Advice from a Master Dentist
By Carol Tekavec RDH
A new year brings with it both a glance back and a look forward. Where have we been? Where are we going? We are also often prompted to reflect on our lives; personal and professional. Are we achieving the success we want at work? Are we taking the time to enjoy our families and friends?
The past year, 2014, marked the 20 year anniversary of the death of my husband, Mel. He was a general dentist, appreciated by his patients and staff, loved by his children and family, and respected by his peers. He was also a well-known writer and teacher. The two of us spent many years on the seminar “circuit” as well as working together in the dental practice. We have an extremely large family, and had many obligations during those years. They were busy, stressful, full of significant accomplishments, and some of the happiest times of my life. When he died I received messages both from around the nation and from here in our hometown. His patients tell me they remember him well even today. He was quite active in the Academy of General Dentistry as well as many other organizations, and had achieved his Mastership in that group. He was very proud of that. Here are some pieces of his advice concerning work and life. I think they are good ones!
Your patients won’t care what you know until they know that you care.
I am unsure as to whether this saying originated with him, but I know that we operated under this belief every day at the practice. If your patients know you have their best interests at heart, they will be at ease. They will accept your treatment recommendations and when the treatment is rendered, they will heal faster and be happier with what they have received. Taking time for anesthetic to be fully realized, providing a neck pillow, offering a light blanket, lubricating lips so they are not chapped and peeling after the appointment, giving patients a break if they are getting tired, calling them at the end of the day to see how they are feeling…these are the things that make a patient say to their friends, “My dentist is the best! You should go to see him.”
Of course your treatment must be effective and long lasting as well. The nicest dentist with shoddy work is not going to go very far. Be that as it may, patients tend to focus on how they feel about you much more than about the tensil strength of the resin you use.
You can’t put a pack on a baby!
Imagine if someone who has no experience or ability to take care of the basics of a certain situation is given an expectation of doing even more to resolve it. For example: a patient who is not brushing daily should not be given a new brush, floss, perio-aide and rubber-tip stimulator for home care. Instead, give a new brush and some definite instructions on brushing. Only after that habit is ingrained go on to the next steps. On a personal level, perhaps your teenage son is struggling with getting homework completed daily. Don’t suggest he go for Honors Math until this basic homework situation is resolved!
You can’t care more about someone’s life than they do themselves.
Often we want to help someone very badly, however, our efforts cannot be more than someone is willing to do for themselves. This can apply to patients who will not embrace their perio-maintenance schedule, or to family members who will not look to their own best interests. This does not mean we should stop trying! But if our efforts are not successful, the fault does not necessarily reside in ourselves.
Let’s do both!
I can’t count the times when I argued that we could not possibly do two various activities. I would say that we didn’t have the time, that we would be too tired, that it would be too hard, that it would be too expensive, that it would be silly, or that the sensible thing would be to simply choose one. Instead, Mel would suggest that we do both, and we made it work somehow. How grateful I am that this philosophy guided our lives and still guides mine today. We actually could do both, and doing so enhanced our lives in many ways, professionally and personally.
Dentistry is a demanding profession, but it is rewarding in many, many ways. Looking to 2015 with an eye towards success in business and at home can ensure that however long our lives endure, we are receiving the most from our limited and precious time here. This advice from a Master dentist may ring true for you and yours.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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