Rules Learned As A Certified Dentist – Part 1

This is going to be a two part blog post covering some of the most important rules I’ve learned during my dental carrier.

1) Education and Experience Matter

Upon the completion of one’s courses, a degree is enlisted and everyone ends up in the same spot for graduation. However, what happens from this point forward dictates how a dentist’s life progresses as a professional. Whether it is the continuing education, advanced training, or a general passion for dentistry, they all come together to shape the individual. There are lessons to learn from each of these phases once a foundation is laid out.

While spending time at the Veterans Administration in the heart of Philly, I had the opportunity to learn from a wonderful dentist named Dr. Nala Temas. He told me a valuable lesson. It was at a time when I was working with a patient who had a troublesome impacted third molar. It was a senior resident nearby that managed to assist me and get me out of the situation as I continued to struggle. However, Dr. Temas watched with a bemused look as this took place. The patient left and the senior resident let me know how this wasn’t the way to go about my work and I should have known better. He continued to watch as I sat down frustrated and asked about what I had learned from the experience. I joked that I realized the value of a referral. Of course, he chuckled and said these things happen and it was something a dentist can go through but the goal should be to learn from them. Dr. Temas was spot on because I never made that mistake again!

The failures are just a part of being a dentist and growing as a profession. It tells you there is a lot to learn and the application of your skill set takes time. Success isn’t a given as soon as you graduate and it will require hard work. Being realistic is a must if you are aiming to succeed in the long-term as a dentist.

2) Don’t Ignore The Money Factor

It was during my time in prosthodontic residency where I spent months with a single assistant and no one else (not even a receptionist!) and it was difficult. You had to manage everything and the office was essentially a floor-to-ceiling setup with windows all around. During this time, a patient came to the clinic/office and said she required a set of X-rays along with a proper examination. With the fees laid out, it was going to be around $2,000. She stated the insurance plan would cover a bit of the fee for her due to the benefits she was receiving. However, she still didn’t like the cost and left.

Since I was also spending time as the receptionist/front desk attendant, I continued to watch as she walked towards her car. It was a high-end Mercedes and it had looked like she just paid for it. It was at this point I realized it had less to do with costs but more to do with the value of dentistry in her eyes.

Patients can often come in demanding for a lower price and every dentist will go through this at one stage or another and that’s normal. It is always expected for dentists to give maximum benefits and fee reductions but that’s often impossible. It is important for dentists to appreciate the value of their service and recognize the necessity of teaching patients about oral health. Patients will still have their reactions but it can change some of the decisions made when a price point is mentioned. If they feel the value is there, they will be willing to pay it.

Pain is often one of the critical reasons for dentistry being pushed to the top for patients. However, those who come in without pain won’t see it as a necessity at all. They will want insurance benefits on their treatment. They will be willing to put items such as cars, cruises, gifts, and more in front of visits to the local dental clinic. They will want to spend money on those things. However, a good presentation and a clean office can do wonders for converting these patients. It’s all about telling them about the value of staying and paying.

I learned this lesson from a great dental office up in Jacksonville Florida. Check out their website here -> You can also catch them on the American Dental Association website and on City Search Dentists. Review how they do things and I’m sure you will learn quite a few lessons!

3) Caring is Critical

This was a question that came up while I was speaking with a family friend and his son.   The son was about to head off to medical school. The question involved comparing two physicians where one was known for being the best in their field but rude while the other was caring and competent. He wanted to know which one would my wife and I prefer to choose. We told him, we would want to choose the caring one and that was shocking to him.

He wanted to know why we wouldn’t go to someone that was the best in their field?

We told him, the goal was to go to a physician that looked like he/she cares about you as a person and didn’t make you feel like a number. A patient will need to be cared for or they’re not going to believe that the doctor is good at their job. Remember, the patient isn’t aware of mechanical nuances or treatment options. They will have an ideal physician in their mind and one that is kind, caring, and willing to help out as much as possible. The same applies to dentists.

If you don’t care, the patient will start to pick out faults. They will not let anything slide and even start to make up excuses because of your poor bedside manner.

Due to this, I make sure to speak to my root canal patients after procedures to catch up and see how they’re doing. This is a part of the caring process and cannot be ignored because it seems like a money-grab then. You want the patient to feel like they went to a well-rounded professional.

Here are A Few Things Dental School Might Not Have Taught You

Dental school is what forms students into future clinicians. Successful graduation launches a successful career for most. The core education of dental school is crucial, but you’ll discover sooner or later that it doesn’t teach you everything you need to know. As your career moves forward, you’ll continue learning certain things. So, regardless of whether or not you’re in an established practice or just looking for your first clinic or office, there are a number of things you should know:

Patient care is far more important than your patient base is. Most dentists dream of the ideal plan where they graduate dental school, pay down student loans during their few years of working for someone else and then get rich with their own practice. Many probably expect to work in a fee-for-service practice, where every patient has the means to pay for all their needed dentistry. These lofty expectations can create disappointment later, as they wind up in an office whose core patients aren’t as ideal. If that was your own thinking, don’t let disappointment get you down. The individual care that you provide every patient is more critical than the larger patient base you’re providing it to.

When you treat various patients without worrying about any socioeconomic status they might have at the time, you’re able to ramp up your speed, adapt to an increased patient count, and perform increasingly complicated procedures, all the while enhancing cost-effectiveness and efficiency. You’ll gain both professional experience and self-confidence that eventually makes you stand out on your own.

Don’t go chasing a perfect schedule, because it just doesn’t exist. Disruptions are going to be a part of a normal day, and consistent focus is necessary to get through them. You’ll have far more relief when you realize that your ideal day will never happen, or just not happen that often. Then, you can cut it out with the frustration, free to deal with any surprises efficiently, promptly, and with a smile on your face. You’ll learn how important it is to convert an emergency into a full exam. Learn time management and practice it, rather than hoping for some smooth routine free of distractions or interruptions.

Never fear failure. Being afraid of failure can cripple you. A lot of dentists get anxious that making mistakes means patients aren’t going to like them. They also dread giving patients bad news or saying something they’d rather not hear, since they might think poorly of them and not come back. Facing your fears, even failures, is crucial in all areas of life, be it public speaking, romance, or just presenting a patient a treatment plan. If you never fail, you’re not pushing yourself enough. Seeking out challenges regularly helps you prevent fear from ruling your life, so you can grow as a professional, a team, and an entire clinic, practice, or office.

Communication always proves critical to a thriving practice. If things at your office are going through a downturn, take a look at enhancing your patient communications. Having said that, look at improving your communication with team members too. Altering your methods of communication can actually grow your patient pool and enhance the first impression your brand makes. You’ll cut down on no-shows and boost the acceptance of treatment plans. Additionally, team members that communicate smoothly with each other offer higher-caliber care with increased organization.

Do you know how to spell the word leadership? Try T, R, U, S, and T. In the end, being a great dentist isn’t enough to run a thriving practice. You’ll also be a leader, and you need to invest in the people surrounding you. That’s going to mean you trusting them, just as much as they need to trust you. There are quite a few dentists later in their careers who look back and realized they could have made better use of their assistants instead of juggling everything on their own. Delegate responsibilities to team members to illustrate your trust in them. Learn with them, help them out when they struggle, and let them have room to grow and learn, together and individually. Everyone on board benefits from this.

Dental school gives every student crucial skills they can use to make lives better, every day of their career. However, there are some lessons that don’t get learned until you’re a professional. You’re not going to have perfect days very often, but keeping in mind what you’ve read here and it will enrich the experience for you.