Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Christmas Party

Hey all,

Is this week dragging? Still got the turkey rolling around in there?

I finished reading The Charm School and it was pretty good (recommended by a reader).
Then I picked up The Hunger Games, a book my son read. He was saying how awesome it was but I was like, "You are 11. Your awesome is different than my awesome." But I read it and, well, it was awesome. So far, there are three books in the series, and I've started reading the second book already.

I have a story to tell you. I have a pretty good library of movies here at the office, and my patients can watch a movie on a screen I have mounted on the ceiling. One of my staff members said she had never seen The Shawshank Redemption.
Are you kidding me?!?! I told her, "Take this movie and don't come back to work until you have watched it."

Well, she watched it and left it on my desk with a sticky note that said, "Not really my cup of tea."

WWWWHHHHAAAATTTTT?????!!!! I wrote her a note that said, "You can NEVER borrow a movie from me again and I have considered taking you off my Christmas list."

Who doesn't like Shawshank? Is it the same person that won't help an old lady across the street. The same kind of person that doesn't like dogs. I just haven't met a person that... well I guess I have now. People are weird.

Let's talk about basketball. I am the assistant coach of my son's sixth grade basketball team, and it is officially over the top. We are practicing six days a week. We had a game Monday. We had a game last night. We have practice today, tomorrow and Friday and TWO games on Saturday. Come on. Are you kidding me? Oh and the other thing is we are finding out that we are not very good. We have been on the wrong end of a 40-19 and a 40-20 game. So we need more practice right?!!

But some of the best stuff coming out of basketball is my son growing up. So far he has had to ask me about some new choice words. A couple weeks ago, during dinner, he said, "Dad, what is a douche?" If you could have seen my face and my face. Classic. I think my wife and I both dropped our forks at the same time.

Of course you have to tell him. So we have this conversation at dinner, mind you the other two kids are quiet for the first time in their lives, as we explain the finer points of feminine hygiene to our older son. Then you should have seen his face - classic. "Ewwww."

I told him to go back to his school and ask Randy if he really knows what a douche is. And if he doesn't, tell him.

And last night he says, "Hey dad."

"Yeah, son."

"What are tits?"

"It's that Randy kid again, isn't it?"


So, basketball has been great. Lots of lifes lessons for us. Great stuff.

Real quick... have you Elfed yourself yet? OfficeMax does this thing every year with JibJab. Check mine out (with my dad and three of our people). It is awesome.

I want to talk about Christmas parties. I know, I know. "John, the last time you wrote about the Christmas party you got in big trouble."

For you newbies, the second blog I wrote was about my staff and my Christmas party. Big hit with the readers; not such a big hit with the staff. So my Christmas party is off limits.

What are you guys doing for a Christmas party? I know it has been a tough year financially. Are you bagging the party all together? Are you doing it with a lot less flair?

It has been in discussion with my dad and I for a couple of weeks. What do we do?
Money has been kind of tight, but it is Christmas. I think the staff kind of know that it has been tough for shareholders, and they don't want the party to be a burden. They don't want to have a party if they can't celebrate, and how can you celebrate if things are kind of terrible?

A couple of my staff members have actually said that we don't need to have a party.
And I thought about it. I thought it would take a lot of pressure off. But after a day or two I said, "We are having a party, dammit."

The party is not for the staff. Sure, they benefit, but the party is for me. I love being able to have dinner with my people. I want to be able to look down the table and see people having a couple of drinks. I want to see people laughing and enjoying each other's company (and hopefully mine).

When God created the world and he looked at it and said, "It is good." I am not putting me and God on the same level, but I want to understand that feeling. I want to look down the table and say, "This is really good."

I want to think, "Yeah, we have had a tough year, but we made it. My staff might not look the same but the ones I have, I really like and I am happy." These are the people that I am in the trenches with everyday. I want to celebrate with them. It is time to remember the laughs and the tears that we had all year. It is time to remember all the fun people that we worked on this year. It is to remember the crazy people we survived.

To me, that's what a Christmas party is for. I might go to a less expensive restaurant. They might get a smaller presents. But by George, we are going to celebrate. And I am looking forward to it.

I hope you are, too.

Talk to you on Friday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving blog

Hey all,

For some of us, it has been a hard year. But Thursday is Thanksgiving, and I think we need to think about it in the big picture.

Let's just look at our lives from a 5,000 ft view. We live in America, for crying out loud. China has been in the news lately for wanting to be the leader in the world's economy and it may happen someday but... it is China. They have like 3 billion people living there. But they are not FREE people.

We are FREE. Think about that a second. Free to practice dentistry anyway we want. Free to write blogs. Free to have as many kids as we want. Free to worship any God we want (try worshipping Jesus in Saudi Arabia and see how that works out for you). Free to talk about our government (try this in North Korea). Free to talk bad about other countries (haha). But seriously, this is a great thing.

Dentistry has been very, very good to me (and I know it has been good to you).
Think about it...

We choose our own hours. We work in air conditioning. We work with people that we choose. We work on mostly nice people. We make a "good living" and we get to work on teeth. We have great dental organizations, such as the AGD (shameless plug).

Let's talk about a "good living" for a minute. I know this year has been down, but really, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Maybe you don't have that sports car you want. Maybe putting money away is a bit of a struggle. But don't mess with happy. I mean if you are making over $100k, you are in the top 5% of all of the country and in the top 1% in the world. And most of us only work four days a week. Perspective, people.

Okay, let's say you hate your life right now. You still have a degree that lends itself to some good employment. I got an email from a UF grad yesterday. He is a periodontist who just sold his practice after 14 years. He said his practice was not what he wanted so he gave it all up, and now he is looking for an associateship or looking to be a consultant.

See, some people love dentistry but can't stand private practice (if you are out there, you are not alone). But all in all dentistry is the envy of alot of other doctors. I run with a bunch of physicians, and some of them have it real good and they make a bunch more money than I do but they also work until 8pm sometimes (at 8pm, I have been home, coached a football practice, taken my daughter to swim practice, ate dinner, brushed everyone's teeth and we are getting ready for bed) and work on Saturdays and Sundays. Dude... we have it so good.

I have healthy great kids and an awesome wife (better than I deserve sometimes). I have great friends and am blessed with a great church. I have so many things to be thankful for, it's just is hard to think of them all. I love my house, I love my 9 year old pick-up truck. I love being able to coach my boys and love taking my daughter to swim practice. I love that my kids love me regardless of what a poop I am sometimes. I love living in Orlando. What I can say is God has shown favor to me.

I know the poop might hit the fan soon, but you know what? I will try to find joy in that as well. There is an old saying, "God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good." And I try not to forget it.

My church puts on a free breakfast to anyone Thanksgiving Day morning. We use it as an outreach and most of our members come because it is free. We invite all the first responders to come and eat. So our town's police and firefighters usually show up. Maybe the guy who gave me a ticket will show up (can you say "loogie?").
Then, after the breakfast, we are traveling to Miami to see my wife's family for the weekend.

Then it is back home for church and Christmas pictures with the WHOLE family. Now for you "the whole family" doesn't freak you out but when you are talking about the Gammichias. That is a different ball game.

My parents are divorced, so my mom and her husband will be there. My father is remarried and him and his wife will be there and his two step kids. Then I have four brothers and sisters. None of my siblings are married so there is nothing crazy there. But getting 16 people to remember to show up could get hairy.

I am thankful for so many things, but I almost forgot, I am thankful for you. I love, I mean really love, writing this blog (what can I say it is cheaper than therapy) and I am thankful for the AGD for working with me on it and I am thankful for you who read it.

And Thursday is Thanksgiving, do you know what that means? That there are only 27 shopping days until Christmas. Can you believe that? Crazy talk.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Be safe in your travels and I will see you next Wednesday (by the by, we are close to finding a Monday blogger).


ps. I have tried to activate the rating system at the end of the blog. This is a feature that Blogger.com offers. So when you are done reading each blog there should be something you can click to rate that particular entry. Remember, I am sensitive so be kind please. But really it will help me write about stuff that you like to read. So if you vote it will help me write a better blog (if that is even possible).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hey all,

Yesterday, me and my bride celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. She is the best thing that ever happened to me.
I love her more every day.

I am so happy that the Lord blessed me with a friend/partner/wife/hot body like her. She loves me in spite of me and it has been a great 15 years and I can't wait for the next 15. I know it sounds corny but "she completes me".

We are celebrating tonight. There is a place on Disney property called The California Grill. It is on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Hotel. The restaurant is all windows and every night at 9:30 pm they drop the lights so you can see the Disney fireworks right outside. Then it is back home for some more fireworks (if you know what I mean).

Now that you are done puking a little in your mouth, lets talk teeth shall we.

I have this case that is killing me. I want to talk to you about it.
Here goes....
I have known this family before our kids were born.
They had their daughter one day before my first son. Hanna is now 11 years old.
She was born with a cleft palate. Not a cleft lip but a cleft palate.
She is a pretty little girl but her teeth are kind of messed up because of the original surgery. She has a tiny mouth.

I originally sent her to an orthodontist at the age of 6. She had big teeth and a small mouth and I saw the writing on the wall. She was going to have major crowding issues and I wanted to see if we could alleviate a lot of her later issues if we did some early teeth movement.
Here is the other thing: The parents are great. They do whatever I say and they trust me.

Now she is getting older and she has straight teeth. But is having severe crowding issues still. She is going to be a four bi case, as they say in the biz. To all you non-dental people, this means that we are going to have to remove teeth in the middle of her mouth (premolars or what they use to call them is bicuspids....bi=two and cusp=tips of teeth. So the teeth that have two tips).
So she was going to need her four 1st premolars removed (again to the non-dental people, we have two sets of premolars, 1st premolars and 2nd premolars).
This would have been no big deal except she is missing #10, her upper left lateral incisor.

So then it was the big discussion.
Do we just take out #7 (the other lateral incisor) and move the canines forward and leave the upper premolars alone?
Personally, I don't like this method of doing ortho. I don't think the look is ever very good and I am looking for very good. I would want very good on my daughter and I would want it on Hanna too.
So I said no to the above. I don't want to take out the other central and move the canines into the lateral space.
The alternative is pulling the premolars, doing the ortho, and leaving a space for #10 (to do an implant later).

Easy right?
Well, there is more to the story.
In taking the panoramic x-ray we found that #11 (upper left canine) was coming really nicely because she didn't have teeth there resisting. I was just coming into place really nicely.
#6 on the other hand was ectopicly erupting. It was horizontal. Still this is not a big deal right?
Do a little oral surgery and put a band and a chain on this tooth and pull it into place.
No problem.
Well, as it turns out after the pan I wanted a better look at #6. So I took a couple PA's of this tooth.
And here are the PA's.

Can you see the problem?
#6 is moving horizontally and eating the roots of #7 AND #8.
Are you f!@#$%king kidding me?
Like this girl has not been through enough. Cleft palate, ortho, lower premolar extractions. She has been missing front teeth since she was a kid. Now this. Come on...

So at this point, I have a periodontist friend that has one of those iCat machines. I asked if we could get one, for free, so we can really see what was going on.
He said, no problem.
We made an appointment and had this x-ray done.
Well, indeed the roots of #7 and #8 were compromised.
Son of a !@#$%.
After much discussion with the orthodontist we decided that she still could keep #7 and #8 and they probably would be fine for a long time.
So our plan was still intact. Do oral surgery and pull #6 into place. Do ortho and leave a space for #10.

We send her to the oral surgeon for a consult.
He then proceeds to tell us that there is significant blood supply issues in this area.
See, what appears to have happened is that after her cleft palate surgery as a baby, scar tissue has built up in this area (probably causing the canine to more horizontally in the first place). This scar tissue has a very poor blood supply. He is concerned about a couple of things. One is that if everything goes well and we can get a band on the canine that moving the tooth is still going to be too difficult—because without blood you're SOL. You are not giving this tooth the right cells to make the moving process possible.
Now the second issue is without a blood supply, even if you take out #6 you might not have enough blood supply for her to heal properly just from the extraction.
You are kidding me, right?

So now this is where we are at. The surgeon scheduled the surgery on a day that I am off, so I can be there. He wants me to be there so if there are any forks in the road we can try to make the best decision together.
Is this case crazy, or what?

Any thoughts?
The parents are both, "You know, Dr. John, we are with you. Whatever you decide."
But I had to tell them that whatever we do to the canine is one thing but you have to know that the front two teeth have been compromised and we will just deal with it the best we can and hope they will last.

Tough one huh?
Have a great weekend.
Next week is Thanksgiving week. I might blog on Monday and do a Thanksgiving blog on Wednesday but it is looking like a crazy week.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Critical thinking

Hey all,

On a totally different note than this thread today, I want to talk about one thing: I have an idea.
I have an idea for a GPS app on my phone. What on earth am I going to do with this idea?
I am just going to come out and tell you because I trust all of you. Let's say you are using your GPS to drive through a town you don't know. The GPS doesn't tell you if the roads or this town is very safe. Do you know what I am saying? This way that the GPS is taking me might be the quickest but it doesn't tell you that there were 16 car jackings in this one mile area last year.
This would be good to know if I am driving my family around trying to find a gas station.
Well, what do you think? Should I go global or what?

The Smiley Silly Bandz thing was going fairly slow. We were getting $25 orders. But things changed yesterday.
I had an orthodontist call up and told me he wanted to buy every thing we had. So he just bought 150 packs. Now that is what I am talking about!!!
We have decided to make another order of 10,000 (I know leap of faith). We are going to put 500 in a jar and start selling the jars for $99.
Now this one...I AM going global.

Okay, lets move on shall we?

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. They asked me if I would help coach my son's 6th grade basketball team ... and I said "yes".
I should tell you that I am already assistant coaching for my 1st graders flag football team, which is twice a week (he is also in soccer twice a week for one more week). I do a Bible study on Monday night. My daughter is in swimming two to three days a week. But other than that I am not really doing anything.
But 6th grade basketball is the next level. It is not the rec league that practices once a week, for an hour, and has a game once a week and the season is over in 4 weeks.
NOOOOO, this is practice four days a week, for two hours, with 2 games a week and the season lasts 2 and a half months. What have I gotten myself into?

But I said okay and I am doing it ... there is no turning back.
So we are on the second week of practice. I thought the first week went pretty good.
It is all the same kids I have been coaching since they were in kindergarten. I feel like I have some investment in them. There are only two kids that I didn't know already.
One of the players I don't know is the best player on the team (and he knows it).

I don't know if you know this but I am a talker ... I know HUGE shock to all of you.
I talk before, during and after the drills. If I see something that needs to be tweaked in the way someone is doing a drill, I will mention it and move on.
Dribble with your left hand more,
Set you foot and then go straight up for that shot,
Good effort,
Your shot looks really good,
I need crisper passes,
Use the pick, don't just go around it,
Come on run harder,
You play like you practice.
Things like this...

So this really good kid was doing a drill and I told him, "You did a really nice job on that drill."
And he stopped and said, "You know that is the first time you have encouraged me."
At first I thought, "you're a punk, move on."
I thought he was trying to manipulate me.
I mean, I don't know him well, so I didn't know if he was being honest or if he was just being a punk.
So like most things, I brought this back to work.
I was telling my assistant about this.
And she said, "Yep, you are critical."
"WHAT?!!", I said, "What do you mean?"
She said you are not much of an encourager.
Then my front desk person who was not minding her own business and eavesdropping said, "No, you are not."
And I look out of the room and she was shaking her head and saying like she was sorry, "You really are not."
I was shocked. We are a family and they all know how much I love them.
But these two were telling me how I am not much of an encourager but very critical.
Then I brought it back to my wife and talked to her about it and she looked at me like, "DUH!!"

So I started to think...
I think I get it from my dad. My dad was and still is very critical of me.
I know he loves me and I love him but that was the way he was brought up. And this is the way I was brought up.
But I didn't think it was me.
Okay, wait a minute ... I know it's the way I treat my wife. I tell her how sorry I am that I am this way with her (sometimes she gets the grouchy me).
But I didn't think this was the way I was with my kids and my staff.
So back to my discussion with my staff; they started getting on me about my coaching and how kids are fragile and they need encouragement and blah, blah, blah.
I have always tried to be an encourager to my own kids and the kids I coach.
What is wrong with being critical? At least what is wrong with being constructively critical?
But I guess, they are telling me, some things might get lost in the translation.
So when I say, "you are not going straight up with your jump shot", the kid hears "Why are you even on this team, you suck and you will never make anything of yourself in life."
What is wrong with being critical?
Should I say, "I really like you, you are a really good kid and I really like you and in fact a lot of kids like you, but you are not going straight up with your jump shot".
So we can't be critical anymore? Aren't we trying to teach them about life?
Are they really all trying to be NBA players? No, they are playing basketball and learning about life. And life, let me tell you, is not full of "attaboys" and "great jobs, people really like you."

So when can we be critical?
Lets just say you are in a game and you are down by 25 points. Is this the time to start busting some balls or do we still have to consider their feelings?

Now I get the whole thing about being less critical but...
But that was the way I was coached and I turned out okay.
Coaching back in the 80's is much different than now. My coach screamed at me so much and got so up in my face that spittle got on me.
Now you all are gasping right now at the horror. But you know what ... the military does it and they ain't doing so bad at making boys into men.
You know what you say when a kid drops out of high school and is kind of trying to find himself. "Yeah, that kid needs to go into the military."
Because the military isn't all about feelings, it is about getting work done.
Okay so maybe the military might be a little strong and the all-feeling thing might be too easy ... so maybe somewhere in the middle might be "just right".

At work, I started to say something like, "That was a really nice temporary but the margin could be a little more flush on the facial. Here let me show you what I am talking about."
Is this okay?
I walked around today and told everyone they were doing a great job and they all looked at me like, "What is up with you and what do you want from me?"

I don't know, and it just seems so fake when I do it. I swear I am trying to do it with feeling.
I guess I am just wired in a different way. Like, other than being an alcoholic, I thought the Great Santini did a lot of things right (If you haven't seen the movie ... go get it right now).

I definitely think, and don't kill me for this, I think women have it a bit easier than men.
We are hunters and killers ... you have seen the cavemen movies.
What do you say when you in are in touch with your feelings? You say that you are in touch with your feminine side. Why would we say this? Because girls are about feelings. Men are all about punching each other and seeing who can pee farther.
This softer way of doing things is tough for guys. Now I know I am generalizing but...

I see myself getting in a little bit of trouble so I am going to stop while I am ahead.

What is it like with you?
Are you a touchy feely boss (not that there is anything wrong with that)?
Are you a critical dentist?
Do woman have it easier?

Do you coach? What is your coaching style like?

Talk to you on Friday,
No what I meant to say is, "I really like you all and it was great being with you today. Have you lost weight. I will talk to you on Friday because you are such a good person."

Friday, November 12, 2010

And the winner is...


I'm about 7 hours from "Miller time." (The AGD doesn't condone drinking to make your problems go away; that's my idea, not their's.)

You know I like to tell you about the funny things that happen at home. David, my 13month old, is officially walking. Really, it's more like wobbling... it is so cute. But my wife was looking at David walking and asked if I thought one of his legs was longer than the other. I about died laughing. I am laughing while I am writing this because I am thinking about the way he walks and thinking about how crazy parents can get.

If you are not a parent yet you don't know this, but parents worry. They worry about everything from the first day the kid is born to when they have children and then they worry about the grandkid. They worry if they are blind, or deaf or have a learning disability. Parents know it isn't healthy but they do it all the time anyway.

"Honey, we have been to the pediatrician 15 times this year. You don't think 'one leg is longer than the other' might be something she would let us know about?"

I started watching Modern Family this week. I have heard so many things about this show that I DVR'd it. Well, I loved it. I laughed at one thing so hard the milk I was drinking came out of my nose. My wife, who was hell-bent against not watching it, loved it as well. I recommend it.

Topic de jour...

The Chamber of Commerce did this "The Best of Apopka" thing. (Apopka is the nice little town I work in.) It was announced that every category of service was up for the Best of:
best mechanic, best restaurant, best hair salon, etc. Of course, dentist was a category.

So I wanted to win. I have a few reasons for wanting to one. Partially because I want people to like me and to validate all my efforts. But also, I didn't want any other dentist to get more recognition (it is all about marketing and PR). I think there are about 11 or 12 dentists in Apopka.

The voting went on for a couple of months. I did some things to help myself out. I had my whole staff vote (10 votes!) and I put a flyer at my front desk letting people know that they still had time to vote. I didn't tell them who to vote for; I encouraged them to vote for their favorite dentist.

The voting ended two weeks ago, and we got a call from the local paper saying that we were in the top three. They were not allowed to tell us if we won or not, but they wanted to know if we would like to put an ad in a special section of all the top three winners. In all, I received three calls from the paper and 3 faxes wanting me to put an ad in the special section.

I took one of the calls. I asked if I was going know if I won before the paper came out. They said I would not, and I told them that I didn't want to run an ad if I didn't win 1st place. I can see it now: "Thank you for voting me third best dentist in Apopka.

So how do you find out if you won? Well, funny you should ask. They are having an awards dinner at the local town hall. For $20 a head, you come and have a spaghetti buffet and find out what place you came in.

There were about 40 categories, and three people from each category were invited, but there were only 200 spots. I know that may seem like a lot, but let's say "Best Bank" is a category. Each bank might bring 5 people.

I wondered if I should go to this dinner. My thought was that if I win and don't show for the dinner, I look like an unappreciative ____. But if I go and don't win, I look like all the other second and third place people.

I was confident and decided to go. On the day of the dinner I called the Chamber to ask for the dress code and they told me that I haven't RSVPed. Here is the thing: I usually tell my people, "I want to go to this dinner, can you take care of it for me?" And it happens.

Now my wife wanted to go with me, so she asked the person in charge to email her the information. This must have short-circuited our finely-tuned machine here, because it became a lot of, "I thought she was going to RSVP," and "Why would I RSVP? I just asked for the information?" (I'm not blaming anyone.)

I asked the woman at the chamber what we could do. She said that there are always available seats so just come a little late and we will find you two seats. I thought this was kind of a weird way of doing it, but I was game. We would get all dressed up and if we couldn't find a seat, my wife and I would go out for a nice dinner.

We showed up at the local VFW and it was a madhouse. We couldn't find a seat; half of the people weren't seated because they were in line for food. We told them we would wait. So she said that would be $40, cash or check. Hmm, now we have a problem. Between the two of us, we only had $6 on us and no check book.

She looked at us like, "You have got to be kidding." I looked at her like, "You have to be kidding. I have never been to a dinner where they wouldn't bill my office."

The night was not going well. We went to the bar, used all of our $6 to buy two beers, and stood there. We had been there about 35 minutes when I said to my wife, "You ready?" And she replied, "I thought you would never ask." We were out of there in about 30 seconds. We went to a quaint little place (that was not the VFW) and had a nice dinner.

I want to get involved in the community but I felt like this was kind of like a Hallmark holiday. It seems like they have this "Best of" just to sell ads for the newspaper and to sell tickets to the dinner. There are just 40 people that are really happy (oh, and the newspaper people are happy too). The others are ticked because they didn't win and and others are ticked because they bought a table for 6 at the dinner and a half page ad and won third place.

The voting stopped about 3 weeks ago, the dinner was Wednesday, and I still don't know if I won. I guess it is just as well, as I have a really bad attitude about the whole thing anyway.

The paper comes out on Fridays and one came in the mail today. I went to it to see if they have the winners. Nope. This weeks paper has all the ads and NEXT week is when they will reveal the winners. I guess I should have stayed at the dinner.

Well, we are off to the pediatrician to have David's legs measured. Just kidding. I have a full plate. I'm hoping there will be some funny stuff so I can bring it back here for you on Monday.

Have a great Friday and weekend.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lights. Camera. Action!

Hey all,

Happy Wednesday!

On Friday, I told you about my daughter's birthday cake, but I realized I forgot to put the pictures in. Sorry about that, I know you don't care that my two of my staff members started a cake business. But, you see, the pictures would have brought this all together and I forgot. Would you forgive me if I put the pictures in now? It will be worth it.

(Don't forget to double click on the image and it will get bigger and you can see the detail)

This weekend was busy for me; I had to do two public appearances. That sounds so Hollywood, doesn't it?

My church is getting behind a Thanksgiving Day food drive called Bags of Love.
I talked to the ones that organize it and to the church. The church was going to announce it to the members and someone said, "Why don't you do it?"

"Whoa, you mean get up in front of the congregation and talk?"

"Yeah, just tell everyone about Bags of Love."

"Okay, I guess."

Sunday was the big day. Let me tell you - this was not easy. I could have easily gone up there and told everyone that Bags of Love is an envelope that has food items on it. You go out, buy a reusable bag, and you put items on the envelope in the bag.

I did that, but I have to do things like this with some style. So I thought I would bring my whole family up and talk about how my family prays for the poor but it was time to put our prayers into action and do something about it. I was going to tell them that around the dinner table we talk about how some people don't have this.

But when you get up there in front of 600 people, it is SO SCARY. Everyone is staring at you. I was shaking like a leaf. I had an idea of what I wanted to say, but once I started to hear my voice on the speakers, I thought, "Holy sh!t, I am totally freaking out here!" It becamce an out of body experience. When I got back to my seat, I had sweat coming out of every pore on my body.

On Monday, I was asked to do a TV show. Now, it is not what you think. It was not Good Morning America or Larry King Live. No. It was Joy to our Town, on Channel 55. Channel 55 is a local Christian station and they do 15 minute segments on things going on in our town. One of my patients works there and asked me to do a dental minute (or 15).

I got there about 9:30 for a 10am appearance. I was a basketcase. I followed directions to the studio and had a seat. I looked through the door and saw a small studio set up like a living room, with two leather chairs facing each other and a little coffee table. It was a tiny room with about three cameras and a couple of lights. They had me sign a few releases and then sat me in the chair opposite the host.

If you haven't done this, it is nothing like you see on TV. This room was so small that you had to duck under cameras and step over light stands, taped down wires on the ground. The only place that looked normal was the two chairs and the coffee table.

We talked about what we were going to discuss on the air. They put my mic on and laid down the ground rules: Do not look at the camera, look at the host. Talk more than you think is necessary; short answers are a killer. The people behind the cameras will give you cues to how much time is left. Is that clear?

"Uhhh, yeah."

"Can I get you some water?"

"Uh, yes, considering there is a squirrel in my mouth and I can't feel my tongue."

I think I did pretty well. I was much better than the day before, even though it was another out-of-body experience. I wasn't that nervous, if you can believe that. I was just trying to not forget the things I wanted to say. We talked about access to care and some options for the working poor. Talking about dentistry with someone I don't know is what I do almost all the time.

As an aside, I was doing some research about this issue and student loans was part of the discussion. Did you know that the most expensive dental school is a state school? The University of Southern California has a dental school and it is $65,000 a year to go there!

And here I am thinking $27,000 a year to go to the greatest school is expensive. Are you kidding me? University of Florida College of Dentistry is a steal! The problem is: 1500 applicants for 83 spots. Wow.

Anyway, we finished up the TV interview and I have to say, I am a natural. No, just kidding. But really, I wasn't too bad. They were going to tape eight 15 minute spots that day, so by the time I was done, they were already prepping the next person. "Thank you so much for coming. You remember how to get out."

Do you have any experiences with media? Do you do a radio spot? Tell me about it; inquiring minds want to know.

Have a great Wednesday.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The big D - and I don't mean Dallas

Hey all,

My daughter Madison turned 10 last week. Double digits. If she is 10, that means I am 41...s!#t! (I could swear I just started this profession.)

She had a great little party. I tell you this because my assistant and one of my front desk staff started a specialty cakes business. I don't think they have been paid real money for anything yet but they are doing lots of cakes for friends and such. They have purchased everything they need to make any type of cake. They made the cake for my daughter's party. It was pretty special.

SmileyBandz are in, and I have to say, they are pretty cool. I had an orthodontist come in and he bought 100 packs (for $1.19 each. We are selling them to our patients at $2 per pack). Now hopefully he will tell two friends, and they will tell two friends and so on and so on. And then you will find me on a beach in Malibu somewhere. Yeah, like that's going to happen...

I am reading a book called The Charm School, and I really like it. This is the second book I have read on my electronic reader, and I have to tell you, it is tough. I am still getting used to not having a book in my hands. I think it is ruining my reading experience.

One last thing before we get started: it is supposed to be in the 40s this weekend. Two days ago, it was 89 degrees here and today I am busting out the fire pit and the marshmallows. It is going to be nice. Good times.

Today I want to talk about divorce. (No, honey, if you are reading this, this is not about our marriage.) I want to talk about having a seemingly-wonderful family in your practice. You like the whole family, parents and kids, and they really like you.

But then things start to happen in their house. You only see them twice a year, but you start to notice things are different between the two of them. They used to come in together (sometimes the whole family came together). But now they come in individually. You can tell something is wrong when you ask them, "How's it going?"
The next time they come in they drop the bomb on you. "We are getting a divorce."

You hate it for them. You know they are both good people and it is tearing them both up. It affects everyone. The little kids appear to be okay, but the parents seem to go in stages. They are upset but quiet. The next time you see them they are a bit more outspoken about their spouse.

My assistant has to know. Most of the time she will break down and ask the wife (who will usually sing like a bird). I spend a lot of time talking to my patients, and my assistant is right there with me. So she will be invested as much as I am.
She is very personable and genuinely likes them. (I have to admit that when she is on vacation, some patients are visibly disappointed that she isn't here.)

My assistant and I will go back and forth. "You ask him."

"NO WAY! You ask her."

So when they are checking out or when the hygienist leaves the room, she will ask them. We once had a young couple that got a divorce but they continued to live in the same house. So she told us they had gotten a divorce and that they were living together, but didn't say anymore about it. We wanted to know what really was going on; it was like a soap opera. About three years later, my assistant just couldn't take it anymore and asked her. Crazy story, but she ended up marrying his best friend.

After all the dust clears, how does it affect our relationship with this particular family? We try not to schedule them on the same day. We have had a couple of bad scenes when the two come in at the same time. (I mean, they used to come in on the same day and when they left 6 months earlier, putting them on the same day did not seem like a problem.)

We had one man call and say that he wasn't going to be able to make it to his cleaning because when he pulled in he saw his wife's car in the parking lot and he didn't want any part of that. We had one woman waiting in the parking lot for her ex to finish. I think we had to call the cops that time.

The kids are a totally different story. Now I said earlier that the little ones seemed unfazed. If they are a teenager, you can tell something is wrong. Teenagers are kind of a weird bunch anyway, but they almost seem more reclusive. It is tough for me to watch.

Usually when the family unit is in place, one of the parents is in charge of the teeth. After the divorce, when the other parent has some teeth responsibility, it can be difficult. One parent brings them and they have 7 new cavities and they then blame the other parent because he/she doesn't make them brush their teeth, or care about what they eat or drink. Then we, as dentists, are kind of put in the middle. That isn't that big of a deal, it just something we have to handle.

Divorce must be so hard. I watched my parents go through it, and it was rough on both of them. When it happens to your patients, you go through it with them. It can be easier sometimes, but most of the time it is tough, as a professional, to handle all the emotions of your patients.

Just something to think about. Have a great weekend. If you need me, I will be hanging around the fire pit with a cigar and a glass of red wine (and a marshmallow on a stick).


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Scarlett Letter

Hey all,

I want to thank you all for commenting on Friday's blog. I truly appreciate your support and your translucency. I know I have said this a billion times, but I write to make you all feel less alone. This time, you all made me feel less alone.

I am still not over everything that is going on in my life so, let's talk about this a minute.

I have been a dentist for 15 and a half years. I have been paying for insurance for the entire time. Now, I am talking about malpractice insurance and general insurance. If someone slips on a wet spot on your floors and gets hurt, your general office insurance will take care of it. So why do I get all bent out of shape when someone brings a complaint to me?

Most of your comments were, "You are a good guy, don't worry about this a bit." I wish it were that easy. I know I should just say to them, "Talk to my people."
And I would if it weren't for that one question...

"Have you ever had a claim against you?"

It is everywhere. Every time you fill out any sort of dental application, any insurance form. I liken it to being arrested. Let's say you get arrested, then forever you have to answer the question, "Have you ever been arrested?"

Or, God forbid, you have been convicted of a felony (I haven't, but I sure have done enough stuff to know that I have been damn lucky). That stuff never leaves you. They don't ask if you were acquitted. They want to know anything about it. They just want to put you in this one "arrested" box.

So we are back to the question above. They don't ask you if the person that put a claim against you is a crazy lady. Or the guy that was coming after you is a vindictive man with anger issues. They don't care if you had to pay $1 or $3million. They put in you in this box and you are there forever. This is a box that I don't ever want to be in.

My father had a patient that he tried like mad to please. He did everything he could for her, and she was never happy. After countless appointments, he said, "I just can't help you anymore."

She got an attorney and went after him. He was 62 at the time, and he said, "You know what? I don't care anymore. I have been paying this malpractice insurance for 32 years and have never used it."

So he told her to talk to his insurance, and she did. Now, it is going to behoove the insurance company to just pay the plaintiff. I mean, before they hear anything, they know that if it goes to court it is going to cost them X. So if the settlement is less than X, why fight it?

Principle goes out the window. They don't care if they think they will win or not. They don't care if the doctor's name gets smeared all over the place. It is all about the Benjamins. This is a real problem. If they take a couple of these gold diggers to court and the court tells them to get lost, then the gold diggers will stop going down this path.

And I am going through a bit of the same thing. What if it is going to cost me $2,000 for her emergency room bills? Write it off as the cost of doing business.
Isn't that worth it to me and my stomach to not drag this out?

Just pay her, I won't have to check the "claims against you" box, and then I can sleep again (I am really sleeping okay). I have put this out of my mind; I haven't heard from them in about a week.

In the comments, some of you wrote to tell her to take a flying leap. That would be fine - if that would end it. But it wouldn't. She would go straight to an attorney and then all hell would break loose. I think she will still go an attorney and he will probably laugh at her. But all it takes is one attorney, who probably doesn't have anything to do right now, to decide to take a fishing trip into my records.

In closing, I think it is silly to think that, in this litigious world that we live in, we are not going to have to go through this. It is silly to think that we are going to go through life and not have to check this box. Physicians go through it and there is no scarlet letter. I remember in dental school one particular instructor told us that half of us were going to be sued in the first three years of practice. I thought he was crazy, but if you talk to enough dentists, they have all gone through it. If not peer review, then a settlement or a full-blown, knock-out fight in court. So many people have gone through it.

Another dentist called me because she had heard something was up and she said, while I was telling her about this issue, she is going through it with someone right now (and she is an LVI-accredited dentist).

I know this stuff happens and it must get easier as I get older. Because we learn, as we grow as professionals, that crap is going to happen. We just have to learn how to handle the crap better.

What do you think? Anyone wearing the "C" for claim on there scrub top?

I will talk to you on Friday,


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