Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Two Ears, One Mouth

Jim came to me as a new patient some years ago. He noted that he had received regular dental care in the past, so I asked him what the previous dental office had done or not done that lead to his decision to change dental care providers. He told me that every time he went, there was something else that needed to be done. It was a filling here, a crown there, a root canal, etc. He felt like they were creating work to keep themselves busy.

I did a thorough exam, including a full forensic examination, extra-oral and intra-oral, full periodontal analysis (6 point perio probings on every tooth recorded, furcations, mobility, etc., just like we were taught in dental school), and more. We showed digital radiographs and intraoral photos on a chairside monitor, which allowed me to provide more relevant feedback.

Before I started the exam (but after listening to his story), I told Jim that I would answer three questions when we had completed our examination: What needs to be done now to eliminate sources of infection? How often should we see him in the future to maintain health? And, to avoid surprises, what dentistry might need to be done in the future?

He had a mouthful of large amalgam fillings and a couple of older crowns with some marginal inflammation. His home care was excellent and the previous dental office ensured that there were no periodontal pockets or signs of deeper infection. Other than professional hygiene, he did not need any other dentistry right now. He was happy with that news.

With marginal inflammation around a lot of dentistry, we recommended regular six-month hygiene visits. We would monitor things every time he came, and compare the results with today’s recordings to see if things were changing. He agreed with this recommendation, as he had been used to this frequency and had committed to it before. Indeed, after a couple of years, his inflammation changed. We took new intraoral photographs, and showed them to him. He agreed to increase his hygiene frequency to every four months.

As for the long-term, his teeth were greatly compromised by the size of his old amalgam fillings. The photographs really showed this clearly, and he understood it. I told him what the plan was, in broad terms. It involved cores and crowns, possible endodontic therapy, and a more thorough bite analysis to ensure long-term comfort and function.

I told Jim that the teeth were not infected right now and that he had three choices for treating these teeth. He could do all of it now, some of it now, or none of it now, but it would all have to be done eventually. Jim understood what had never been told to him before. But he was newly married, with kids and a big mortgage; investing in his mouth was not something he could do, even with financing. He elected to leave things for now and treat teeth as they needed to be treated.

Given my philosophy that people have the right to control what happens to their body, I agreed to his choice and told him we will keep him apprised of his oral situation as he returns for his periodontal health maintenance visits. We also explained the risk of not treating his teeth at this time, and he accepted those risks.

We had listened to him. We had earned his trust. We provided a thorough examination and comprehensive treatment plan so he knew his future oral health needs. As time went on, his children grew and his mortgage was reduced, and our trust and relationship grew. He kept asking us how his fillings were doing. We updated our photos and measurements regularly to show him the changes occurring. We asked if he was ready to proceed with long-term dentistry and reminded him of the risks of not treating them (like reminding a smoker of the risks of not quitting, but without the dire consequences. The worst that can happen here is some teeth might be lost).

Finally, one day, the inevitable happened. He broke a molar. Unfortunately, the crack extended into the furcation and the tooth’s prognosis was hopeless. It was removed. He admitted that we had told him this could happen and accepted the reality of the treatment. This was his turning point. He decided it was time to invest in his long-term oral stability, and we proceeded with comprehensive treatment, one quadrant at a time, spread over a two year period.

We were given two ears and one mouth, presumably so we could listen as much as we speak. In Jim’s case, we listened and in time, as our relationship grew and trust was built, he was ready to listen to us.

It was a satisfying completion to long-term patient relationship-building. It also reinforced to my team the value of the relationships we have worked hard to build and maintain with our patients and with each other.

And now, it’s back to the grind…

Warm regards,

Larry Stanleigh, DDS

Friday, October 25, 2013

Best Day in Dentistry

To be honest, it’s been a tough week for me. I just cannot put my thoughts together. This week, we had our first snow of the fall here in Michigan and I think we could all use a pick-me-up. Let’s focus on the good: what was your best day in dentistry?

Mine was while on an outreach rotation about a month ago when an older gentleman presented with his wife. Sadly, he had just been diagnosed with metastasis to the floor of the mouth. He came to the clinic in search of dental clearance prior to beginning palliative radiation. His case was involved and challenging, in terms of both my knowledge and my surgical skills. But, by the end of the day, I knew I had made the proverbial difference in his life that we all enter this profession in search of.

Let’s hear your stories!

Dave Coviak

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Three Ways Continuing Education is Invaluable

When I graduated dental school and began in private practice, I spent the first six months or so getting used to “real world” dentistry and improving my speed. I spent the next two years doing the dentistry that the majority of dental offices are doing. When a tooth is broken down and needs a crown, you schedule the patient for one. When someone comes in needing an extraction, you appoint them after presenting options for single-tooth replacement. My schedule was slammed and my production was great, but I was burning out in the infancy of my career. Worst of all, dentistry had started to feel like a chore.

I decided to make a change.

Fast forward to my third year in private practice. I signed up for Spear’s “Facially Generated Treatment Planning” workshop, and flew to Arizona for the three-day course. Suffice it to say, I returned two months later for the occlusion workshop. It was that good. The Spear workshops have completely changed my practice of dentistry, from how I do it to how I feel when I go to bed at night.

Here are three ways things have changed for the better:

1) My production is up, and the number of patients I see is down. Why? Because I’m not doing spot treatment anymore; I’m doing comprehensive dentistry. You can’t diagnose and treatment plan what you don’t see, and you can only see what you know to look for. The Spear workshops gave me a new set of skills, and a new set of eyes. As a result, I have the ability to offer better treatment options to my patients.

2) I caught the bug. I’m addicted to continuing education. I’ve always been a CE junkie, but now I can’t seem to get enough. In addition to taking courses as often as possible, I’m reading journals and textbooks whenever I can get my hands on them. I learned and grew so much as a dentist in two workshops that I can’t wait for the growth and knowledge yet to come. I don’t want to wait until the middle or end of my career to do the kind of dentistry that CE can allow me to do today. It’s hard to invest the $5K in courses of Spear caliber, especially graduating from dental school with prohibitive debt, but the sooner you’re using the knowledge you gain, the more valuable the investment becomes.

3) I’ve met other dentists like me. When you take courses like the ones offered by Spear, Dawson or the like, the other dentists you meet are investing substantial time and resources into CE, too. You meet great people to bounce ideas off of, and you can learn as much from those peer interactions over lunch as you can in the classroom. Surrounding yourself with dentists who continue to raise the bar (and whose last time using a rubber dam or facebow wasn’t in dental school) will push you to do the same.

I didn’t learn everything there is to know from two Spear workshops. Not even close. But I did reroute my career and gain a vision for the path I want to be on as I progress and grow as a dentist.

Courtney Lavigne, DMD

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Halloween Dilemma

I don’t know about you, but I love Halloween. I mean, I really love Halloween. My kids are all grown up and on their own now. So, I don’t have any legitimate excuse to dress up on Halloween anymore. I truly miss it.

Back in the day, I got as excited, if not more so, as my kids when picking out costumes each Halloween. I am proud to say that I never succumbed to the kids’ requests to buy a manufactured costume with plastic masks and slick satiny fakeness. No, not me. We started planning costumes in late September and scrounged through closets, the attic and basement to find bits and pieces that would later become a costume of unparalleled awesomeness.

Headless men, hopeless hobos and clowns that made Stephen King’s Pennywise shiver in fear, have emerged from the scraps in my closets. Each masterpiece became a notch in my proverbial Awesome Halloween Costumes belt. I understand your envy. My kids and I were masterful. By the way, Pennywise has his own Facebook page – yay, social media!

But, alas, that was then and this is now.

In an effort to create tradition in my office, I go all out for Halloween. The decorations come out on the first day of October and our patients have spooktacular experiences at our office for the whole month. I get excited when Halloween lands on a scheduled work day, as it does this year. That means we can get a little funky with our apparel and encourage the neighborhood kids to stop by for some treats. This is where my annual Halloween dilemma comes in. What to give to the kids that do stop by our spooky emporium?

Do you give candy out at your office on Halloween? Do you give candy out at your home?

My wonderful dad, who was also a dentist, used to give out toothbrushes for Halloween. Young me was horrified! We were the only house that didn’t give out candy. While Mom and Dad thought it was funny and cute, I wanted to apply to be adopted by a candy-giving family. It may, in fact, be the trauma from this toothbrush memory that causes me to feel so strongly about giving out candy. I’ve actually been lambasted on Facebook (to the lambaster’s credit, it was done in a private message) about my Facebook-public relationship with chocolate and chocolatiers, and the inferred incongruencies inherent in that relationship as a dentist. Sigh…

So, do I succumb to the pressures of being a good sweet-fighting dentist and follow in my dad’s footsteps, giving out cute toothbrushes? Or do I stand up proudly as a Halloween-loving, candy-toting, sweets-supporting dentist? What do you do?

By the way… anyone want a Milky Way?

Claudia Anderson, DDS

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When is Enough Enough?

This phrase, if you will, is dear to me. My husband I named our first boat "Never Enough." Her name stemmed from a heated discussion regarding things and time. I loudly (I am certain) said, “It’s just never enough, is it?!"

At that statement, he quickly smirked and said, “Honey, that's a great name for our boat!” We both laughed and agreed, and she was christened "Never Enough." That summer was, as we had hoped, amazing on the beautiful waters of Lake Huron. Unfortunately, on Labor Day weekend we were away and received a call from our marina saying that our girl was taking on water and that they had been pumping her out most of the weekend. Kevin rushed to get her to the lift when we got home. She wasn't fancy, but she was perfect for that first year.

During the winter of that same year, I was determined to make certain we would have a boat (preferably one that would not take on water) for the following summer. I was successful, and she was christened "Still Never Enough."

Think of your life. Do you have enough? I am not only referring to the obvious material things we collect, but emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually as well.

I have only just achieved fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry, and now am very actively pursuing the work I need to gain mastership. Why can't we be happy with what we have? Why must we constantly push to have more and want more!?

What are we in search of exactly? For me, it is a goal. I feel I must always have a goal to pursue. As a young child, I knew I wanted to be a dentist. My life was about getting the grades needed to get into a great college, which in turn would allow me to be accepted into dental school.

Once graduated, it my focus shifted. What kind of practice do I want? Do I want to go solo, group or partner? I was fortunate enough to have a family friend that is a periodontist who recommended me to my current partner. My family friend had the intuition to know that we’d be a good match. Therefore, I began the experience of being an associate and practicing “real-world dentistry” outside of the school setting. Within a year of being an associate, thoughts of being an owner/partner trickled in. By year three, the owner dentist and I were sitting with our advisor discussing the specifics of a partnership. After three and a half years, I bought in to become a full partner with the addition of a second practice location.

I took a short professional hiatus because of the unexpected loss of my father just shortly after my 30th birthday. His death, and taking on the responsibility of becoming an owner/partner with a satellite office, truly decimated my desire to do anything more. I felt I’d had enough. Fortunately, time healed my wound (although the scars remain), and I found my drive and ambition to push forward again.

Fellowship was granted, awarded, and received in June 2013.

Friends and family asked what this fellowship would to for me. While I would give the appropriate AGD response, what I wanted to say was, “I really like to push myself. It’s just never enough!”

Now, only three and a half months after fellowship, I am signed up for the first of what will be many more MasterTrack courses. As the time allows, I am studying and prepping online. I hammered out more than six lecture hours recently. My OCD tendency kicked in and I determined that the hard work was the equivalent of about 1.4% of my remaining requirements to Mastership.

Boy, maybe enough should be enough. But then again, I’d be stagnant. When I was a little kid, my aunt told me that if we played in stagnate water, we’d get typhoid and die. Although it was a scare tactic to keep us from playing in the standing water, it stuck! I do not want to be anywhere near stagnant, and neither should you! There will always be challenges to face, both personally and professionally. The trick is to find the balance.

Will enough be enough someday? Perhaps. But each of us will have to decide that for ourselves.

Colleen DeLacy, DDS, FAGD

Monday, October 14, 2013

Back to School

I went back to BYU this weekend for a football game. Everywhere I looked on campus, there were beautiful new red brick and glass structures for student housing and classes. They have torn down some old buildings and replaced them, and in some cases built them totally new. They have closed down a main street and rerouted traffic to make it a pedestrian area. The result is less traffic and a more peaceful atmosphere. So many changes have been made since I graduated with my bachelor’s 10 years ago.

The people haven’t changed, except that they look really young to me. There were students walking all over campus and couples holding hands on Friday evening. The energy was bright and optimistic. The sun was shining and the fall autumn air was crisp.

My traveling companion said that looking back now, even with all of the tests and activities, he would go back to go school. He prefers that to his current set of responsibilities, with kids and work and church jobs. I was surprised to hear him say that; maybe he was just caught up in the moment. Even though I look back with fondness on my time at college, I wouldn't trade. Too much has happened, and I have learned too much, to go back. It is easy to be confused at how simple life was in the good old days.

Change can be good. I was happy to see all the new buildings and growth because that means my alma mater is getting bigger and better. On the other hand, there were places in and around those old buildings that held memories for me and my wife. We will have to keep them in our memory, I suppose.

Change is always has two sides. The benefit or increase in productivity, and the loss or perceived loss of the way things used to be. I have great memories of school. And as much as I miss the time, I love where I am, and wouldn't change.

Would you go back?

Michael Lemme, DDS

Friday, October 11, 2013

New Office Project

The term “growing pains” can refer to a variety of things. It can be applied to a teething baby, a rambunctious teenager, or, in my case, an office expansion and relocation. I had been stuck in a box. My box was small and dated, with low visibility and low traffic. When the opportunity arose to convert an old home on the main drag through town into a dental facility, I pounced on it.

Change can be stressful for many of us, myself included. Having never experienced the building of anything, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. What followed was two different trips to dental equipment manufacturers, mountains of paperwork with the bank, a few lunches with design teams, countless conversations with contractors and subcontractors, many more visits to furniture manufacturers, and daily trips to the new location to monitor the progress (or lack thereof). Coordinating and communicating with so many different people was a daunting task. And let’s not forget there was a business to run with patients to treat in the meantime.

The experience was humbling. I was reminded that no matter how on top of things I was, there was a good chance that someone else along the line would be falling behind. After all, a group can only move together as fast as the slowest person can travel. Another old adage came to mind: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” The seven-week project turned into ten weeks, and it still wasn’t as complete as I wanted it to be. Being a self-described type A, left brain, driven individual brings its benefits and pitfalls.

We have been in the new location for more than a month now. I am pleased with the overall result, but it seems as though the project will never be over. There are constant tweaks to be made. Finishing touches are never really finished. What did I sign up for? Patients have been wowed by the bright, new office. The comfortable, massaging dental chairs with TVs and personal sound systems make it worth it.

As frustrating as this endeavor has been, myself and my staff are proud and happy to be in this facility. But, if you are considering a similar move, be warned: patience is a virtue.

Jason Petkevis, DMD

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lessons Learned From Dentistry

Dr. Al Genis was lying in his patient chair in the operatory in which he had practiced for more than 40 years. I had worked with this energetic, respected community member for more than a decade when I joined and purchased his dental practice. His cancer-ridden body was exhausted, but his spirit was sparkling with enthusiasm. When I asked him what he would do differently in his career, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Spend more time with my family.”

Back in 1988, when I received my MAGD, there was only one other Master in the 9th District Dental Society in New York State. On a mission, I introduced myself to Phil Morse, MAGD, and asked him the same question. Without hesitation, Phil said, “Spend more time with my family.” Thanks, Al and Phil.

Dr. Sam Unger taught me an important lesson on treatment planning. No matter what the case was about, he always started with, “If the patient...” I have found that there are many factors that go into a treatment plan. When it starts to get confusing, I remember that Sam taught me to always start with the patient’s needs." Thanks, Sam.

Dr. John Chandler taught me that, in order to get my diet under control, I had to accept that the piece of meat I ate was no larger than the palm of my hand. It introduced me to a concept that I must have missed during my childhood: portions!” Thanks, John.

Dr. Nathan Satler taught me about chemical dependency. It is a disease in which only the person with the illness can choose to help themselves. No matter how good a dentist or relative or friend I was, it was not something I could help with until that person owned their addiction. Thanks, Nathan.

Dr. David Goodman taught me to think about the whole person, not just the mouth. My two-year GPR at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, in a Brooklyn ghetto, was very humbling. Despite the complexity of the cases, David had a way of making knowledge of the whole patient part of the solution and not part of the problem, paving the way to successful patient care. Thanks, David.

Dr. Angelle Casagrande taught me how appropriate use of benzodiazepines could make treatment easier and healthier for patients and for health care practitioners. In my patient population, lorazepam is just what the doctor ordered. One of my very apprehensive patients actually threw his anxiety-free arms around me and declared, “I love you, man!” Thanks, Angelle!

For my 60th birthday, my then 18-year-old daughter had a suggestion as the best gift to myself. “Why don’t you take a year and do nothing but work and see what it is you want to do with the rest of your life?” Thanks, Anna.

These are the most challenging times I have seen in my 35 years in private practice. The profession is evolving, and many are struggling to hang on. If you are finding yourself confused and bewildered on what to do with your career and life, downsizing worked well for us. In 1998, Dr. Don Mays taught me what was going to happen to the dental profession in the next fifteen years. We took his advice to heart. Downsizing and simplifying our lives has given us the life we always dreamed of. Thanks, Don.

Enjoy the journey,

Bob Oro, DMD, MAGD

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

An Officer and a Dental Man

Most people assume that I’m a California native, born and bred. Maybe it’s my naturally tanned skin or the blonde highlights I’ve been sporting for years now. But the second I open my mouth, patients often ask where my accent is from.

Cue the launch into my life story. I was born in New York but raised in New Jersey. I went back to New York City for college and dental school. Then I spent a year in Connecticut for a general practice residency. My assistants have heard it so many times that, at this point, they know they can safely excuse themselves for a bathroom break without the patient even realizing that they’ve left the room.

A follow-up question inevitably ensues. “How on earth does a diehard east-coaster wind up in San Diego, of all places?”

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to graduation. I fell in love with a classmate who had committed to entering the United States Navy after finishing dental school as part of the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). We wound up getting married, completing residency programs in separate states, and then moving to San Diego together in accordance with his active duty orders.

If anyone had asked me prior to dental school if I could ever see myself as a military wife, I would probably have said, “Absolutely not!” My entire life, I had been raised and educated to believe that no woman should ever have to compromise her personal or professional goals because of a man. In fact, I had chosen to pursue dentistry largely because it afforded a significantly higher degree of independence and flexibility than many other professions. Why would I allow my husband’s job to dictate where I could live and practice, when I had worked just as hard as he had to be able to make decisions about my future?

When we first started dating, my husband was very upfront about his choice to become a commissioned Naval Officer. We discussed it at considerable length during the early phases of our relationship. The decision had been made before I (or any significant other, for that matter) had been factored into the equation. Joining the Navy at the start of dental school ensured that he would have his entire dental education paid for. At our alma mater, that is now estimated to cost more than $400,000 per student.

It also guaranteed him a full-time position as a dentist with excellent compensation and benefits, once he received his doctorate and had successfully passed a licensing exam. And it meant that he would have the opportunity to travel the world for free, experience a way of life that has only ever been glimpsed by a fraction of our society, and walk away from it all in four years, completely debt-free. How many dentists today can say the same of their careers five, ten, or even twenty years after graduation?

Naturally, I had a lot of questions as our relationship progressed. If we got married, would I be able to go with him wherever the Navy sent him? Would we be expected to live in military housing, if that option was even available? Could he potentially be sent to combat zones and put in life-threatening situations? What if he was sent to a state or country where I couldn’t practice dentistry? How would his military career affect our ability to start a family? And could we do that thing with the swords in the air at our wedding?

It took some time, but I did eventually get good answers to all of those questions. Sort of.

Yes, once we were married, I could go with him to MOST of the places that he could be sent. There are a few locations that don’t allow for the presence of dependents, but most make concerted efforts to be family-friendly. If he deployed on a ship or overseas, I definitely wouldn’t be allowed to come along, but I could potentially travel to rendezvous with him at some of the places where he would stop during his deployment. As an officer, he wouldn’t be required to live in military housing and could live off the base with his wife and kids if he chose to. And yes, if we wanted, we could pass through the Arch of Sabers at the end of our wedding ceremony.

Was there any chance that he could be called to serve in areas of active conflict? Yes, but dentists are rarely ever called to the front lines, waiting instead at hospitals located in those regions to treat soldiers who come through. I’m no military expert, but I would speculate that in the hunt for al-Qaeda, a Navy SEAL probably would prefer more experts in covert reconnaissance on his team and fewer experts in functional occlusion. As part of his training, my husband would learn to assemble and operate military weaponry, but the likelihood that he would ever be required to parachute out of a plane with a loaded rifle strapped to his back was slim to nonexistent.

When we began talking seriously about getting married and having a family, I worried about how his military commitment could adversely affect the emotional stability of our children if we chose to have kids early in our marriage. What if he deployed while I was pregnant, or was away when I gave birth and in the months that followed? Furthermore, if he decided that he wanted a long-term career as a Navy dentist, how would that affect the infrastructure of our family unit? I had been fortunate enough to grow up in a home where both my parents did everything in their power to be home for dinner every night and were actively involved in my schooling and extracurricular interests. I desperately want to give my children the best chance of having the same experience.

Here, the reality of his commitment set in. As with any member of the military in any branch of the armed forces, it is expected that certain sacrifices are to be made in the name of serving your country. Those sacrifices include time away from your loved ones mandated by an unyielding higher authority. If my husband decided to make a career out of practicing dentistry in the Navy, it would almost certainly guarantee a lifetime of raising a family that would have to become accustomed to his extended absences, a high probability of frequent relocation, and periods of spousal loneliness. When faced with the question of how to cope with these lifestyle modifications, the truth is plainly this: it’s been done before. Military families do it every day.

What would I do if he received orders to Italy or Japan? Would the Navy hire me as a civilian contractor to practice dentistry on a U.S. military base in a foreign country? Maybe. I learned long ago that in most situations—military or not— that word is synonymous with, “Don’t count on it.”

I gave that last scenario a lot of thought. What would happen if my husband’s career completely derailed mine? What if all my future aspirations had to take a backseat to his for an indeterminate stretch of time? What would I do then?

Soon after we were engaged, I spent much of my free time scouring the online forums of military spouse support groups and marriage advice websites on the Internet, trying to find a detailed, logical conclusion to steer me in the right direction.

In the end, the answer was simple. I would learn to deal with it. And if ours was a good marriage, we would figure it out as a team.

After graduation, I dropped him off in Newport, Rhode Island, where he would undergo five intensive weeks of Officer Development School (ODS) to become acclimated to naval culture before beginning his AEGD residency program. It was our first taste of separation after years of seeing each other every day in school and being able to talk to each other whenever we wanted. I hated every moment of it, and faithfully wrote him letters and postcards each day detailing how much I missed him. But after some time passed and I had started my residency, I realized that I was entirely capable of moving forward in my life and my career without him having to be physically present at every moment. It was refreshing and reassuring to know that we could both continue to grow as individuals and professionals without growing apart.

Five weeks later, I drove back out to Newport to attend his ODS graduation ceremony, one of many fine Navy traditions I have since had the pleasure of participating in. One of the speakers stood at the podium and thanked the family members who had traveled to be a part of the celebration, noting that he understood that the military’s tradition of sacrifice in the name of service extended beyond those in uniform. In his remarks, he quoted John Milton:

“They also serve, who only stand and wait.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. It was good to know that we were in this together.

Diana Nguyen, DDS

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Thick Skin For Politics

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.

A local dentist representing our county’s health council is addressing the city council

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


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