Thursday, December 6, 2012

Warning: Storms Ahead

Hi all,

It seems that my weekends get crazier and crazier. I had a 30th birthday party on Friday night. (Yeah, I have younger friends. We are the token old people there). I woke up at 5 a.m. to run 12 miles. I got home, showered and had to get my nine-year-old to the football field. Then breakfast with Grampi and off to the mall for Christmas shopping for Hilda (she was out of town - the perfect time to shop for her). After watching the SEC Championship game, also known as the national championship in my book (don't hate us because we are beautiful), I packed up all the kids and went to Altamonte for the Christmas fireworks. And that was just Saturday.

Remember when my wife and I went to DC to see our friends’ kid play soccer? Well, he plays for Georgetown. If you are not up on college soccer, Georgetown just made it the Final Four of the tournament. We had always said that if they made it this far, we would find a way to go. We started making plans as soon as they won their game on Saturday. The semifinal game is at 5 p.m. on Friday. We are going to all pack in the van and take the 10-hour drive to Hoover, Alabama to see Tommy play. Sure, it sounds crazy. But that is how we roll.

I have to cancel all my patients on Friday. Noah will miss a Thursday night and Saturday morning flag football game. Luke will miss a Thursday night soccer game. Madison will reschedule her piano lessons. Oh, and they all have to miss school on Friday and Monday. And, worst of all, no blog on Friday. So I will try to make it Tuesday/Thursday this week. As I write this, it kind of sounds stupid, but it should be fun. YOLO!

My creative juices started flowing last weekend. I have been talking to my new associate a lot, and I’ve started thinking about what kind of mentor I am going to be. Man, I have so much to tell him. Do I sit him down and tell him all the crazy things that have happened to me? Do I tell him how great this is going to be, knowing failure is a huge part of getting better? Do I tell him that all the grandiose ideas that he thought this profession was going to bring him are not reality? Do I tell him that probably around year three, he is going to think about how to get out of this profession? Should he go teach? Should he go back to school to be an endodontist?

These are not rhetorical questions. I really have to think about telling him reality. I started thinking about a couple of patients that have negatively impacted me so much that they are in the forefront of my mind when I think of the bad that comes with our profession. The good, too. I mean the good is in front of you every day. You see the smiles that you have saved coming in for a recall appointment. You see the kids growing up. You see the same families coming in year after year telling you how awesome you are. That is an everyday reminder of the fact that people like you.

But for me, it is the sting of failure that sticks. It is the sleepless nights of worry over an unhappy patient that make me twitch. I think this is where I will start with my new associate. I have to prepare him for failure. Not the kind of failure where a margin of one of your fillings chipped, but the kind where the patient is up at the front desk screaming and telling everyone in your reception area. Or the "I am going to sue the pants off you" kind of failure.

The story I remember is one where I didn't think I even did anything wrong. About 14 years ago (I remember it like it was yesterday), I had this patient that lived in my neighborhood. I think she even hung out with my wife at some point. Anyway she needed crowns on #14 and 15. I did them and was pretty proud of them.

A few months later, she came back saying that she was getting a lot of food caught between these teeth. I checked the area and there was a good contact. But I told her I would redo one of the crowns to see if we could move the contact around and rectify the situation. To make a long story short, I continued to chase around her issues. I redid the other crown. After several different crowns that all had great contacts, I started to think I was not going to be able to make her happy.

It got to a point where her husband started to call me (you know it is bad when the spouse calls). I finally told her I didn't think I could help her anymore. After tons of work trying to make her happy, I gave her ALL her money back. And to rub it in, they said, "We really do like the practice. Is there any way your dad might take us on as patients?" He said no. If I couldn’t make them happy, what would make them think he could?

I don't know if it was the failure or the fact that I had to give them their money back, but I remember going home so upset. I did everything I could. It cost about $5,000 to realize I was just going to have these kinds of people. I feel blessed that I was able to make it go away with a check.

There was a patient way back when I first started using rotary files. I broke one. I let her know and sent her to a specialist to have it removed. They may or not have gotten it out, but they finished the root canal and charged her (I did not charge her). Then she came back into my office upset that she got charged. (This could go either way. Sometimes I pay the endodontist to do his work so the patient is less likely to be ticked at me.) She came into the office telling my people that she was going to sue me. As a young dentist, this can strike fear of God in you.

Man, did I lose sleep over that one. I mean, poop can happen. As long as you are up-front with the patient and above the standard of care, you are going to be okay.

One time, a patient came in with #8 was broken at the gum line. I did a RCT, post and core and a crown. I thought I did a great job. A couple years, later the tooth developed PAP at the root tip. I sent her to my local oral surgeon to get an apecoectomy. Her husband, an attorney, called me up and told me that he wasn't going to pay for this, implying that he wanted me to pay for it.

He told me that unless I wanted a whole world of @#$%^ to come down on me, I should consider this. I was young and didn't know how to handle this. I think I would just pay for the stupid thing now. But then, I told him that I did the best I could. On the x-ray was a perfectly done root canal. Things like this happen, and if you want it done then you are going to have to pay for it. I basically said, "Do what you gotta do."

Nothing came of this because when I was talking to the oral surgeon about it he said, he told me to forget it and that he wouldn’t charge her. But all these things can take a young, energetic, excited dentist and make him bitter. I am not bitter, but it would have been nice if my dad had warned me of the pitfalls that I might run into. These things are going to happen and I am going to tell my new associate about them. I am also going to tell him that I will be right by his side the whole time. We are in this together. “You have an advocate and he is sitting right here.”

What would you do? Let me know.

Talk to you guys soon,


P.S. Every time I write my name, I know it is almost over. I am going to miss you guys. Did any of you look at my website? Any suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Dr. John, you are the kind of dentist every young dentist would feel comfortable talking to. I know I enjoy reading your blogs, and I get teary eyed every time you mention that your journey with this blog is going to end soon. I just want to thank you for putting your heart into this blog, and for sharing with us the good and bad that you've experienced in dentistry. It makes dentistry a bit easier for us knowing we aren't alone. I am going to miss your posts dearly, and wish you the best. Now maybe if your associate could come share what you share with him, that would be awesome. I'm just putting it out there. :) God bless, Dr. John.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the part about wanting to get out of dentistry in the third year. I am at 3.5 years and have spent the last few months thinking of other career options like you mentioned! It is comments like yours that change young dentists' lives. I will miss your blog and all of the emotion that goes into it.

Best wishes,

New Dentist

Dr. Larry Stanleigh said...

I just do not understand why you are stopping your contributions to the blog? warm regards, Dr. Larry Stanleigh

Dr. Samer Alassaad said...

Dear Dr. John,
I checked your website, I like it. It is uncluttered and it has a focused message. Great headline too! The text is nicely balanced with visual aids and the video where you share your philosophy shows how passionate you are about this topic. I wish you the best of luck in your new teaching adventure.
Dr. Samer Alassaad

gatordmd said...

Thank you so much for your kind words.
It warms my heart (or is that the spiked eggnog?)

Seriously, I am going to miss it and your comments.

Larry, I have two words for you.... FOUR YEARS (it is time to give some others a chance to shine).

It has been an awesome ride,


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