Last year, my prosthodontist friend called to tell me he was referring someone to me to evaluate for an all on four full arch rehabilitation. I thought to myself, “Wow, out of all the dentists in this area, my prosthodontist- the guy I refer to for all my impossible cases- is too busy so he’s sending me his overflow. How cool is that! But my friend told me not to get too excited yet; the lady was price shopping and asked him for another good dentist in the area and he hoped that perhaps my fees were a bit lower than his specialist fees and that I wouldn’t mind seeing her. Of course, I agreed to see her. And, of course, my friend the prosthodontist was right
When I asked Mrs. Problem to tell me how I could help her, she went on a rant that began with “ I need implants but I don’t want to have to pay for the prosthodontist’s fancy office”. As you could expect, our initial interview didn’t get too far. I don’t know what happened to Mrs. Problem, but she did give me some good talk points for which I am very grateful. With Mrs Problem in mind, I submit the following:
The emphasis of most of our education, from elementary school through Continuing Education is – perhaps rightfully- how to do things better. After all, reading, writing, math, science, etc are important if we are to advance in life.
In dentistry, our academic and technique classes and our Continuing Education are needed for establishing and advancing our careers. And, of course, it is so cool to get the latest and greatest gizmos, gadgets, and digital stuff so that we can do things more efficiently and be very impressive.
Indeed, people look at our offices with an expectation of our being on the cutting edge of our profession. But there’s a missing piece here, and that is the impact of who we are and what we do. This is precisely why we attract people with values similar to ours and why people like Mrs Problem leave our practices thinking that they are paying for our undeserved luxurious lifestyle
I think that the biggest aspect of learning something new, decorating our offices, or (intelligently) acquiring a new piece of equipment is to calculate, evaluate, project, celebrate and, perhaps, measure the impact that all of this has on the lives of the people we serve.
Think of the self esteem that beautiful set of veneers does for the person who seeks them. Think of the dignity that an all on four restoration restores to a person with malformed, debilitated teeth. Think of the life enhancement and disease prevention that great preventive services give to our fellow human being. And think of how wonderful it is for us and our teams, as well, to give those precious gifts to others in a warm and comfortable environment.
When we think outwardly; that is, when we see how our work can address the challenges faced by those who grace our offices, and project those feelings every working moment, we become a magnet for those who want and appreciate true care. And if we periodically check in with those we serve to see how they’re doing with our work, we reinforce to them and to ourselves that we are here to serve.
Mrs. Problem’s resentment of the prosthodontist’s and my (in her perception) bloated fees and extravagant lifestyles were her attempt to tell me that her values and ours are not in line. The impact of our mindsets was clearly not for her. I am totally fine with that and I know that this is the farthest thing from a judgment on what my or my prosthodontist’s practice are or should be. Our practices simply did not impact her the way she would have liked and that is OK.
The Mrs. Problems of the world will always be among us. With respect and without sarcasm, they will get the care they seek and deserve.
When we clarify our core values, project them in everything we do, and never forget that when our work is outwardly directed, our impact on those who seek, need, and want us becomes profound and life gets a whole lot better.