Let Me Ask You -- Should You Treat Their Kids?
How and When?
As a young dentist, I remember feeling the exhilaration of the possibilities of helping children. Therein lies worth to a young mother and to a young dentist, imprinted with the passion for helping children.
After all, what more is there, than helping to make the best life for my child and for other children?
One day, in the clinic at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, covering pediatric dental residents, I watched one of the residents impassionately counsel a young mother with baby in stroller and two toddlers beside. The resident explained the etiology of dental decay in this mom’s young children.
Because it was a residency program, we could spend the extra time with the parents - even when they had Medicaid coverage that didn’t pay much for that time. But today, this sweet mom and the pediatric resident had reviewed the four etiologic areas:
1. The "bugs" (bacterial plaque);
2. Food for the bugs (contribution of sugar and carbohydrates),
3. The teeth (tooth enamel and how well it resists the former two), and
4. Diluting the acids (saliva, content, volume, and hydration).
They had gone through the solutions to each:
1. Plaque control/oral hygiene practices,
2. Dietary changes to reduce sugar and carbs,
3. Regular recalls so the dentist can help evaluate how the enamel and teeth are doing, and
4. Lots of water intake.
Whew! This mom was “armed”.
She would work on brushing and flossing her children’s teeth, she said.
She was already careful with sugar, juices, soft drinks, etc., and rarely gave those, she said.
She would stay regular with the recalls, she said.
I helped her, as she wheeled the stroller out of the operatory and corralled the two toddlers.
“Hold up!” I exclaimed as I noted red liquid pouring out of the diaper bag in the stroller basket. Something was leaking.
“Uh oh,” said Mom. “It’s the Kool-Aid,” she stammered. “Sorry - I didn’t want you to see that.” (And it was in a baby bottle.)
Reboot. Now what?
Let’s regroup here. Take me - that passionate, loving, caring young mother who wanted to help children. Take you - the same. Life lessons in pediatric dentistry:
As the saying goes, “What is it that the rich cannot buy, and cannot be given to the poor? It is health.” Dental health is only reachable by the interested, willing and capable persons.
Put your passion, your energy, your love to all, and focus on the children whose parents partner with you in prevention. Then you will have given what you can - to those who will willingly take and use it!
We talk about this in ELEMENTS weekend seminars! Ask us about "chickens to concierge practice."
It’s amazing stuff!!
ELEMENTS™ Seminars remind us that orthodontics -- and dentistry in general -- is all about love. Your success as a dentist relies on your abilities to put love into action in your practice, made effective with certain systems. Dr Chris talks about this and more, with our upcoming ELEMENTS Seminars, beginning July 13, 2018.
Deep in your brain, behind your eyes, is your amygdala.
The amygdala controls the way you react to things. It’s where your emotions get stored - especially fear.
Fear is important when you are in danger. Yet fear keeps you totally wound up in your day-to-day life as well. It’s your brain “stuck” like a phonograph record playing the same thing over and over.
That deep-down part of your brain is why you get angry with someone - the situation makes you fearful. The anger in our world that sends people to war, that hurts people - amygdalas.
The worry that keeps you up at night - amygdala. The stress hormones that keep you stressed, and make you unhealthy -triggered by amygdala fear. The reluctance to step out and change your life - amygdala.
When researchers put a thin wire into the brain of rodents to zap the amygdala, the rodents had no fear of anything - even cats.
We have a balance for our amygdala - it’s called the neocortex. That’s where critical reasoning, perception, conscious thought can be used to work past the deep-down amygdala with higher reasoning that connects you to your divinity.
Today - create and focus on love - the counter to fear. Today - keep your heart full of love, your mind full of love, so what you see, what you say, what you do, is peaceful and loving. You are developing the habit of countering your amygdala with your love.
Love your life today. Love it!!!
Pain: a distressing feeling caused by intense or damaging stimuli.
What stimuli, you ask?
* Trying to Survive
* Being in the crosshairs of
- the insurance companies -Insurance has become overwhelming to impossible
- Medicaid administration and paperwork
- other dentists and other specialists
- dental suppliers and costs of supplies
- patients, some of whom are happy and some who are not
- costs in the practice, including taxes
* Leading the team is challenging - frustrating - confusing
* Patients don’t seem to believe I care and want and do the best for them.
* Being out of energy
* Working too many hours a day, a week, a month
* Trying to keep up
* Trying to find a balance between personal and professional life
* Sleep difficulties
Even making more money doesn’t deal with the pain.
Your clinical and technical skills get better and better. Still distressed.
Have you ever felt that you might have chosen the wrong profession? Have you beat yourself up because you can’t fix it all?
Have you even felt like you were in a nightmare? Stressed? Nervous? Looked at others who don’t seem to be experiencing what you are? Blamed yourself for the difficulties? For not being good enough?
What keeps you stressed?
It isn’t supposed to be this way.
It’s time to transform your life.
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”
How do you start doing it differently? What do you change?
Short answer: Your beliefs. Your deepest beliefs.
For Heaven’s sake, how do you change your beliefs?
Understand how your thinking locks you into doing the same thing over and over.
In some circuses, baby elephants are trained with a strong rope around their ankle, linked to a strong pole. When they try to walk away, they are stopped by the rope. All their pushing and pulling doesn’t work. They stop resisting and stay put.
Eventually, when the rope is put around their leg, it doesn’t have to be attached to anything. You can see elephants in the circus with a chain or rope around their ankle, not attached to anything, and they are now convinced the rope/chain holds them. They are very powerful. But they do not know it.
Our beliefs enslave us, hold us back, keep us where we are, doing the same things over and over - that is INSANITY.
"The possession of anything begins in the mind." ~ Bruce Lee
Both the negative beliefs and the new positive ones began and begin in the mind.
It’s hard? Sure! Life begins OUTSIDE your comfort zone.
Think differently. Reboot and replace those negative beliefs.
You are Valuable. Precious. Capable. Worthy.
Yes, your mind, your beliefs hold the power to take you to joy, or to sabotage your life.
It used to be, that “service stations” were where you drove your car in, parked at the pump, rolled down your window (if it wasn’t already down), and the attendant came to take your order - for gasoline. Frequently, the attendants heard, “fill ‘er up.”
At the “service station,” the folks really offered service - pumping your gas, washing your windshield - and the back window - and asking if your oil needed to be checked. All while your tank was filling up.
Now, in our rush-rush world, service to others is less a part of day-to-day experience. We can lament the change - or we can keep the service to others in our own lives.
We can greet the other folks pumping gas next to us at the station. We can give the other drivers a chance to merge in on the highway, driving in service. We can carry love and express it throughout our day, driving, walking, being.
Fill ‘er up - with love. Be in service - in love,
It’s so easy as a dentist today, to feel as if you are nobody.
The insurance companies, including government’s Medicaid and Medicare companies, are good at teaching people that they CARE about the people who pay them premiums. And that if the care you recommend isn’t covered, it isn’t medically needed, or it isn’t appropriate, or, it’s too expensive if it’s above those carefully crafted words, “usual and customary.”
Whatever is “usual and customary” anyway? (A: Whatever the insurance company numbers are that it is willing to pay.)
Some years ago, I remember hearing a lecture from some Medicaid representatives at a pediatric meeting, who explained they knew the lower fees were different from our other fees, but if we dentists just “change the delivery system, and change our thinking a little bit,” we could help these poor patients in need.
Change the delivery system? Like double-booking to cover for all the failed appointments? Like doing more restorative in one appointment because they may not come back? Even, was it implied, to do a lesser-quality of work?
Change our thinking a bit? Like we orthodontists, pediatric dentists and general dentists are somehow responsible for the missionary work of treating Medicaid patients because they are “poor” and “needy” and so on.
You want to “help people.” Of course. But for lower and lower fees, and more and more time spent in practice, away from family and from the rest of your life?
You can spend hours on the line with “representatives” overseas, who speak poor English as you try to work out the reasons for claim rejection. Or you can pay staff members to do that for hours. Hours. And still, you may not be paid for the care you provided. Not be paid.
Recent news of one industry giant, Aetna, has the internet busy over an executive’s admission that he never actually looked at a single claim before it was rejected.
So, you feel the disparagement of the insurance companies’ treating you poorly, the feeling of not being seen as a professional, but rather as their lackey. Even being seen as someone whose ethics are in question. And the patients often mirror those attitudes. Advertising and media are powerful tools! These giant companies are flush with cash and spending it on what brings in more cash to their shareholders and Big Execs.
You feel that no matter how hard you try, the patients and insurance companies feel you are not trustworthy. Your treatment plan and care is seen as unnecessary and overpriced.
And the dental supply companies? Through salesmen’s pasted-on smiles, seeming like the proverbial “used-car salesmen, they are happy to sell you supplies at outrageous prices, to gain their selling ‘incentives” - cruises and bonuses.
This, all while giant companies buy up small mom-and-pop companies, thus squashing competition, and raise the cost of your supplies and equipment - big-time. (Read more about the lawsuit claiming years of price-fixing. )
You can also read about the FTC’s charging major dental suppliers with conspiracy and anti-trust violations.
And, because of who you are, you’re just working away, doing your best to take care of patients, care for them, and make a dwindling living.
You. Don’t. Feel. Good. About. It.
Or. About. You.
This seems to be directly opposite of what the dental schools tell you as you work really hard to get great grades, pay exhorbitant tuition and fees, and ultimately for many, repay exhorbitant student loans.
You have reached a fantastic moment. You have come face to face with who you REALLY ARE.
What you are is an image of the Creator. You have the ability to create. As a creator you have the ability to innovate. As an innovator, you have the ability to lead. As a leader, you have the ability to love.
Think about how we are set up to understand how to build a great life:
If you are to find your way, you must first experience being lost.
To fall in love, you must first feel desire for love.
To become capable, you start with no capability.
To want to give, you must know need.
Do you see it? Do you see what you must create - and innovate…?
You’ve been given a life, opportunities, education that prepare you for special things.
You create your life. Good start going to dental school! Good start noticing you have been lost. Good start, wanting love and to love. Good start, feeling your desires.
This is your fantastic moment.
Now - you can begin anew - with awareness and understanding of being lost, needing love, pursuing an amazing education, having been given opportunities.
As the great educator, Dr. Louis Smith said, “Your life is about being and becoming.”
Don’t stop at just being. Realize that life is about becoming - that’s where creating and innovation come in.
“As a dentist, you really are somebody special.”
Again: You. Really. Are. Somebody. Special.
Recorded near Dr Chris Baker's Abu Dhabi clinic, in the United Arab Emirates.
As we basked in the perfect air and weather in Florida in February several years ago, a friend of ours said, “This is the weather that makes people move to Florida; but they don’t think about the summer coming.”
Claude reminded me of studies that show the wine you sip, while sitting at a bistro overlooking the water in Portofino, Italy, doesn’t taste the same when you get some of it shipped home and drink it there.
Then there are studies that show that planning your vacation typically boosts your happiness more than experiencing your vacation.
Look at the power of your mind. Look how you can create in your mind - perfect weather, perfect wine, perfect vacation.
Today, create perfect health, and watch yourself go out there and eat healthfully, walk and exercise.
Today, give happiness to every person you meet, and watch yourself smiling and being cheerful with all.
Today, create peace, and watch your worries fade from bright huge pictures to tiny dots, like the “fade-out” at the end of Road Runner cartoons.
Today, create faith and watch your step strengthen, your confidence soar, and your joy fill you.
Your mind, your ally, your answer.
How can I?
What do you want to do?
What do you need?
What do you want?
Just start moving toward it. Make the tiniest step toward it. Read about it. Think about it. Picture it. Write it down. Look at what you wrote - frequently. Do any actions toward it.
Think and think and think. About it.
That’s all anything takes. Just start.
Magic follows. Truly. You’ll see.
1. 'How Did I Get Into This Pickle -- And How Do I Get Out of It?' (The Greatest Orthodontic Finishing Course You'll Ever Attend.) July 13-15
2. The "Way Too..." Weekend, for Dentists who are "way too" stressed and want to renew their vision for their practices. Aug. 17-19
3. You and the Adverse Growth of a Child: Nov. 30 - Dec. 2.
Details about 2018's ELEMENTS™ Weekend courses, in Texas
Boy! Dental school didn’t give me any direction on being responsible for employees, staffing, HR, hiring and firing! How about you?
Maybe dental school taught you how to work with a chair-side dental assistant.
Maybe dental school gave you some direction on training a chair-side assistant.
Then there is the part about staffing - the search, the interviewing, the choosing, the hiring... Any direction on that in dental school? Not in mine.
And the part about staff coming to you with their beefs, their worries. Didn’t learn about that in dental school.
You, likely, as most of us dentists, are approval addicted. You want everyone to like you - patients, staff, community… You learn at meetings that you can take your staff out for “bonding” and fun, take them to dental meetings and CE.
Of course you find some nice people to work with you. Because dentists are usually very nice to everyone (but not as nice to themselves), the staff actually like you.
You might wonder sometimes if your team members like each other, but as long as you keep being nice to them, making them happy - hopefully they’ll take care of things for you.
Step back for a moment and think about all of this. Does it sound a bit like being a parent? Your children have their moments with each other too. They bicker, make up, fuss, and come to you too. Can you just hear the, “Mommy/Daddy, she’s ‘looking’ at me.” It starts in toddlerhood. How about,, “Can I get that? Can I have one?” Or, “Can I go to the mall / movie / out to eat…?”
I am not my staff’s parent.
I can give them love through the opportunity to carry out the vision of the practice, of loving each other, patients, parents, and all.
The answers lie in systems. Your job as the business owner is to develop and utilize systems which every single employee utilizes as well. In systems, each position is clear. All responsibilities and expectations are clear. They can be followed.
You have the responsibility to be the keeper of the flame - the vision of your business. Your job is to define that vision in systems. Your job is to hire and keep only staff who share the vision, because it fits their vision for themselves, and they work toward your practice’s vision. That vision, based in love for each and every person is indeed a flame, burning bright.
As you and your team carry out the systems, your mission is successful, your business grows, to love and care more, and for more, and you can enjoy the patients, the staff, the days.
I am not my staff’s friend.
I am their mentor, their light, their guide.
I am to love them through our shared vision.
I am responsible for guiding and growing the vision, which brings love to them and everyone who is part of the practice.
It’s all about loving. But not about doing everything to be loved.
Keep your eye on the vision, on the systems, on your purpose. Your courage in that will bring love to all.
I am not my staff’s friend, nor am I their parent.
I create the system; they carry out the system.
They contribute greatly to the improvement of the system.
We share love together.
The point where you show love to your staff is where you enable them to do a great job through carrying out the systems that fulfill the vision of love in your practice, not “giving” them stuff, attention, experiences, etc. to try to make them happy. (Like everything in life, we always want to be given more and more, and there is no end, no satiation for very long.)
Here’s your answer: It’s the old Chinese saying, “If you want a man to eat for a day, give him a fish. If you want him to eat for a lifetime, teach him how how to fish.”
Give your staff priceless lifetime skills. This is love.
Give yourself a great life too.
Dr Chris Baker
Dr. Chris Baker is Past President of the American Orthodontic Society, a pediatric dentist and teacher of orthodontics, An author, dental practice consultant, mentor, and a current or former faculty member of three U.S. dental schools, Dr Chris practices and blogs in beautiful Abu Dhabi, UAE, and glorious Texas, USA.
Text and images
© 2019 Dr Chris Baker