Media and Leadership. If you don't know Rita, you should!  A link to her facebook site is  Dental Relationship Marketing.

My presentation will challenge the participant to look inward for personal exploration by identifying their core values and purpose in their lives. See What do you stand for?

Rita and I had a discussion last week about what we are respectively planning to present.   After speaking with her, I had a profound revelation about what social media really is.  Through our conversation I discovered that social media is an outlet to tell/show the world what you stand for (Core values) and how you spend your time (Purpose).

I love social media.  I use it often. We have a facebook site for the practice Facebook -TCDOdenver, but it is only one aspect of how we portray ourselves to the world.

In order to remain a viable business, we need to have a constant stream of new patients entering our practice. For this reason, we market ourselves.  We are always looking for new ways to market our practice.  Currently, we do a lot of asking our existing clientele for referrals, we market to referring dentists, we have a website, we have a decent following on facebook, twitter, and linked in.  And lastly, we have an ad in the local neighborhood newspaper. When I feel inspired, I blog.

Our top referral source is our existing patients, followed by our referring dentists.

It seems every dentist that markets themselves have the same theme in their advertising.  "We have the best new technology, comfortable setting, comprehensive care, affordable, etc."  I am sure that every dentist believes that the marketing they do accurately portrays their practice.

How does one stand out when everyone looks the same?

Potential clients search for a dental office that they think they will feel comfortable in.  Consumers are more educated today than they ever have been.  They have a wealth of information at their disposal.  Patients will choose to call based on their current needs and the identification of values that they find from their research.

Sound familiar?  Same as social media.  People will choose you based on identification of similar values.  Your "marketing" has created a persona of you and your office.  Now the most important question, does your "marketing"-based persona match the true persona of you and your office?  Does the true experience for your patients, match the expectations of that patient based on your marketing?

Consistency breeds trust.  Inconsistency creates distrust.

The educated consumer is looking for consistency.  They will not move forward with their treatment without trust.  It is very hard to have a good relationship without trust.

We have chosen to place an ad feature in a new magazine in Denver called "Reign".  It is a magazine that is geared towards the same demographic that we are looking to attract as patients -  People that truly value their health and life and want to experience life to the fullest extent. Here is a link to the ad we placed.

I feel it is an accurate representation of who we are (core values) and what we do (purpose).

Marketing with Integrity

I can't end this without mentioning other people that we work with that coach us to live in integrity. They say it takes a village!

Kim McGuire - Fortune Management of Colorado
Bob Frazer - R. L. Frazer and Associates
Wendy Phillips - Big Buzz Brands

Monday, September 3, 2012

Grand Canyon Run. August 31st - September 1st 2012

I am going to start out by saying that this was, by far, the best run I have ever done.  We didn't do the full rim to rim to rim, but under the circumstances it was a wise decision. More on that later.   

The idea to do this was hatched around Christmas 2011 at Gary Benson’s house.   We have been doing these crazy adventures together for the last 20 years. As usual, he enthusiastically agreed to the idea.  My good friend and neighbor, John Stevens was on board early as well.  The three of us have had many adventures together including a mountain bike ride from Telluride, CO to Moab, UT, a few 50K’s and countless trail runs/mountain bike rides. 

 As we started to plan it, other than the mileage, the heat seemed to be the biggest challenge.  We weren't too worried about the elevation changes.  We decided that this was definitely doable at night.  To add to the adventure, we picked a full moon night to maximize the light on the trail and beauty of the scenery.  September 1st was our chosen date.

We spent most of the year doing long runs on weekends that involved big elevation changes.  We ran a few 14'ers at night to get used to using our headlights, and hand-held flashlights.  The biggest run I did was Echo Lake (10,600’) to Chicago Lakes en route to Mount Spaulding (13,858’) over night.  It was an eight-hour adventure.  After doing this I felt that I was ready for the Grand Canyon.  The others did various other excursions, including the Leadville 50 mile mountain bike race, runs up and down Argentine Pass out of Silver Plume, CO, century rides, crazy cross-training work-outs at Red Rocks amphitheater, and of course, ton’s of trail runs/snowshoe runs. 

Enter Conrad Laporte.  He began joining us on our winter snowshoe adventures in February.  He is a great athlete and friend with the same sense for adventure and zest for life that we have.  He is 20 years younger than us.  We mentioned the Grand Canyon idea and he was sold. (Not sure if it was naïveté or bravado, but he was full on board!)  We had several others of our friends that we trained with all year, but were not able to make it.  Conrad stuck around with us on our weekend adventures.  He had never run more than 6 miles before he met us.   He is such a good athlete; we all thought he would be able to pull this off, even without any experience.  Turned out, he did the best of all of us!

We started our drive at about 5:30 on Thursday morning.  On the drive, we listened, “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher Mcdougall on Audiobook.  It was the perfect preview to the run we were about to embark upon.  It is an amazing story with a side bar diatribe about running in barefoot shoes.  Both Gary and I ran with barefoot shoes, as we have been for the past 2 plus years.   Conrad and John wore their trail shoes. 

We arrived at the GC at noon on Friday.  John and his wife Tracy, had secured a room at the North Rim Lodge. While they were checking in at the hotel we got to see the “big hole” for the first time.

When I get nervous, I joke around a lot.  I exclaimed that the canyon wasn’t so “grand”, it was definitely great, but not “grand”.  Denial!!! Standing at the North Rim, the view is indescribable.  Pictures do not do it justice!

The plan was to start at 4pm, run through the night starting form the North Rim.  I figured it would take about 6 hours to run across from North to South, then immediately turn back to the North Rim.  I figured about 10 hours for the return trip.  We timed it so it would be cool at the bottom of the canyon.  Daytime temps go well over 100 degrees at this time of year.  The forecast at the North Rim was a high of 72, low of 49.  At Phantom Ranch (the low elevation point of the trek) the forecast was a high of 99 and low of 72.  The temp never got below 80.

We were taking the North Kaibab trail to the Bright Angel Trail.  A total of 23 miles each way with a significant descent of over 6000’ then an ascent of about 5000’ to the South Rim.

While we were preparing/resting at the North Rim Lodge, I thought that John and Conrad would go together and Gary and I would pair off due to similar abilities.  We each went over our nutrition plans and agreed to be open to the potential changes. Sometimes, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work.  We all had a ton of food.  The trail descriptions told of several water sources along the route.  That was encouraging, but we agreed to fill our water bladders full every time – in case we miss a water station.  It will be dark and none of us had ever done this.  There was too much at stake to risk running out of water. 

4pm – we were off.  Tracy joined us on the hike down.  It started raining, thunder and lightening too.  Tracy turned back after about 30 minutes.  We put on our rain gear.  Had Tracy hiked with us for 5 more minutes, she would have seen an amazing view at the “cocnino overlook”.

The rain was cold.  I began to worry since all my warm gear was now on me and I was getting cold.  If the rain continues, it would have been a long, wet and cold night.   Got to keep moving…JFR….

The rain stopped after about 15 minutes and it got really hot and humid.  Again, worry set in.  I started to up the water intake and salt pills as I didn’t want to dehydrate or stat to cramp. 

My nutrition plan was to eat as much solid food early while supplementing with power gels, then switch to power gels only as my stomach stopped tolerating the solids.  My philosophy was to keep “topping off the tank” instead of depleting all of my energy stores and trying to catch up.  I had PB and J sandwiches, Kind and Lara bars, beef jerky, granola, cookies, gum drops, and power gels. 

The trail was very dusty and steep.  The rain wet the top layer and settled down the dust.  It made it easer to run/breathe. There were a lot of switchbacks early on and we descended quickly.  Within an hour, the trail turned rocky and technical.  The scenery was unbelievable, but it was had to run the technical trail and take in the views.  I stopped to take several pictures along the way.  I knew that once the sun went down, the scenery would be barely visible, and my camera doesn’t work well in the dark. 

We made it to the Cottonwood campground in 2 hours.  We seemed to be on track for my predicted time.  We all stuck together. John was having stomach issues early and was working himself through them.  He ALWAYS has trouble at 3 hours into a workout and this was no exception.  He changed some things up and recovered well. 

We then made it to the Phantom Ranch (PR) in 4 hours.  It was now completely dark.  No sign of the moon yet.  At Phantom Ranch we met with some campers.  There were several picnic tables set up and people were huddled around conversing.  The PR general store opened soon after we arrived and all of the campers went inside for food and beers.  I purchased a PR tee shirt for a souvenir. 

Gary and Conrad were also starting to experience stomach issues.  We filled up our water, hit the bathrooms and started back on our trek.

As we left the Phantom Ranch, we could see movement in the brush off the trail.  Our headlights lit up glowing eyes of deer literally 10 feet off the trail.  Very surreal.  I kept hoping there were no mountain lions behind the deer.  Any of these animals could have posed a serious challenge had they decided to come at us…we quietly pressed onward, and they thankfully stayed put.

We were about to cross the Colorado River.  That meant it was now all uphill until we reach the South Rim.  We power hiked from here.  No one was feeling all that great, the heat/humidity really sapped our energy.  The full moon became visible as we crossed the bridge over the Colorado River.  It was beautiful.  We tried to leave our headlamps off, but the trail was too technical.  It seemed like a long sandy hike as we came out of the direct river valley.  There were several stream crossings on the Bright Angel trail. 

We entered a steep area of switchbacks called the Devil’s Corkscrew.  Gary and I were sharing my water at this point.  His energy drink was not agreeing with his stomach at all.  We were both getting dehydrated.  Conrad and John decided to leave Gary and I at this point.  We agreed to keep in touch via walkie-talkie every hour.  Gary and I slogged up through the corkscrew.  The advantage of hiking at night is that you only focus on what you can see with your light source. 

But…we could now see the South Rim Village lit up clearly.  It looked close….but it wasn’t!

An hour went by and we contacted the other group.  They were at the Indian Garden Campground attending to the blisters on their feet.  They were waiting for us.  We all filled up to get ready for the hardest climb.  From the Indian Garden to the top is only 4.7 miles, but there was 3000 feet of climbing in front of us – and the teasing lights of the South Rim Village around every turn giving us false hope that we were close. 

There were rest/water stops at 3 miles and 1.5 miles before the Rim.  We were travelling very slowly at this point.  Arriving at each rest stop at 45 minute intervals.  That is 30 minutes to travel 1 mile.  A turtle’s pace! 

We finally reached the top at 9 hours, 11 minutes.  No one felt all that great.  My kidneys and left knee were bothering me.  After taking inventory of everyone, we decided that if it took us 9 plus hours going the easier way, it would have taken us over 12 hours to get back.  It was now 1 am.  We also would have been at the base of the canyon in the heat of the next day and it would have been quite dangerous. 

The south rim was 20 degrees colder with a stiff wind. It was probably high 40’s low 50’s   I became chilled pretty quickly.  I was not disappointed in our decision to stay the night.  We secured a room at the El Tovar Hotel.  It was very nice.  We all showered and crashed hard. 

We awoke early to try to figure out how to get back to the North Rim.  The Shuttles were $85 per person – cash.  Thankfully John’s wife Tracy agreed to drive the 4 plus hour trip around the canyon to save us.  We must have been quite a sight to see!

Tracy drove us to the North Rim and we ate at Jacob Lake Inn, a great little restaurant one hour north of the North Rim. We then went back to Kanab to sleep the night, get packed and headed back to Denver.  John and Tracy were planning to stay a few days longer to vacation together.  Although they ended up going home early Sunday Morning too.

We drove through Zion National Park and took in the views.  Equally amazing scenery as the Grand Canyon.  As we progressed home, Gary, Conrad and I were trying to think if there was any better run that we had ever done.  Gary mentioned the Porcupine Rim Trail in Moab as one of his favorites.  I agreed it was awesome but paled in comparison to what we had just done.  NOTHING COMPARED TO WHAT WE HAD JUST DONE!  Even though we didn’t complete the quest, we were alive to tell about it!

Long story short, we detoured into Moab and ran an hour on the Porcupine Rim trail before lightening strikes scared us back to our car.

Adventure complete with plans to return to the Grand Canyon in the near future to complete our quest.  We also posed the idea to do a marathon next month in Colorado Springs.

It was really nice to sleep in my own bed last night!  The perfect end to an amazing weekend!

Thanks for all the support and well wishes from our families and friends.  Your good vibes were with us every step of the way.

It seems that when I commune with nature, especially during adventures like these, I get to know myself more with every step I take. And with every step I take, I recognize what a gift my life is and how much I cherish it. I know God has a plan for me and this meditation brought me closer than ever to recognize his greatness. I feel very blessed.

Even though I was away from my family, I hope someday that we can experience portions of this with them.   I am especially grateful to have shared this with such great friends.  I am sure it was a defining moment for all of us.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What They Didn't Teach Me in Dental School

I recently had a conversation with my brother Brad.  He is graduating from college next year and is seriously considering becoming a dentist.  We went for a hike in the mountains with my dad last weekend. While we were waiting for my dad to catch up, we began a deep, philosophical conversation.

“What do you like most about being a dentist?” he started. 

As I formulated the answer in my mind, I came up with two things: the physical aspect of dentistry and the emotional/spiritual aspect of dentistry.  When I was in dental school, they taught us the physical aspect of dentistry, i.e. how to do fillings, crowns and various other procedures.  What I learned as I got into practicing is that the physical aspect of dentistry is hugely important, but the emotional/spiritual aspect is what keeps me coming to work every day.

My answer was as follows…

I started with the physical aspect. 

The dentistry that I do improves the oral health of my patients.  I especially like to restore smiles and relieve pain.  We dentists have a reputation of causing pain, but the final outcome of the work that we do over-rides the minor discomfort that one may experience during the process. 

And quickly shifted to the emotional/spiritual aspect….

When I restore my patients’ smiles, they become more confident.  They smile more.  It’s as if their “self-conscious guard” goes down. They are more proactive in their relationships. Their performance in their work improves. They are truly grateful to me and my team for our work.  They often express their gratitude to us on how we supported them through every step of the process – from the first phone call, to the delivery and maintenance of their work. 

Toothaches can be extremely painful and could debilitate the bearer – usually when something important is happening that day. When I relieve my patients of their pain, they are also extremely grateful as they can get back to their daily routines.  Sometimes I get calls after hours.  My cell phone is on the after-hours message for my patients to call me personally.  I care enough to see my patients after hours in certain circumstances.
I like to be proactive and tell/show my patients signs of potential troubles.  Most of my patients appreciate the fact that I am proactive about my dentistry – although I am always there to be reactive when something unexpected happens.  When there is a true dental emergency, the first question out of my appointment coordinator’s mouth is “how soon can you get here?” We don’t like to see our patients in pain!

I love the fact that I get to really make a positive difference in people’s lives.  I get to see my patients over the years and share in their celebrations and be supportive in their challenges.  I get to check in to see how their children are doing and what vacations they have taken or are taking soon.  I am excited about their weddings and saddened by their losses.

Another joy is the support team that I have assembled around me.  Most have been with me from the beginning.  Currently, we have a (my hygienist Tracy’s) 4 month old baby in the office and everyone is doing their part in making sure that she is getting the attention that she needs.  Our clients are excited to meet Bentley and celebrate with us having her in the office. There is no more important time in the baby’s life and she needs to be around her mom.  We will keep her as long as we can.  We did the same thing with my two youngest daughters.

The absolute best part is I get the opportunity to work with my wife Gina who is the orthodontist in our 
office. What a gift it is to be a partner in business with my partner in life….

I could go on and on – the bottom line, I love being a dentist!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

If I Speak, I do Declare!

If I Speak, I do declare!

Lately, I have been hearing an advertisement on the radio about how a deejay is getting his smile fixed with Invisalign from "Dr. Such-and-such".  The ad sounds as if the deejay is just speaking in one of his normal radio breaks.  He says how great "Dr. Such-and-such" is and how happy he is with the treatment.  My question is...Is the deejay paying for the treatment? or is he getting it done in exchange for the radio promos?

I do declare!

There is a certain media personality here in town that "trouble-shoots" for the citizens.  If something is unfair, it seems to be his responsibility to expose that unfairness and to publicly embarrass the company allegedly perpetrating the action.  I used to be with a practice that paid to be on his endorsed list as "the endorsed dentist".  We had a link to his website and we would serve as "experts" to help him expose the wrongdoings.  One day, he started to endorse another dentist on the air as the place to go for dentistry of all kinds.  In fact, he told the listeners how this doctor had changed his life by creating a new smile for him.  He no longer just had a "face for radio"!  When we called to see why we weren't consulted, as we were the preferred dentist on his list.  

The "trouble-shooter" brushed us off and said that he didn't know that we did those types of procedures.  Hmmm....What about the strict research of the company to be on the good list?  I guess the only research that was done was "Did the check clear?"   It was obvious that he never even looked at our website, or our list of services, or our dozen's of published testimonials with pictures...We achieved the "preferred" status because we paid him to have this status.  I never felt good about our relationship with this guy. 

I do declare!

When I do presentations to dentists,  I must sign all sorts of waivers and publicly announce that I have no conflicts of interests - no company is paying me to endorse the company. If I do have a conflict, I must announce it so the attendee can then make a judgment about my information that I am presenting.  Is this true, or is he just trying to promote his product?  When my colleagues and  I attend a lecture, we view the lecture with a jaded eye if no declaration is made.  

Why is it we, as dentists, can go out and not be forthcoming in our advertisements to the public?  What happened to the professionalism?  Where does ethics fit in here?

I do declare!

My declaration - all that I write here is from me (Dr. Brett Kessler) or from my wife (Dr. Gina Kessler).  All the pictures here and on our website are of our patients showcasing our work.  All of the testimonials are real and from our happy patients. All the opinions expressed here are ours!  If they are unoriginal, I will quote the source.

I welcome comments and perspectives on this.  I am no expert and would love to hear other opinions - especially if I am off base here.

If you like this blog post, I would love to hear about it.  Please comment or share it on Google+, Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, etc.  If you are looking for a dentist in the Denver area, we are always looking for new patients.  Please visit our website or like our facebook page,  Or you can do it the old fashion way - call us at 303-321-4445.

Thanks for reading!  BK

I do declare!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Doctor, Heal Thyself!

In January, the CDA completed its Strategic Planning process. Among several other established goals, the process charged the CDA with being the indispensible resource to support member dentists professionally and personally. As the chair of the CDA Well-Being Committee, I am happy for the opportunity to promote wellness to our members. I was charged with writing a series of articles to remind, inform and educate dentists to take care of the most important asset…themselves.

The Heritage Dictionary defines wellness as: the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.

As dental professionals, we all face challenges: physical, emotional or mental problems, struggles in our businesses, frustrations in the roles we play in our careers, family problems, legal concerns, and the list can go on and on.

I have never met a dentist who didn’t have some cross to bear in his/her career. Some hide it better than others, but all have had to go through some struggles.

I am reminded of a helpful quote from the classic book by M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled.

Life is Difficult.

This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly see that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be and that has somehow been especially visited upon them, or else their families, their tribe, their class, their nation, their race or even their species, and not upon others.

I know about this moaning because I have done my share…

I have done my share too!

Once we realize that we are not alone in our struggles, the weight of the world is lifted and our attitudes shift to begin to face and then solve our issues head on.

I urge you to take some time to define your wellness goals. Start small, start big – just

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Patient Retrospective

I saw a patient today for a repair of his denture.  His re-connection with our office really moved me.

His name is Steven.  When Steven first came to me he was 26 years old.  He received a grant from Access to Recovery (ATR).  ATR at the time, had funding to provide dental work for those in recovery from drug (meth) addiction.  Steven had been in his addiction for several years.  He ended up in prison - I didn't ask specifically why. At the time of our first meeting he was living in a half-way house as he was integrating back into society..

The unfortunate reality of his addiction was that among the consequences that he suffered, his teeth were beyond repair and needed to be removed.  He was 26 years old and was going to lose all of his teeth.

I remember the conversation that we had.  He confided in me that he was excited to get his teeth taken care of.  He was no longer a meth addict and he didn't want to look like one anymore. I discussed the process of making dentures.  I painted the picture that dentures are prosthetics and there will be a learning curve with getting used to them.

I told him, "If you lost your leg, a prosthetic leg can be made, but you won't be running a marathon on it anytime soon.  You may be able to in the future, but it is going to take some patience and some work on your part."

He understood, "When can we get started?!?!?!"

The making of dentures, as with anything in dentistry, is an art-form that must be blended with sound science. Combined with experience, it is a fairly standard procedure.

What I am constantly amazed with is the impact that creating a custom smile has on my patients.

I got to see that today with Steven.

Three years later - Steven, a former professional felon, is now supervising large window installing teams in various areas around the country.  Most recently in Chicago.  He is buying a new house.  He has a good job.  He is sober. He is no longer in pain or self conscious about his smile....

He no longer feels like a drug addict.

Holistic approach to dentistry addressing the mind, body and spirit...Success!   

 Steven's teeth ravaged by Methamphetamine addiction

 His new smile

Monday, March 12, 2012

Let Go!!!!

Stress is a huge contributor to poor health.  It affects the immune system, sleep, relationships, etc.

In our society, we must always appear stoic and in control (I am speaking from experience, of course).  This is a grand illusion!

While we are trying to appear to the world that we have ourselves together, we internalize the stress. It is inevitable that we clench our teeth.  I see signs of clenching and grinding in approximately 70 percent of my patients.  This is commonly termed "TMJ". The correct terminology is TMD, or temporal mandibular disorder.  But when someone says they think they have "TMJ", I understand that they are telling me that they have problems with their TMJ's.

I observe wear or cracks on teeth, gum recession, mobile teeth, and/or advancing gum disease.  I observe clicking, popping or locking of the jaws.  I treat people that tell me that they get "stress" headaches with various levels of frequencies or have sensitive teeth.

I do esthetic work to improve my patient's smiles usually because their front teeth are worn down (their teeth look "old") and want a more "youthful" smile.

I usually ask my patient's if they notice if they are clenching or grinding their teeth.  Most deny the habit until I give them my definition.

Your teeth should only touch each other if you are in the process of chewing food.

As I give this definition, I watch them unclench their clenched teeth and laugh with them as they discover their unconscious destructive habit.

The process to fix this is multi - factorial.  I can help with the physical portion.  I can create "bite splints" that can help shut down muscle activity, and create an ideal bite through various dental modalities. Sometimes we utilize other resources like chiropractic, massage, physical therapy, nutrition counseling, etc., to help.

But if the patient is to get better, they must change their behavior. To do this, they must address the root of the problem...the stress.

The most rewarding aspect of my practice happens when my patients tell me that our conversation alerted them to how the stress in their lives had starting to become a problem.  I have had patients end bad relationships, change jobs or careers, stop abusing drugs or alcohol, the list goes on and on.

The mental, emotional and spiritual aspects are addressed too!

Everyone needs a way to find peace within their lives.  Once again, in my experience, that peace is found when we look inward.  Everyone has a purpose in this world for the time that we are here.  Once we tap into that inner voice, we find passion and bliss.  A zeal to make every moment matter.

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be..." Lao Tzu -Tao Te Ching -

Let Go....and stop clenching your teeth!!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Social Media - Friend or Foe?

Social Media is a major medium/distraction in today's society.  I have always tried to use it as a conversation to the world about snippets of ideas and inspirations that roll around in my head.  I use it as a form of expression.  I can't ever remember posting negativity or smearing reputations of others.

I have Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in and Google+ accounts. I usually only post/read my fb account.

When "friends" are stuck in constant negativity, or post things I don't particularly agree with, I ride it out for a while.  Then, if it continues and it is dragging me down, I chose to not read their posts anymore.  The beauty of this medium is I can choose to not follow if I don't want to.

This blog site allows me to expand further on thoughts that I want to develop and put it "out there" for the world to see, think or maybe even start a respectful, perhaps intelligent conversation about our views. It is a place to express my authentic version of me and my viewpoints/passions.  

I am grateful when people are compelled to post back and join in on the conversation in either medium. When someone posts back, it is apparent that I struck a nerve that they identify with and then they courageously agree, expand the thought, or disagree with me.

There was an recent incident in California that makes me very uncomfortable.  A dentist was accused on fb that he was abusing/torturing his patients.  Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't.  An angry parent started a facebook page entitled, "I Hate Dr. X. of California"  The parent then went on to invite his circle of friends to start bashing the dentist.  500 plus people joined in on the fun.  This went on for a week or so.  Next, they started picketing outside his office with disparaging signs.  The media joined in inviting the parent and the dentist to do television and radio interviews. The dentist remained silent until he finally went on a radio interview to "explain" what happened.  He was immediately served a lawsuit for violating HIPPAA - the patient privacy act that ensures doctor-patient confidentiality.

Judging by the angry and vindictiveness of the mob, my guess is that the dentist was not connecting well with his patients.  I don't know him or how he practices, but from an outsider's perspective, his communication style was not resonating with his patients.

It seems that he is one of the only dentists in the area taking medicaid.  By being a medicaid provider, he is filling a need in the community for low cost care.  This service, for many patients is their only option for dental care.

Every single dentist that I know has a strong tie to the community that they serve.  They happily give their services to those in need on their own terms. Almost all of them do it without any expectations or financial renumeration.  In fact, any services that we do for free cannot be written off on our taxes.  It is done out of our personal obligation to serve the needs of the community.

I hope that this dentist makes the necessary changes in his practice to allow him to connect better with his patients - if he still has a practice....

Let's keep things civil in the social media world! Please use it as a tool to spread peace, love and understanding - not as a way to ruin lives and careers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Holistic Approach to My Dentistry - Beyond the Oral Cavity

I haven’t blogged in a while.  I was recently inspired enough to, here it is!

“The smile is the window to the soul….and I will do everything in my power to help my patients’ soul shine through”   This is my personal play on the old proverb and part of my personal mission statement.  

Over the years, I have treated thousands of patients with this in mind.  I have gravitated toward a holistic approach to my dentistry that takes into equal account three components: the health of the oral cavity, the function of the teeth, TMJ’s and jaw muscles, and the aesthetics of the smile.  

When a patient chooses this approach, the dentistry becomes very predictable - and as an unforeseen bonus, lives change.  I have seen my patients get married, have kids, get new careers or jobs, get in shape; the list goes on and on.  I am genuinely humbled and honored to play a part in their lives.

The sentiments that we receive from our patients boil down to two common themes.  First, they tell us that we were a catalyst to help them find joy in their true selves.  Second, they are grateful for the work that my team and I accomplished.  

The end result varies -  they are out of pain, their smiles are what they had always imagined, they moved from varying states of disease to a desired level of health.  Their personal goals have been reached and their spirit has been lifted.  What a gift to my team and to me!

After I finished dental school in 1995, I did a hospital based residency in which I learned how various disease states affect the oral cavity and (vice/versa) how the oral cavity can affect various disease states.  

In the patient population that I treated during my residency, no one ever expected to be affected by a serious illness.  In most cases, their oral health needed to be addressed as a matter of life or death.  

It was during this period of my training that I firmly realized that the physical, emotional and spiritual well being could be affected by the status of the oral cavity. I didn’t want to just do “drill and fill” dentistry.  I wanted my dentistry to have a positive effect on the overall well-being of the patients that I serve.  

As I have gained experience through the years, I see our practice philosophy evolving even further to encompass a larger holistic approach than my comprehensive dental approach.  The American Holistic Health Association looks at well-being as follows:

“Holistic health is actually an approach to life. Rather than focusing on illness or specific parts of the body, this ancient approach to health considers the whole person and how he or she interacts with his or her environment. It emphasizes the connection of mind, body, and spirit. The goal is to achieve maximum well-being, where everything is functioning the very best that is possible. With Holistic Health people accept responsibility for their own level of well-being, and everyday choices are used to take charge of one's own health.” (

This is not to say I am putting a thumbs down to traditional medicine, I am realizing a definition to the philosophy that has been under the surface to my actions my entire career.  

The bottom line is this -We play an important part in overall health and well-being of our patients. This is not just limited to the physical components of their dental health, the emotional and spiritual components are positively affected too.

This self discovery has me extremely excited and my spirit is charged.  

We work with many other health professionals.  They are hand picked not only for their clinical skills (which of course is top notch), but their philosophy is in alignment with our philosophy. They fill a need in our patients that will fulfill a piece of the puzzle to help them achieve their desired health goals.

A conversation with a dear friend and patient of mine helped me identify this sub-surface itch and is been my catalyst in helping me put it into action.   

In the holistic approach, here is where dentistry meets nutrition, converging at the point of your health.  Tracy Stevens of Pantry Rx helps people with food choices that will achieve overall health goals. Nobody gets or stays healthy without proper nutrition.  It affects everything from your teeth, your weight, your health, your confidence, and your happiness.  

As we spoke, I realized that she was doing the same holistic work that I (am) was doing. She obviously wasn’t doing dentistry. But her passion towards her clients’ overall wellness makes perfect sense to me.  

Our work compliments each other’s seamlessly.  The health, function and aesthetics of the oral cavity need to be working harmoniously for the best possibility for proper nutrition to occur.

Tracy’s practice emphasizes bio-individuality and whole-life factors that lead to food choices and eating habits.  She focuses on the positive, with foods that work better for you, without diets or deprivation. She does personalized Nutrition Counseling that gives you strategies, support, and accountability.  She also does in-home food overhauls that teach you what to keep and what to avoid and why, as well as grocery store and health foods store tours to find the good foods.  In effort to encourage you to take advantage of this service, I invite you to a free one-on-one Nutrition Counseling session with her.  She will help you identify your challenges, strengths, and weaknesses as well as aim you down the path toward your goal of better health.   Her website is To arrange this free session contact Tracy at or 303-907-5845.

In future blogs, I plan to highlight other resources (or partners) that we have in pursuit of serving the holistic needs of those that choose us for their dental care.