KDA Today

KDA Today

For Immediate Release

Date: Feb 21st, 2012
Contact: Dr. John Thompson
Phone: 800-292-1855
Email: info@kyda.org

Happy New Normal

I don’t think I have ever really known what normal is.  There is a book I once read and it said, “Everybody is normal until you get to know them.”   I do know that for the first forty years I practiced dentistry, things were fairly predictable, planning was doable and life just seemed “normal” and it was quite comfortable.  I think the “Great Recession” might have changed normal for everyone and that includes those of us who practice dentistry as a profession.

While I may have been thinking this for quite some time, I am only brave enough to write this because it now seems to be out in the open.  Dr. Gordon Christensen’s “Dentistry’s forced return to its roots” (1) and Dr. Roger Levin’s “Seven ways the new economy has changed dentistry”(2) provide credence to my observations.  When I really think about the last five years, I realize that the change has really only been more dramatic and that change has been a part of “normal” for my entire career.  I recently read something from Seth Godin that seemed to make change more tolerable.  He wrote, “As soon as you accept that just about everything in our created world is only a few generations old, it makes it a lot easier to deal with the fact that the assumptions we make about the future are generally wrong, and that the stress we have over change is completely wasted.”

When I was in dental school, the best smile make over was done with a denture.  You could create great lip support, a perfect smile line and while “normal” was an A2, toilet bowl white was available.  The art of creating a beautiful and natural smile has now been transferred to the recreation of a natural dentition using the evolutions in bleaching, porcelain and bonding technologies.  This has to include the use of orthodontics, implants and cosmetic periodontal procedures.  We have been able to offer our patients these cosmetic services as an integral and sometimes substantial component of our dental practices, because we can.

An ever expanding economy and available disposable income allowed us to tap a market for these “fountain of youth services”.  These “because we can” services do not seem to be quite as marketable in a contracting economy that strains home budgets to meet essential needs.  My personal belief is that the dental profession has learned a great deal about the art of dentistry during the “cosmetic years”.  The knowledge gained and the skills acquired will become another chapter in the basic armamentarium of dental professionals going forward.  While these services are not truly a function of our responsibility for the physical oral health of our patients, these services will be available for the emotional well being of many of our patients.

So, if dentistry must go back to its roots, so must practice management.  Dental practice is small business and the roots of business management all lead back to one writer, Napoleon Hill.  As the author of Think and Grow Rich, the best seller in business/achievement literature of all time and The Seventeen Universal Principals of Success and Achievement, he is a source for almost everything written in management today.   Perhaps one hundred years of historic observation is more predictive than what we may have personally experienced.

Hill wrote that one trait of successful people is that they “see change as an opportunity”.  He also said that successful people:

·         Focus on excellence and quality

·         Learn from difficulty

·         Have imagination

·         Go the “extra mile”

·         Are enthusiastic

·         Have a positive mental attitude

All of which do not require a thesis to perceive the significance to professional practice success.  Others he lists are just as important, but the best news is that all are common sense attributes that historically work in both good and bad times.

If the new normal is a practice of dentistry that must focus more on need than want, so be it.  I have never lost the love of being able to help people by relieving pain, restoring function and yes, the beautiful smile.  I am still having a good day, because I am a short term pessimist and a long term optimist.

           

1.       JADA, “Dentistry forced to return to its roots”, Gordon J. Christensen, DDS, MSD, PhD., p. 1393-1395,                  December 2011.

2.       Dental Economics, “Seven ways the new economy has changed dentistry”, Roger P. Levin, DDS, p. 40-43, December 2011.

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