Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year’s Eve, Eve…

I am not sure if I feel blessed or cursed to be writing the last “Daily Grind” post of 2015. During my two-year stint as a blogger here, I have always felt compelled to share something meaningful and important, and if nothing else, something entertaining. As I write this post, however, so close to the end of the year, it is natural to reflect on 2015 and project my desires for 2016. Maybe today is not the day to reflect, as it began about as rough as they come: Walking into the office to see your office manager (super human extraordinaire who can do all things, including your in-office repairs) on the phone with the service repair person at 7:30 a.m. troubleshooting a fix for the operatory chair, which is leaking hydraulic fluid and can only go up while the chair is back. I know this has happened to you, or something near it—a full schedule and broken equipment. Needless to say, I was grateful my first patient was family and I knew she wouldn’t mind my broken operatory chair while I sent my business team member to buy a gallon of hydraulic fluid to feed the machine until we had the leak repaired. Yes, today may not be the best day to be optimistic and “reflective” on my amazing 2015.

That being said, for me, 2015 was filled with the great highs and great lows we all experience, personally and professionally. Professionally speaking, we had a tumultuous year in our office with some significant changes in our staffing. Despite that, we managed to provide exceptional patient care and our team continually delivered their best to keep the schedule moving regardless of being short-staffed (very short-staffed at times). Also, regarding my professional life and the AGD, I was reminded today of this Facebook post I had shared one year ago today:

Needless to say, I was selected to serve on the AGD’s Communications Council and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I am #AGDLoyal! This year was a great year for my relationship with the AGD. I served as a delegate for my first time in San Francisco during the academy’s annual meeting, AGD 2015, and I was selected to serve as vice president at the state level. For the upcoming year, I have only excitement and joy when I think of my upcoming board meetings, national Joint Council Meetings in February, state annual session in March, and AGD 2016 in Boston in July! The downside to Boston: I will be missing a favorite annual event here at home, but as I said, it is annual, it is here EVERY year, but #AGD2016 will only happen in 2016!

Personally speaking, I had the same roller coaster life of saying goodbye to important people in my life, but also reconnecting with those that I had been disconnected with. I said goodbye to my dear grandma at the spunky age of 96! She had an amazing life and was proud of her family and its accomplishments. With that loss, however, family came together to celebrate her life. I travelled to her hometown near Montreal for the memorial and finally saw “the farm” and experienced the life of which I had only heard stories. Her death also brought me back to my cousins with whom I grew up, almost like sisters, and have continued to maintain a closeness with that I haven’t experienced since I was a teenager. So with the bad, comes the good. And I accept it for what is.

For the future, I choose to continue to live my life in the moment and not look back on the “what ifs” and “could have beens”, because in the end, it doesn’t matter. I know all silver linings have a cloud, but I choose the silver lining and move past the cloud. I wish you all the best for 2016!

Colleen B. DeLacy, DDS, FAGD

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

’Twas the Week Before Payday

’Twas the week before payday when on my books did I see holes in the schedule, some days 10 until 3.

To my receptionist, I asked, “What’s happening here? We need more work to make a good year.”

She said, “I know, but you’ll be happy to hear new patients have called, referred by J.B.” “You mean J.B., who always tells me, ‘Just patch it, Doc; I’ve no money this year.’?”

“The one and the same, but he’s not to blame. Maybe his friends won’t be the same, but if they are, you’ll do your best to give them a chance to accept their best.”

Seeking AGD Mastership has helped me achieve great skills in planning and treatment, I do believe.

But not all I see can do the ideal, so we handle with care so better they’ll feel.

Through Baylor, Dawson, Kois, and Frank Spear, and many great teachers year after year, I’ve learned to take care of most patients’ needs, from preventative to rehab—I just don’t do peds!

J.B. did come, and to my surprise, “Good doctor,” he said, “I find you so wise.

“Your patching has helped keep my health stable. I have had recent good fortune, so do the best you are able.”

“I have two friends whom I’ve referred, and to them I have given your praise, through skills and your caring, their health you can raise.”

So all is not bleak as I look to next week; we will start with J.B. and plan for his friends. During these empty times that seem like a leak, we’ll do staff training on which good care depends.

So to all good doctors who find themselves so, keep on the right path doing the best you know. I’ve borrowed this rhyme from a carol you’ve heard, hoping to remind you of the good word.

Merry Christmas!

Terry G. Box, DDS, MAGD

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Stress

It is three days before Christmas, and I feel the need to talk about the big elephant in the room: Christmas.

As dentists—OK, at least for me—this is not a joyful time. There is so much stuff going through my mind right now:

Gifts for my wife: OK, I can do this. What size shoe is she again?
Gifts for the staff: I have to remember to put the receipt in the box, because I know most of them will return or regift it.
Staff bonus: Oh man, I am getting a headache.
Gifts for my kids: Do I get them the thing that is way overpriced, or do I get them that other thing that is way overpriced?
Christmas party: Ugh, do I host it at a fancy place? Do I bring the spouse? Should I just give the attendees more money and bag the dinner?
Time off: Now I really have a headache. I don’t know if you know this, but you can take time off, but the bills keep on coming.

(I refuse to work on Dec. 23, but I am starting to second-guess my hard stance and am thinking about working the morning of Dec. 24. I just sit around the house doing nothing anyway. Joking; I am joking.)

But in all seriousness, being a small business owner this time of the year is not merry. I have told myself that I want to save for this time of year so it is not so miserable. I wanted enough money in reserve to prepare for the days off at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It took all year, but I have managed to save a bunch of money. But guess what? It is not enough.
Thanksgiving came and depleted some of it. A bad week depleted some more of it. Something broke in the office, and there went that saved “bunch of money.”

Now I am looking at six to eight days off in the next couple of weeks, a Christmas party, Christmas bonuses, billions of presents under the tree (oh, by the way, I don’t care if I ruin it for you, but I am Santa Claus), vacation time for the staff, and no production.

But I know it is going to be OK. I might be in debt for the first couple of months of the new year. I might stress out big time on Christmas morning and stare the “death stare” at my wife for the overspending. But it is going to be OK. And for you, it is going to be OK, too.

We will learn from it, we will save a little more next year, and we will someday have enough money saved in our retirement account that Christmas doesn’t stress us out. It is going to be OK.

I hope you have a great Christmas season and a great New Year’s. I hope you can take a deep breath and enjoy your family. I hope you can take time and count your blessings. I hope you even enjoy your work Christmas party.

John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hermey the Elf, DDS

You probably remember Hermey. He was the misfit elf in the 1964 TV movie “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” He was not happy making toys. He had a different calling: He wanted to be a dentist.

Whatever became of him? Well, after some research, I have found some answers.

The first thing you need to know is that people outside of the elf world sometimes get his name wrong. For some strange reason, some people call him Herbie. Maybe that’s why he prefers to be called Dr. Elf. Officially, he is now called Hermey the Elf, DDS. 

From what I’ve been able to piece together, Dr. Elf went to a dental school run by the tooth fairy. I have no doubt that he graduated at the top of his class.

His return visit to the Island of Misfit Toys is chronicled in the 2001 TV special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & the Island of Misfit Toys.” He returns to examine the island’s King Moonracer, who has a toothache. Dr. Elf recognizes the need for a root canal. He is such a dedicated dentist that he works out of a “toothmobile,” not a regular office. He doesn’t wait for patients to come to him; he goes to them!

It goes without saying the Hermey must be member of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Fellowship and Mastership are foregone conclusions for an elf with that much passion for dentistry. I would also like to think that Hermey is a regular reader of The Daily Grind.

On a final note, it turns out Hermey is quite the ladies’ man. As the 2001 TV special ends, he gets a date with the tooth fairy herself! Well, he is a successful dentist, after all.

That is what I’ve been able to find out about my favorite elf dentist. Hermey, please do me a favor: Look me up at the next AGD meeting! 

Andy Alas, DDS

Friday, December 18, 2015

5 Ways to Become a More Proactive Leader

Let’s face it: Owning a business has many challenges. Throughout the years, I have found that attaining the right skills to become a strong leader is at the top of that list. How you carry yourself in your office will be mirrored by your team and ultimately will become the image of your practice. This idea may be a hard to accept for some of us, but nonetheless, it is true.

I believe that at the core of every good leader is a common trait of being proactive. A proactive person understands that they are responsible for their own lives; how the act and what they do is a result of decisions they made based on value. There is a lot of meaning in that statement, so please read it again. Proactive leaders do not execute decisions based on emotions and conditions; they have initiative and feel a responsibility to make things happen. So how can you be more proactive? Here are five ways:
  1. Don’t be driven by your feelings. I realize that like the Tin Man, most of us do not walk the “yellow brick road” looking for a heart. We are all humans and have feelings. A strong leader should have a heart but make decisions based on core values. 
  2. Sit on your impulses. Have you ever made a decision when you were upset that you regretted later, or maybe you bought some fancy new piece of equipment at a continuing education conference because you were excited and told yourself you deserved it? You’re not the only one who has done these things! It is easy to get swept up in the moment. Go ahead and feel emotions in the moment—just don’t base your decisions on those fleeting feelings. 
  3. Accept responsibility for your actions. This is so important! Often, people search for someone to blame when something goes wrong. Nothing proactive comes from accusations and negativity. Evaluate what went wrong and how you got there, and acknowledge these things. Mistakes happen. Using mistakes as a learning tool may result in a great learning experience and an opportunity for growth. 
  4. Use proactive language. How often do you hear people say things as if they are trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility for what is going on in their lives? Examples of excuses are: “I had to do that,” “They won’t let me,” or “I’m just built this way.” Proactive people understand that they have a choice. They understand that whatever situation they are in is a result of previous decisions that they made, and their future will be based on the next decision they make. Nobody else but them and no other circumstances but their own control their lives. Instead of giving an excuse, they should say, “I chose to do that.” 
  5. Keep your commitments. If you say you are going to do something, then make sure you do it! Proactive people have integrity, and integrity builds trust. Every time you break a commitment, you are being dishonest to a relationship and to yourself. 
The bottom line is: Know yourself and your core values, and base all of your decisions on that. To run a successful office and truly feel successful, you must be proactive, and you need to have proactive people on your team who are supporting you.

Pamela Marzban, DDS, FAGD

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why It’s OK to Hug Your Dentist

Dentists are not what I like to call patients’ “favorite people.” There are few who embrace dental hygiene and show up faithfully to their six-month checkups with a smile on their faces and a skip in their steps. For the most part, like eating your vegetables and exercising, going to the dentist is just on most people’s “must do” list. When I tell people what I do for a living, I either get enthusiastic approval, and I can’t tell if it is genuine or not, or a grimace and a statement of how they don’t love going to the dentist.

I’ve been in practice for about five years, and a few weeks ago, for the first time ever, I had a patient ask if he could hug me. I was a little surprised at first, but it didn’t take me long to agree. This man had just completed a more than two-year treatment that included orthodontics and some restorative work. I had briefly suggested this treatment the first time he came into the office for health and cosmetic reasons, not thinking much of it. On the day he completed the treatment, here he was thanking me for making this suggestion and giving him the smile he always wanted.

It’s so easy to get discouraged in our line of work. Patients sometimes complaining about things beyond our control, making unreasonable demands, and not listening to our instructions can make us feel like we are losing our minds. No matter what the outcome, we are all out there every day, just trying to do our best. It is nice to feel appreciated by our patients.

If you are reading this and have had a great experience with a health care provider, I encourage you to let them know the next time you go to see them! It will put a smile on their faces, a warm feeling in their hearts, and the desire to do an even better job tomorrow than they did today. I don’t think anyone would turn down a hug; just make sure you ask first!

Happy holidays!

Lilya Horowitz, DDS, FAGD

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Giving Thanks to All

We have awesome jobs. We see multiple publications touting “dentist” as one the best jobs in America, year in and year out. We really do have awesome jobs, and we work our butts off.

But we couldn’t do it without a lot of people. No matter how frustrated you get at an assistant, hygienist, or patient care coordinator, our lives would be miserable if we didn’t have these teammates. And not to mention the warm bodies who fill our chairs. Holy cow, do we need to give thanks to our patients who entrust to us their oral health and emotional well-being and sometimes dip into life savings to get that Invisalign or those veneers they’ve always dreamed of.

Too often, we (I) go through our (my) day without thanking those around us who make it all possible. My days in dental school trying to do four-handed dentistry by myself—asking the patient to hold the suction at times—is not something I want to return to anytime soon. And I certainly don’t want to be practicing dentistry on myself to make money. Seriously, have any of you watched the YouTube videos of foreign dentists anesthetizing themselves and extracting their own wisdom teeth?! Seriously, if you haven’t, stop reading this blog post right now and look it up on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed!

Back to my story…

We (I) can get so entranced in the grind that is our daily routine of crown placement, hygiene checks, treatment planning, and shaking hands with new patients that we (I) sometimes just forget to stop and give thanks. I got to thinking about this topic when I was writing Christmas cards for our staff last night and realized that I can’t remember the last time I sincerely complimented or thanked some of them for their efforts. To say it made me feel empty and depressed is an understatement. What kind of person am I?! These individuals drop their kids off at school, make it to work with a smile on their faces, and are dedicated, hardworking, eager-to-learn team players. And usually when I speak directly to them outside of the doctor-patient-assistant conversations we all take part in, it is to correct them or offer stern advice on how they should do something that they’re currently doing differently.

Well, I’m off—headed to our staff Christmas party. I will enjoy the company, laugh, and chat, but most of all, I plan to give thanks. Thanks to the ones who make my job easier and more enjoyable. And who make it all possible. Won’t you join me?

Donald Murry III, DMD

Monday, December 7, 2015

Faith in the Tooth Fairy

It all started innocently enough. A 6-year-old girl’s baby tooth fell out at school, only to become misplaced before the end of the day. She was sure the tooth fairy could not be real, as a result, or so she thought.

Isabel was a grade 1 student, having fun with her friends in the playground at school recess, when she suddenly lost her primary upper front tooth. The teacher supervising the situation recognized the importance of this tooth and placed it in an empty film canister for safekeeping. However, by the end of the school day, the canister was missing, and boy, was Isabel ever upset.

By the time Isabel arrived home, she was distraught and hard to console. In her anger, she said that she did not really believe in the tooth fairy anymore. Her father, a local dentist, promised Isabel that he would look into the matter and talk directly with the tooth fairy about this situation.

The tooth fairy told Isabel’s father that she indeed had been in the neighbourhood earlier and had picked up the tooth—but was going to drop by later that night to give Isabel a special thank-you gift. Isabel’s father told this to his daughter, and she went to bed happier but suspicious.

The tooth fairy went to the Southwestern U.S. to visit the Hopi Indians and returned with a small piece of polished rose quartz with a hand-carved unicorn on it. That evening, late at night, she left the gift under Isabel’s pillow with a little note of apology.

The next morning, Isabel woke up, her faith in the tooth fairy restored, excited to have a gift she wanted to share with her world around her.

This fun little tale really did happen. Isabel is my real daughter, and this really did happen to her at school. I had attended a conference in Arizona the previous year and bought little $1 souvenirs home, thinking that there would come a time when they might be appropriate little gifts (I am a bit of a pack rat)—and sure enough, some months later, the events described above unfolded, and this little fun tale restored the faith in the tooth fairy for my little girl. (She’s now 19 years of age and no longer believes in the tooth fairy, sadly.)

Myths, legends, fairies, superheroes, and more are all fodder for the fertile mind, allowing us to stay grounded in the face of things we don’t understand, in a world that is big and scary. The tooth fairy simply adds something fun and wonderful to the mythos, particularly for young minds.

In my household, we did not emphasize money as “payment” for the teeth our children lost. Sometimes, they received a single coin, sometimes chocolate “money,” and sometimes small gifts like the rock described above. We made it fun and kept it that way for as long as possible.

May the tooth fairy live long and prosper in your world, too (especially now, as we head into the season dominated by wondrous cultural icons like Santa Claus, flying reindeer, Jack Frost, and more).

Warm regards,
Larry Stanleigh, BSc, MSc, DDS, FADI, FICD, FACD

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Celebrating the Success!

Our practice has been rewarding kids for their good work for many years by putting them in our “No Sugar Bug Club” when they have a great checkup. We select a winner twice a year—one child from each of our locations. The winner gets a photo displayed in the office of myself and my business partner giving them their reward: a $50 gift card to Toys “R” Us. It is such fun to see their faces light up when they realize they have won a shopping spree, and in the grand scheme of expenses, $100 per year is pretty nominal. (Trust me: The return on investment on that $100 is incredible!)                                                                                                                                         
Recently, the staff member who is responsible for managing our marketing and social media efforts had the suggestion to recognize an Employee of the Month. Obviously, the idea isn’t new, but we had never implemented anything of the sort. The financial reward is not significant, but the recognized team member is featured on our Facebook page and gets to take advantage of the premium parking spot right near the office. (I realize to a lot of you this may seem like a less than stellar reward, but here in Michigan where the weather can be unforgiving eight months out of 12, our team is quite excited about this benefit!) I love this idea, because it is based on the perception and cooperation of other team members—not just the dentist. We have a box, and if someone did something helpful or extra beneficial, then the person who recognized it jots it down on paper and tosses the note in the box. The team member with the most “votes” gets the recognition—and prime parking for that month. 

It is so easy to get caught up in negative thoughts and behaviors on a daily basis that it’s renewing to see the team lifting each other up in praise. We post a status about the Toys “R” Us gift certificate winner and the Employee of the Month on our Facebook page. I practice in a rural community, and very often, these posts are some of our most popular because the parents of the young patients who have won a gift certificate or our recognized employees tend to have many mutual friends on Facebook. 

Do you have any incentive programs for your patients or, better yet, your team? I would love to know what other great ideas you have found to be successful!

Colleen B. DeLacy, DDS, FAGD


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