I ended last year reading the book, Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, the shoe company made famous by its generous giving strategy.
I felt like I was the only one in dentistry thinking about the importance of giving, until I recently attended an educational summit on practice growth. I was inspired by speaker Jayme Amos and his seminar about building your practice through giving. I was so happy to see how many other dentists in the room felt the same way as me, and I was reassured that giving is something that belongs in dentistry. There are so many ways we can find to give to others, and when we work the practice into our daily lives, WE are the ones who really benefit. Giving brings us fulfillment, joy, and a true purpose.
My calling to practice dentistry came from a life of being a dental patient, myself. After my own misdiagnoses and bad experiences with dental professionals (and one great experience with an endodontist who relieved my pain), I headed to dental school. From that early stage, I was determined to make a difference for the future patients I would treat.
Along the way, while first practicing as an associate and later running my own endodontic practice, I realized that the impact I could make was affected by the other dentists practicing around me and referring out to me. Sooo many of them were missing the key knowledge they needed to treat endodontic cases, through no fault of their own! There was a gap between what they were taught in dental school (sometimes very little about endodontics) and what they were asked to perform in private practice. All of this impacted THEIR patients’ experiences, even before they came into my practice.
Putting all of this together, I saw — and still see — that there needs to be a dental education movement, from the dental students to the patients.
I have made it my mission to give, and the opportunities to do so present themselves at many levels. Here are the five ways I give, and I encourage you to consider how you can do the same.
Changing protocols of trauma everywhere
While I was a practicing endodontist, I also became a parent. As my kids grew and headed off to school, I saw that the caregivers around them — from school nurses and other parents, to emergency room staff — had little general dental knowledge. They didn’t know the tips and tools to handle a dental emergency in a child (there were quite a few in our house!), as well as in themselves.
I started to speak at my children’s school, not just about good dental health, but also what to do when you have a dental accident on the playground. These kids were at the age where they were starting to get their permanent teeth, and nobody — and I mean nobody — knew what to do in the case of an avulsed tooth. My practice created an infographic about the steps to follow after trauma that we began to give to our patients, share with parents at PTA meetings, and promote at local health fairs.
I want to reduce the number of patients that come to me, and to you, with their avulsed tooth in their hand! If people only knew that simply putting the tooth back in right away could save it, we could have an impact on smiles everywhere. Let’s spread the word together. I want every parent, every school nurse and every emergency room in the world to know exactly what to do if someone knocks out a front tooth. Providing this awareness is one key way I give.
Guiding residents to fill the gap
When I started volunteering time with local dental residents, I was blown away by their thirst for knowledge. As they treated more and more cases, they were hungry to fill in the gaps of their understanding from what they hadn’t learned in the text books.
In dental school there is just too much to learn in too little time. Residency is a vulnerable stage in a dentist’s career, where they have experience to gain before entering private practice. I can see that, with every minute I spend with them, the lightbulbs go off!
Everyone should be a mentor to someone. If all of us just reached out to one other budding dentist, whether they are still in dental school or just getting started in private practice, it would make our entire industry thrive! Mentoring residents is the second key way I give.
Working with general dentists to expand their knowledge
I love the community of general dentists I work with every day; I have amazing referral partners. While working so closely with them, I’ve also learned where their lack of comfort with endodontics affects their own practice’s growth — and also their patients’ experience.
Of course, it’s great when a dentist refers endo cases to a specialist. I realize that I would not be in business without those referrals! However, the answer is not for general dentists to refer out all root canals. That would cause a public health crisis – there are simply not enough endodontists to treat all the endo cases! Besides, some dentists don’t have the option of referring out their endo cases at all. We endodontists have to help dentists gain the skills to perform the endo treatments that they can.
That’s why I started to hold local seminars for general dentists, focusing on endodontic cases, technology, and patient case studies to help dental professionals become better equipped to serve their patients through the root canals they perform.
Now I’m taking these local seminars and expanding them into a comprehensive web-based course so general dentists anywhere in the world can learn on their own time. Deepening the endo knowledge of general dentists is the third key way I give.
Scroll to the end of this blog to get on the interest list for the upcoming E-School, a virtual endodontic course that I’m creating now. I want to help you enhance patient outcomes, build upon your knowledge, and increase your revenue — all on your own time.
Improving the patient experience and public face of our dental profession
Because I’m not only an endodontist but I’ve also been a dental patient through extensive procedures, I know the importance of understanding what’s happening in my mouth as a patient, and the treatments that would help me feel better.
As a result of those experiences, I’ve made it a cornerstone of my practice to help patients to understand the why of their tooth and treatment — and that takes communication, transparency, and patience. I don’t want my patients to expect that their pain is going to shut off like a light switch just because they got treatment. They should understand the next steps so they are prepared for future treatments if necessary.
I want to help other dentists reduce patients’ pain and time in the chair. By preventing retreatments and making sure they don’t get the same procedure (the root canal) twice, we can lower patients’ healthcare costs. Wouldn’t that be amazing?!
It starts with every single patient experience. And together we can raise awareness of the power of root canals for patients. We can improve patient care so much that “I hate going to the dentist” is a thing of the past! Help me with this big “give” for all patients!
Donating time and skills to communities in need, in the US and beyond
I have a dream with a dual purpose: to give free dental work to those in need, and at the same time, give education to dentists who want to incorporate rockstar endodontics into their practice.
As I complete and launch my web course, my goal is to lead a hands-on, live patient learning experience where I can help dentists from all over the world do better endo, while providing free dental work to underserved communities. Training dentists and offering free care to those who need it most is the fifth key way I give.
I invite you to join me on this mission to grow dentistry into something bigger. Reach out to me, help me spread the word, and ask your friends and colleagues to join in! Let’s better the world together, one tooth at a time.