Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Happy Wednesday to all of you.

I just finished The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I have to say, I impressed myself with the speed I read this book. It was 600 pages, so I expected to finish it by November. But, I liked it, so I read it faster. It was slow going at first. It took about 140 pages to start getting good, but that has been the knock on this book and I knew this going in. I thought it was very good and I am looking forward to reading the other two.

I watched a movie called "Deadly Impact" this weekend. I fell asleep watching it. Does that tell you something? I could have written this screenplay. It was okay, but very predictable and there are about 4 million movies just like it.

Okay. I was flipping through some of my magazines and I came across the July 2010 edition of Dentaltown magazine. Howard Farran, DDS, MAGD, MBA, wrote a commentary on "Extinguishing Burnout." I skimmed it and got totally ticked off. (As you may have read, Howard and I have had a run-in. But I have talked to him, and I really really like him. He is my kind of guy. Just a guy who loves teeth and has a passion for dentistry. We need more people like him.) But I reread it, and I think I agree with him on most parts.

Okay, here is the premise of the article. Burnout is a problem, but it is mostly self-induced. "Burnout lives in the closet of so many practitioners and everyone is afraid to talk about it. Burnout will ruin your life. It can lead to harmful vices like alcohol and drug addictions, extramarital affairs, and a litany of self-destructive behavior. Burnout has also killed. It's sad. It's depressing. And it must be stopped. One huge contributing factor in burnout is your environment." Click here to read the entire article.

He talks about how your environment includes space, gear, and what gets you excited. Space is our office space, and we spend about 25% of our time in our office. He says you might hate to come to work because you are leasing a small, dreary office that you hate. As soon as you walk in, you want to go back home. Your office sets the scene, and for some of us, the scene is bleak. He then goes on to talk about how real estate is down 35% and this is a great time to buy.

I agree with him, BUT...

It seems like he is assuming we all have money put away to buy that very visible corner lot, when some of us have used our savings to make payroll. Isn't everything down 35% because banks are not easily parting with their money? They are not lending because "you have potential" anymore.

I like for a three-operatory dentist to go into a bank and ask for a $2 million loan because we want to "be more visible." I get that we need to love our space and love the office we come to. But maybe some new carpet or a new LCD TV would make our lives just a little happier.

He doesn't talk about how owning your own place is very expensive. We own this office building and it needs a new roof. The landscape is ALWAYS a problem, with grass dying and sprinklers breaking. We still need tons of trees trimmed. And the list goes on.

Then he talks about gear. "Some dentists will buy themselves a boat or a cabin or a Harley Davidson because, hey, why not? They are fun! But what fun stuff do you have at the office that makes it worth commuting to everyday?" He has a point.

He talks about how someone will come up to him and ask him about lasers or CAD/CAM with a sparkle in their eye. He compares it his kids playing in their sandbox. If there were no toys in the sandbox, they would get up and leave. But if there were trucks and toys, and they would stay there forever. His point is that if a product gets you jazzed up about doing dentistry, JUST GO GET IT!

I totally agree, BUT...

Do your homework. Be a good steward of your money. Do you know how many CEREC machines are sitting around people's offices not being used? The dentist got all excited about it. But didn't realize it was going to be hard to get used to, or that there would be a learning curve, or that he didn't do enough all-porcelain crowns or onlays to warrant the purchase. (By the way, if you are one of those dentists with a CEREC machine sitting around collecting dust, call me.)

Just remember, toys don't have to be expensive. You know how I love to do fillings. I bought a new instrument that helped me do better anatomy; it got me really jazzed. I know, I know - BORING.

Lastly, he talks about what gets you excited. He says doing fillings doesn't excite him anymore. What excites him is pushing himself, and he tells his audience to do the same. He talks about getting competitive with dentistry.

And he says to do it now. Stop wasting time and do it before it is too late. He says guys that don't like what they are doing want to retire early. He ends by saying, "You can blame burnout on just about anything, but nine times out of 10, you're burned out because you caused it."

I think we should do what we love. I love doing meat and potato dentistry. Pushing myself? I don't know. I wish I knew how to do implants. I wish I could take out third molars but, I don't know...

It is not that I am not not happy doing what I am doing. I am good at it. Why would I do something that I am not going to be good at just because I want to make myself more exciting? I know I will get good at it, but still.

I guess I can learn to put in an implant and be pretty good at it after I do 50 or so. But my surgeon has done 15,000. Can I do as good a job as him? Which would be better for my patient? That is what I am thinking about.

I know you guys are thinking I am boring and need to do it. I get it. But for me, change takes a little more than jumping in with both feet. I am usually one toe at a time.

I enjoyed his article and don't ever plan to burn out. I encourage you guys to try to prevent it too.

Are you trying to prevent your own burnout? What have you done that might not be as drastic as spending $100,000 on a CEREC machine or $2 million on a new building? I just pinned up an article in my office about the 25 most fun things to do in Orlando: airboat rides, hot air ballooning, shooting guns, things like that. I want to do some of them with my staff. You know, liven up the place a little.

I look forward to hearing from you.

P.S. If you are an Ohio State fan, wow, things are really bad for you now. Just remember, it is probably going to get worse before it gets better. My Michigan friend just bought a shirt that said, "Liar, liar, sweater vest on fire." Hilarious.


jamie said...

hey john,

i read howard's article, and I LOVED IT! i don't agree with everything he has to say, but overall i thought it was motivating. one reason that i think that you may not totally agree with all of it, is that i don't think he's really talking to a guy like seem like a pretty motivated, satisfied guy who's always striving to do better (i mean look, you're writing a dental blog...i don't think you're really a burnout candidate). i think he was talking to a guy like me. i'm only 10 years into my career, and counting down the years to retiring early. he hit the nail on the head for me. i probably won't end up doing exactly what he says, but my version of it (everyone's different).

so, i get what you're thinking about the economics, but i'm not sure that he was speaking directly to a guy in your shoes. i've never been to your office, but i doubt that you're in a real "hell hole" that you dread driving to every day. anyhow, keep up the great work john.


Dentist in Colorado Springs said...

So many outdoor things to do in Colorado over the coming months. We'll need to re-read this article in January when it is cold and we're between football and baseball seasons. CEREC, by the way, seems to be working for us - very convenient for patients.

Go Blue! said...

does Howard have any suggestions for a burnt out dental student?

gatordmd said...


You and I need to talk.
Please email me so I can give you my cell number.

No pressure.


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