I like the clinical aspect of dentistry the most. Initially, I was disappointed by the management side of dental practice, but I needed to learn it so I could do clinical dentistry. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed learning practice management and I grew as I learned the processes for implementing it.
The final frontier that I have yet to venture into is politics in dentistry. I do not know how I will feel about it. But, I sure do not want to fall behind on my civic responsibility of promoting public health. I also do not want to lose the ability to do the kind of clinical dentistry that I like if I do not contribute to advocacy.
My encounter with advocacy has been very limited so far. Recently, I attended our city council and the city’s water advisory committee meetings to observe the discussion of adding fluoride to our drinking water. The room was divided into two groups. One half had stickers with “Yes to Fluoridation,” and the other half had stickers with “No to Fluoridation.” I could easily feel the tension in the packed council chamber.
At the end of the meetings, I wondered how this selfless act of adding fluoride to community water to improve public health, without any possible personal interest, could be met with such opposition. I also wondered how two opposing groups of people can be so absolutely sure that they are simultaneously correct. I would not claim to have cracked the code of politics here, but this is politics as usual: you first believe in your position, and then you speak with conviction.
In another example, I have been following my AGD constituent’s efforts to defeat a state bill that gives non-dentists the ability to perform surgical and irreversible dental procedures. I know and have spoken to individuals who have testified before state legislatures. A cynical mind could have easily viewed them as putting their own interests over public health. But again, they stuck to their beliefs and spoke with conviction.
I may continue to fantasize about a dental practice similar to the corner mom-and-pop shop. But politics has made its way into dentistry, and the issues keep coming. Although I sometimes see politics as ironic and hypocritical, I can’t turn a blind eye to it. I still have to learn how to deal with it. I know that there will always be someone opposing my position, no matter what I do or say. I also realize that others will determine my fate if I am not proactive. With continuous exposure, I believe that I will build a thick skin for it.
I salute all dentistry advocates who are taking the beating on my behalf to promote public health and keep dentistry in the hands of qualified professionals.
Samer Alassaad, DDS