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!