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

Monday, November 30, 2015

The (Christmas) Party Is Over

I like to think that I have thrown some incredible Christmas parties for my staff over the years. Like many of you, I have thrown parties as a way to thank my staff. Over the years, I have treated staff to limousine rides, fine dining, open bars, disc jockeys, plays in Hollywood, private movie screenings, etc.

But now the party is over. Believe me, I wish the party could go on forever. How does the Prince song “1999” go? “But life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.”

The reality of owning a small business is changing, and it is not for the better.

In California, businesses of all types are now required to provide their employees with three sick days per year. This sounds innocent enough, until you have to write the check. Let’s say you have four part-time hygienists; each one gets three days. That is 12 days of hygiene you pay for without any additional production for your office. Add to that the part-time assistants and front office staff, and now you are talking real money. You have to recoup this money from somewhere.

Also, the state of California suffered greatly during the Great Recession. So much so, in fact, that it had to borrow money from Washington, D.C., in order to pay the unemployment benefits for its residents. Now the bill is due, and California does not have the money to pay it back. Where does the state get the money? You’ve guessed it, from every single employer in the state.

So instead of thanking my staff during this Christmas season with a great party, I’ll thank them by helping California pay off its unemployment loan. I have no doubt that my staff will enjoy that just as much. I truly wish it did not have to be this way. I would rather patronize a restaurant and tip the staff. I am sure they could both use the business. That will not happen this year. I would rather take a nice ride in a limousine and tip the driver. That will not happen either. 

Tell me, am I the only one? Have dental office Christmas parties gone the way of the gold foil restoration?

Andy Alas, DDS 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Writer’s block! I’ve had it lately. I’ve been struggling with what I could share this time, and then it hit me. It’s going to be Thanksgiving! Duh. What better topic could there be for my blog post that comes out the day before Thanksgiving?

I certainly have a lot to be thankful for. I am very lucky that I figured out what I wanted to do as a career while I was in high school. I am thankful that I was able to work in the office of Phil Deal, DDS, orthodontist, as a junior in high school. He inspired me and gave me the confidence needed to “stay the course.” He passed away before I applied to dental school, but his wife, Jo, introduced me to some very good contacts for references. I am thankful for her help and for the dentists she introduced me to who provided me with good references based solely on faith in her and Dr. Deal’s reputation.

I’m also thankful for Betty Scott, the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry registrar at the time, who squeezed me into the interview schedule although I was one of those people low on the totem pole. This gave me the opportunity to express to the admissions committee my strong desire to become a dentist. Thankfully, they didn’t accept students on grades alone. I was accepted as an alternate and had to wait a year to start my training, but I “stayed the course.”

Most of all, I am thankful that my parents always gave me encouragement and helped me financially throughout my dental training. I did what most people recommend not doing and returned to my hometown, Fayetteville, Ark., to begin a practice with a very skilled general dentist, Ernest Stanberry Jr., DDS. In the three years I worked with him, he helped me improve my surgery and crown and bridge skills.

I have now practiced in my current office since 1980. I’m sure that seems like a long time; however, to me, it seems so very short. I am lucky to have started when I did because I have been able to experience the explosive changes in the technology of dental care. The past 10 years have been amazing to be a part of. I know I’m not ready to retire because I am really enjoying learning and being able to offer the best that dentistry has ever had to offercomputer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) digital restorations, 3-D cone beam diagnostics, implant placements, lasers, and new, predictable methods of bone generation and soft tissue reconstruction. These things all make practicing dentistry exciting. And, without a doubt, having the best staff ever makes these things possible.

Of course, I cannot leave out being thankful for having a wonderful, loving wife and a beautiful 18-year-old daughter.

During the Thanksgiving holiday season, I plan to rejoice in all the things I have to be thankful for.

Have a joyous Thanksgiving!

Terry G. Box, DDS, MAGD

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Holidays

This week officially is the beginning of the holiday season, and while you and your staff are trying to slow down, take it easy, and enjoy some family time, your patients probably are like, “Um, my benefits expire soon, so please see me for all that work you treatment planned back in February.” I propose that insurance companies change the benefits expiration date, but I suspect it is all planned out on purpose. 

I tend to especially become a perfectionist around Thanksgiving. I don’t know if it’s just my dentist personality taking over and wanting to do everything myself, but it is difficult for me to give up control. Last year, I was sleep deprived and taking care of an infant and let my mom do most of the work. This year, I’m ready to do (most of) it again. I must confess I am outsourcing the pies to a local bakery because pie crust…well, it’s just something I have learned not to mess around with from past experiences. Leave it to the professionals, I say. 

I am pretty grateful that my side of the family lives nearby and my in-laws are willing to make the trip here, which means I have zero holiday travel to deal with. The downside is everyone is in town for the weekend, and after a few days, I’m trying to find any excuse to get out of the house. And I do mean any excuse. I always wondered why the Greater New York Dental Meeting always began the weekend after Thanksgiving. Isn’t everyone at home hanging with their families, eating leftovers? But I get it now. Sometimes you just need a break from family time, and if you’re a dentist in the tristate area, you get a good excuseif you need one, that is.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

Lilya Horowitz, DDS, FAGD

Friday, November 20, 2015

3 Steps for Providing Effective Feedback to Your Team

Providing effective feedback to a dental team is critical to running a successful practice. Without clear communication, people can easily misunderstand or misinterpret your intentions. When you want to provide someone in your office with positive or negative feedback, you should remember that the goal is to provide that individual with constructive information to help them improve on some level.

For example, let’s say you just finished a difficult procedure that your assistant helped execute beautifully. At the end of day, you walk up to her and say, “Jane, you did an amazing job today!” She grins as you walk away, and you are so proud of yourself because you remembered to acknowledge her hard work…but what do you think she took away from that? Let’s change it around now and say, “Jane, you know that procedure we did for Ms. Smith? That went better than I thought it would, and it’s because of the way you retracted the tissue and had my field of vision absolutely clear. I could see everything because my mirror was dry, the cheek was tucked away, and your suction was in all the right places! That was perfect; please do that every time!” Which comment do you think will resonate more with Jane? Which one do you think she will remember and learn from?

Here are three steps that you can implement and easily teach your team to use daily:
  1. Be specific with your example! If you want to provide constructive feedback, you must be clear on what it is that you want someone to continue to do, or what it is that you want them to change or improve on. 
  2. Let them know how their action impacted the office. You may be surprised that many people are unaware of how their words, body language, and actions impact others. It is important for you to explain to them the outcome of their actions.
  3. Be clear about your expectation. Let them know: If it’s good, keep it up! If it’s bad, teach them how to change.
Let’s look at an example of negative feedback. In this situation, one of the front desk staff, Lisa, keeps coming in with a messy uniform and looking completely disheveled. This is bothering you and the rest of your team.

Wrong way: “Wow, did you just pull your uniform out of the clothes pile and throw it on this morning?”

Better way: “Lisa, I’ve noticed lately that you are coming in with your uniform wrinkled and unwashed. The way you present yourself represents me, this team, and our office. I need you to come to work in a clean uniform, looking fresh and ready to go.”

In the second example, I was very specific with what I found to be a problem, how it was impacting the office, and my expectation of Lisa. It is never easy to give negative feedback; however, if you keep it professional and not personal, it’s easier to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

Let’s face it: Being a leader is difficult at times. Communication is key, and what I suggested above is simple, but you have to practice it and get your team to practice with you. Try it, not just at the office but anywhere. The more you practice simple and clear communication, the easier it becomes to convey your message and your intention. It grows relationships based upon understanding, which in turn will surround you with people who truly understand you.

Pamela Marzban, DDS, FAGD

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Don’t Skimp on the Help

We, as business owners, are constantly finding ways to improve the bottom line. It’s not that we are cheap or trying to cut corners. We run a business, one that allows us to feed our families, pay our mortgages, and go on those lavish trips to…err, I have a one-year-old. I’m not going anywhere at the moment!

With this, we’re always trying to find the best lab for the quality and cost, the best filling material for durability and cost, the best landscaper for greener grass and less money, and the best staff for the price.

Aaaaand here’s where I’m going to stop you….

In my six years out of school, if I’ve learned one golden rule, it is this: Don’t skimp on the help. Your daily schedule, patient experience, success, and livelihood depend directly on the staff you have around you. Our practice, for the majority of the time I’ve been out of school, has tried to keep our staff numbers to the minimum required level, and their salaries to a minimum as well. And it backfired. There were times when I was so unhappy to show up to work. And darn if it took me this long to realize it was 95 percent team related. One (or three) bad apple spoils the batch. They’re a chink in your otherwise strong armor. And they spread their bad attitudes like wildfire.

We have figured this out. The bad apples are out, staff numbers are at a more appropriate level for the speed and efficiency at which we like to work, and salaries are up. By golly, if morale isn’t at an all-time high. And imagine this—production and collections are up to a level that negates any increased cost in staffing.

I’m sure I’m talking to an audience who has already figured this out. But for those of you who were like me for so long, take a step back and evaluate your staff as a whole. Get rid of the bad apples—you’ll find better staff members. Trust me. Give that dedicated assistant or care coordinator a raise. Take them out on a fun social outing. Make it a regular thing. After all, these are the individuals who determine if you go home happy and reinvigorated at the end of the day or show up at home tired, angry, and ready for a beer. The former is so much more fun.

There are many ways to help out your bottom line in the new year, but don’t make staff one of them. Don’t skimp on the help!

Donald Murray III, DMD

Monday, November 16, 2015

I Found Myself

Recently, I traveled to Yosemite National Park in California to see a dentist who shaped the guy who you know today.

His name is Ray Bertoloti, DDS. He is the original bondodontist. I saw him a couple times a year in the late ‘90s as he traveled around the country. But now he only speaks in Yosemite, Hawaii, and Japan. So Yosemite seemed to be the closest.

My wife and I went out there together. I have three words for this part of the country: A MAZE ZING!

I am from Central Florida (I grew up there as well). I have been to pretty parts of the country, but this is another level of beauty. We flew into San Francisco and visited some friends who live in Marin County. Then, we took the 4 ½ hour drive out to Yosemite. The drive alone was worth going out there.

From the mountains to the Sierra Nevada, to the giant windmills in the fields, you move into the Yosemite part of the drive, and it is just breathtaking. There are pullover spots where you can stop and take photos, but if you stopped every time there was an awesome view, you would never get to your destination. 


It is a national park, and once you pay and enter, you can’t just drive; you have to ooh and aah and take photos…and then, stop and take more photos. Huge sequoias line the streets, and there are granite mountains and glaciers behind the trees. You kind of forget you are there for a dental course. 

There are only two hotels on the property. The Ahwahnee Hotel is the old hotel with the huge living room with the fireplace and nice restaurant. (There were postings near the fireplace that said something to the effect of, “If you find yourself falling asleep, please get up and go somewhere else.”)

The Ahwahnee was booked, so we stayed at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, which was “right across the street.” Funny story, when us city folk say “across the street,” we mean “across the street.” So we go down a street and, if you go right, you go to The Ahwahnee Hotel. If you go left, it is the Yosemite Lodge...this is what they mean by “across the street.” The hotel and the lodge are about 2 miles apart.

We got ourselves checked in, and I went straight to the lecture. Have you ever been to a lecture and halfway through it, you ask “Why do I waste my money on all the other lectures?” You know right then that this lecture is the place to be. Well, this lecture was definitely one of them.

Ed McLaren, DDS, led the first day of lecture to a small group of us. There were about 45 people in a small room. There was a question time built into his lecture, so he would answer a question that would lead to 10 more fairly intelligent questions.

I was as relaxed as I have ever been in a course. This was a group that knew their stuff, as far as adhesives and materials. The lecturers were definitely challenged by the group; they all were pretty bright and could handle this group.

I write all this to say, I think I am figuring out who I am dentist-wise. I am 46 years old, and I have found myself. I know the type of lecturer I like to see, and I know the dentists I like to hang around. I am starting to understand how I get jazzed in this profession.

I am a biomimetic adhesive operative dentist.

I love being a general dentist. I love working on all types of patients. I love all ages. I love doing esthetic stuff, including posterior esthetics, too. I like doing all of this, but with a minimalistic approach, and I want to know that what I put on teeth is going to last and look great.

So when I fly for six hours, then get in a car and drive for four and a half more hours to get to a lecture where, an hour in, I say to myself, “This was so worth it,” it is pretty fulfilling.

I felt the same way when I flew to Chicago to attend the 2009 Academy of Operative Dentistry Annual Meeting. Every lecturer spoke my language. It seemed that everyone, every other dentist I talked to, spoke my language.

Now I have figured out why I don’t feel that at my local study club—there are about 10 types of dentist there. Not that we can’t like each other, but it is just different. I know there are a couple of guys just like me at those study clubs, and I tend to gravitate toward them, but it is not the same as being in a room full of dentists just like me.

As a young dentist, I didn’t know this. I thought when I went to a course, if I didn’t love it, it must be me. As a young dentist, I tried to learn it all, so much so that I learned very little.
I would learn a lot, then go back to the office and practice the way I practice.

Instead of trying to do what everyone else seemed to be doing, I started trying to find lectures that teach what I like. How many times do you go to a three-day course that costs a lot of money and continue to say, “Yeah, right,” or “This is out of my league”? And then you hear the guy sitting next to you get exasperated, because he is thinking the same thing: “This is great for the one person I get to see a year who needs X.”

I know I am rambling, but it took me 20 years to figure out who I am. I want you to find out earlier than I did. I saw Dr. Bertoloti when I was just out of school. Then I went on a 20-year journey that led right back to him again.

Do you know who you are? Do you feel like you are alone in a room of dentists? Are you on your journey?

Let me know. Thanks for listening.
John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD

Friday, November 13, 2015


If you have ever written on a regular basis, you will understand what I mean when I say I had a completely different blog post prepared, but after this weekend I ditched that story for this. Recently, AGD President Mark Donald, DMD, MAGD, challenged us to share with our friends and colleagues why we are both proud and loyal. 
I recently returned from the AGD 2015 Fall Joint Council Meeting on Oct. 30 to Oct. 31 in Chicago. It was, as I anticipated, an amazing weekend to collaborate and network with other AGD members. My journey to this aspect of my AGD service, at the national level, began last year after attending the 2014 AGD Leadership Development Symposium on Nov. 21 and 22 in Chicago. This most recent experience is just one of the many reasons I am #AGDProud: 

  • I am #AGDProud that I have the opportunity to serve as a volunteer at the national level, working with my fellow council members to contribute ideas and concepts to share with other members.
  • I am #AGDProud that our organization is passionate about our members.
  • I am #AGDProud to share the excitement of becoming a Fellow with other members and help them with their journey to become a Fellow if they desire.
  • I am #AGDProud of the AGD and the work being done to advocate on behalf of general dentists.
  • I am #AGDProud to serve at the state level, working to ensure our members have the best benefits any organization can offer.
  • I am #AGDProud to educate nonmembers about the benefits that the AGD provides.
How do you share your pride? We can all meet the challenge that Dr. Donald has asked of us.  

What do you think of when someone says they are loyal? Are you #AGDLoyal?

I think of a person, who, despite being presented with a conflict or challenge, continues to move forward in a positive way. I think of a person who is reliable and trustworthy. 

·         I am #AGDLoyal in that I am dedicated to our organization to serve in my appointed position.
·         I am #AGDLoyal to my colleagues who stand with me in our unified endeavor to create the best constituent we can be.
·         I am #AGDLoyal to my patients, and I continue to push myself to learn as much as I can in order to provide them with the exemplary care they deserve.   

I hope that you can share your excitement as an AGD member with your dental team, patients, and friends. Get the buzz going and push yourself to be #AGDProud.

Colleen B. DeLacy, DDS, FAGD

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Things I Never Say to Patients

There are certain things I never say to a patient. As you can imagine, I’ve learned each of these the hard way. Allow me to save you from some pain.

'Nice to meet you.'

You believe you are being polite. In fact, you may actually mean it—you are pleased to meet them. The problem is they have brought in their husband, sons, and daughters to your office for treatment. Sure, it is the first time they are actually your patient, but they have spent hours in your waiting room. They know all of your staff by first name. Now here you come along and say, “Nice to meet you.” Nice going, you’ve just made them feel real special. Instead, I say, “Nice to see you!” Notice the difference? You may or may not have seen them before but either way the statement rings true: It is nice to see them.

'Who missed that cavity?'

Any guesses as to who actually missed that cavity six months ago? Who looked at those radiographs and missed that obvious carious lesion? You guessed it. You did. Corollaries to this include: “Who did that lousy root canal?” “Who did that ugly crown?” Avoid such statements. We all know the answers to these questions.

'I agree; your previous dentist sucked.'

My feeling on this: Just as you are saying this, someone is saying this about you. You’ve heard it in dental school and you’ve heard it while attending continuing education (CE) courses. Don’t criticize others’ dentistry since you were not there under the same circumstances. I know, this sounds obvious to you. However, you’d be surprised by the number of dentists who missed this lesson in dental school and in CE courses. Seriously, you’d be surprised.

'Yes, your insurance covers this.' 

What you meant was that the patient’s insurance will pay 50 to 80 percent of the treatment plan. What they heard is that the treatment is covered 100 percent—as in, it’s free. Can you spot any potential misunderstanding here? What I usually answer is, “I don’t know. Let’s ask Lisa.”

BONUS! I’ll offer this one for our wonderful staff members who answer our telephones:

'Have you been here before?'

Never say this. Sure, I’ve been here before. I just sent you a big fat check, is what your caller is thinking, so instead say, “When was the last time you visited us?” If they’ve never been to your office, they’ll say something like, “Oh no, this is my first visit.” Now you know whether they need a new patient appointment.

How about you? What are your cringeworthy moments? What things have you learned not to say to patients?

Andy Alas, DDS

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Operation Rendezvous

It was a chilly October morning. The roads were washboard rough. A-10 Warthogs flew overhead in forward air control. Hueys were in the back, bringing troops and supplies forward. CF-18s were screaming by at low altitude, startling all of us, enormously loud and scary. You could hear the bombs and gunfire in the near distance.

We maneuvered our mobile dental clinics in the six-wheel-drive trucks towing 10 kW generators as close to the front lines as we were allowed. Arriving at our designated spot, the ground was uneven. We quickly dug a trench and backed the truck into it, and used the hydraulic lifts to finish leveling out the operatory. Firing up the generator, we had the clinic up and running in minutes.

At first, we saw trauma. My general practitioner training and knowledge were put to full use. As things quieted down, we did more routine dentistry including endo, perio, and restorative dentistry. Welcome to Operation Rendezvous 1989.

The mobile dental clinics operated by the Canadian Armed Forces were modern, fully equipped, functional dental operatories capable of completing comprehensive dentistry in a mobile field setting. As the commander of the dental field unit for the Allied Command Europe (ACE) Mobile Force, I had the opportunity to mix with colleagues from many of our allies, and our clinics were the envy of them all.

My family is about to undertake some renovations to our basement and in cleaning up some old files, my daughter, Isabel, found the certificate of appreciation I received for participating in Operation Rendezvous from our government. This was something she was surprised to see and very proud to have learned about. This was the first of three field operation exercises I participated in. The second was in Northern British Columbia in January 1990 and the final was in North Norway (Bardufoss, near Tromso) in February 1990. It was the highlight of my service to our country prior to my release at the end of my contract, where I settled in Calgary, Alberta.

The Royal Canadian Dental Corps, formerly called the Canadian Forces Dental Services, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year ( It was founded to support the Field Ambulance in the First World War and was so successful the British copied the Canadian model.

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom on Remembrance Day in Canada (Veterans Day in the U.S.).

I don’t talk much about my time in service of my country to my children. It was a big part of my past but not my present. But I am proud of that service and I find it humbling and satisfying that my daughters feel pride in my service as well. As a result, they accompany my wife and me to Remembrance Day ceremonies each year without complaint. And I am finding a growing number of young people doing the same thing…remembering and participating in remembrance.

And that is a good thing. By remembering we may be able to avoid the tragedy of the past.

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

Monday, October 26, 2015

If You’re Feeling the Burn…It’s Time to Check in

For the past three months, I have been to conference after conference. I have had the opportunity to reconnect with many old friends and have had the pleasure of making many new ones. It’s no surprise that these years have been extremely tough for the small business owner, but some of the stories I have heard have left me dumbfounded but grateful. Like everyone else, I feel the emotional and physical wear of owning my dental practicethe constant that is having to “turn it on” for your team, your patients, and even your family. It is exhaustingso exhausting that it can make you mentally quit and dive into a gigantic pity party that ultimately could pull down everyone with you. 

So take a moment. Remember back to why you chose dentistry. Close your eyes and remember that dental school acceptance letter. When you read it, how did you feel? What immediate dreams did you start to create for your future career? They say, “If you can turn passion into a career, you’ll never have to work another day in your life,” and that has been the case for me. Becoming a dentist was never a dream I had growing up as a child. Let’s face it: Not many people see the allure of working in dark, wet, oral environments every day. It was the influence of my older brother and the memories of taking my grandmother with cancer to her many doctor appointments that steered me down that path. My brother is an orthodontist, and while he was in dental school, I was in college deciding which of my two majors I would truly pursue in lifeone was in science, and the other in the arts. With his advice, I started to shadow dentists in town to gain some exposure to the world of dentistry. I remember going into one specific office where the dentist and his team treated their patients with such integrity and gentility, it reminded me of how much that can impact a person who is scared or feels vulnerable because he or she is a patient. It was when I was going through dental school that I realized that I had truly found a profession that would allow me to marry art and science together, and that I would be able utilize my knowledge and skill sets to help people improve their lives on a daily basis and in so many ways.

Now, could I do this without the help and support of a team that didn’t share this same passion? I think we can unanimously say, “No!” I know that so much of my success and enjoyment comes from the fact I have a team that supports me completely. Each woman on my team is a completely different person who brings a different perspective to the group, but each shares the same mission to treat each patient uniquely, with empathy and gentility. They are people with their own lives outside our office who chose to dedicate themselves to our patients and our practice. They continuously train to remain at the top of their field of practice and come to work with patience and enthusiasm. I feel privileged to be surrounded by team members as devoted to their craft and as passionate about helping others as I am. 

Honestly, not every moment in our practice is fun or greatthat’s life. Having a clear mission, and a team that completely believes in this mission, constantly gives us good perspective and keeps the overall attitude in our office clean and uplifting. We may get tired, but we don’t burn out because we are always there for each other and deeply want to help people and be successful. If you don’t have a mission that is clear to you and your team, or maybe there are people in your office who are just not onboard with that mission, things need to change. 

Pamela Marzban, DDS, FAGD

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dental Podcasts

Do you guys listen to podcasts? I (like most other people in the country) got into listening to them after the whole “Serial” phenomenon. Surprisingly enough, there have been a ton of new dental podcasts that have emerged in the past year. I’m not really sure why so many dentists and professionals in the dental field have decided to spend their free time producing these recordings. I’m sure part of it is altruistic, just wanting to share their knowledge with the world for the greater good. Another part of it is wanting to advertise their services, which may be consulting, practice management, educational seminars, etc. Regardless of the reasons, I am so happy that these podcasts are around. 

I don’t know about you, but most of the dental journals I get go straight into the recycling bin. I try to read some stuff online, but recently due to time constraints, podcasts are my main source of staying on the pulse of the dental world. I have a bunch downloaded on to my phone and usually listen to three to four per week (more, if I’m traveling and have some extra downtime). I take the subway to work, so I have about 60 minutes per day of podcast-listening time during my work commute. They are also great to listen to when you are driving, stuck in traffic, and bored out of your mind. Now, you may be thinking: What is wrong with this woman? After a full day in the office, the last thing I want to do is listen to dental chatter after work or before my day even begins. Give podcasts a chance. I am even going to tell you which ones to check out first, because there are so many out there, and there are only so many hours in a day. 

‘The Dental Hacks Podcast’
I love these guys. This is the perfect podcast to listen to after work, when all you want to do is complain about all of the random things that happened but you are lacking an audience. They are genuinely hilarious and always have informative guests on their show. My personal favorite is their “Brain Trust” section, which is usually toward the end of the podcast and features a handful of dentists discussing various topics such as favorite continuing education courses and patient stories. In addition, the audio quality is great, which some dental podcasts seem to be missing the boat on. These guys keep it real. Check them out. 

‘The Dentalpreneur Podcast w/ Dr. Mark Costes’
This podcast is a little more on the serious side. The dentist who produces it, Dr. Mark Costes, has owned and flipped many dental practices, and he has a ton of great business advice to share with you. As someone who knew very little about the business end of things, this podcast has helped me to really understand what it takes to run a successful dental practice and just how many dentists out there are doing things completely the wrong way. This is a good one to listen to before work to get motivated to have a productive day. No nonsense, just great information that all dentists can use to help them improve their business. 

‘Thriving Dentist Podcast Show’
This podcast focuses more on practice management and has been around for quite awhile. The producer, Gary Takacs, is not a dentist, but the owner of a dental practice and a practice management expert with many years of experience. My favorite takeaway from listening to Gary is just the way he talks and communicates with the guests he has on his show. I will be the first to admit that having small talk with patients is not my favorite. I am constantly struggling to figure out ways to have a nice little conversation about things other than the weather during a recall visit, or with finding a friendly and non-pushy way of presenting and discussing a treatment plan. I find listening to this podcast helpful in improving my patient and staff conversation skills. 

Now for the easy part: Go to iTunes and subscribe to these podcasts. If you have an Android phone, there is a podcast app for that as well. Did I also mention that this is totally free? I’ll be the first to admit this is going into serious dental nerd territory, but just having that DMD/DDS designation at the end of your name makes you a nerd already, so just embrace that title!

Have a great weekend! 

Lilya Horowitz, DDS, FAGD

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Is Wrong With You People?

I am currently reading a book called “Beloved.” This is a book my son has to read for school, so I thought I would pick it up. It is a bestseller and the writer won a Nobel Prize in Literature. These artsy book types are usually not my cup of tea but I will give it a try. I am on Page 11…so nothing yet.

Now for the topic de jour:

I am the type of middle-aged dentist that loves to show off. I want to show off my staff, my office, my work, my family, and my muscles.

So when a young college student asks if they can shadow me…I am a pig in poop. I have multiple young, aspiring dentists in my office every year. I had a young dentist email me and tell me that he is new to town and wanted to just come and hang out. I said, “Sure.”

This person came toward the end of the day. He came to watch us work for a little bit, but then we were able to just sit down after work and talk about the profession. It turns out we had the same philosophy about dentistry: We believe we have a gift and we want to use it to help people.

Fast forward a couple of years.

We have kept in touch and he texts me when he has some questions about life and work. He came in the other day and had some restorations done, which provided us a chance to talk. He has been working for “the man” in town, and corporate dentistry had not been kind to him. He tells me he does what the patient needs, so if they need a filling he does a filling. But on most plans fillings are either free or very, very cheap—like not enough to pay the dentist cheap.

He owes $500,000 in student loans and he was barely making enough money to pay rent. So things had to change. 

He moved to the Northeast to be with his girlfriend and try to start over. He got himself a great job with a mother/son practice. The mother is 79 years old and obviously planning on retiring soon. And as she phases out, he was going to phase in and eventually become partner. The son is a periodontist, so he will do the perio and my friend will do all the general dentistry. Sounds awesome right? 

Well, by his third week there he had some down time. He just was walking around the office watching, trying to learn the systems. How do people answer the phones? How do they schedule? How do the assistants interact with patients? How do they clean, and what do they clean with?
And he started to see some flaws. Like, a person came in for fillings and on the schedule it says “Extract  No. 12.” He saw a lot of backstabbing between the staff. He saw the assistants wiping down the handpieces and putting them back in the drawer. He saw those same assistants saving used burs and putting them in hydrogen peroxide. The air/water tips were being wiped down and not replaced.

Whoa, wait a minute! He was thinking that there were some shady things going on there.

This is when he called me and asked me what I thought. I have to admit I am a pretty na├»ve guy. I told him that maybe he doesn’t know the correct OSHA protocol for sterilization. He told me that once he saw the improprieties, he brought them to the junior partner (soon-to-be senior partner),who told him that all this was okay.

My friend told him straight up, “No, this is not okay.” So the junior partner started talking about how they were down a couple of handpieces and that when they got new handpieces then they would start sterilizing them properly.

For my friend, the writing was on the wall that it was time to leave. And not let’s see how it goes and then I will leave. It was “take your loupes and light home after work because you ain’t coming back” leave.

I asked him about other jobs. He told me that he went on an interview with a man who lost his license because he was writing pain prescriptions for his ex-wife and he needed a dentist to come in and do the dentistry in the office. Things were great until my friend smelled alcohol on the guy’s breath. “Run, Forrest, Run!”

He went on another interview and it seemed like a nice place. They needed an associate. He talked to them about how it would work. They told him that they would be doing all the treatment plans and would be monitoring all his work. He asked, “Is this a probation thing? Like will you be watching me just until I get my bearings?” They said, “No, you will always be doing the treatment planning, and we will be monitoring all of your work, all the time.” It was like an episode of “Big Brother.”

This kid loves dentistryat least he did love dentistrybut is getting a big dose of reality. There is some crazy stuff going on out there. He just happened to interview with all of them. He is starting to think the only way to make sure he is not working with a cheap, overbearing alcoholic is to buy a practice of his own. And unfortunately I don't think that is going to happen, especially considering he is already $500,000 in the hole from school.

I may be sitting in my ivory tower and judging, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I buy handpieces and I sterilize them between patients,I buy the best products, I update my furniture in the reception area, and I buy new uniforms when they are looking like rags.

I just thought everyone else was doing the same thing. Sure I am cheap and I hate spending money like the rest of you, but it is the price of doing business.

Back to my friend—yeah, he presently doesn’t have a job. I like the guy so much that I told him that if he ever moved back that he would make a great addition here (that is how much I like him). I am hurting for him. And I have to admit, I am a bit embarrassed by the crazy people that are our colleagues.

Anyone in the Northeast hiring an associate? Do you have any stories that might make my friend feel any better? Do you have stories of crazy bosses? How about cheap bosses? Those are always fun.

Have a great day,
John Gammichia, DMD, FAGD


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