In 2017 I read Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, who founded TOMS (the shoe company famous for its giving strategy). It really stuck with me!

I thought I was the only one in dentistry thinking about the importance of giving. That is, until I attended an educational summit on practice growth. Speaker Jayme Amos really inspired me during his seminar about building your practice through giving. I was so happy to see how many other dentists felt the same way as me. I was reassured that giving belongs in dentistry.

There are so many ways we can give to others. 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 my own life as a dental patient. 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 my future patients.

While first practicing as an associate and later running my own endodontic practice, I realized that the impact I could make depended on the other dentists practicing around me and referring out to me. 

So 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 learned in dental school (sometimes very little about endodontics) and what they were expected to perform in private practice. All of this impacted THEIR patients’ experiences, even before I saw them.

Putting all of this together, I saw — and still see — the need for 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 to other parents to emergency room staff — had little general dental knowledge. They didn’t know the tips and tools to handle dental emergencies for children (there were quite a few in our house!), or for themselves.

 

I began to speak at my children’s school not only about dental health, but also about 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 — I mean nobody — knew what to do in the case of an avulsed tooth

I created an infographic detailing the steps to follow after trauma that we began giving to our patients, sharing with parents at PTA meetings, and promoting at local health fairs.

You can download your copy of the trauma infographic here.

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 attendant 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 my time with local dental residents, their thirst for knowledge blew me away. 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 their textbooks.

Sonia giving to residents

In dental school there is simply too much to learn in too little time. Residency is a vulnerable stage in a dentist’s career, where they have lots of experience to gain before entering private practice. I can see lightbulbs going off with every minute I spend giving to these residents!

I also teach E-School to residents, now that I have a proven curriculum ready to share! (Please reach out to me if you are interested in getting E-School for your residency program.)

We can ALL mentor someone. If all of us just reached out to one other budding dentist, whether they’re still in dental school or getting started in private practice, it would make our entire industry thrive! Mentoring residents is the second key way I give.

 

Giving to general dentists to expand their knowledge

E-school students incorporating endo into their practice

I love my community of general dentists; I have amazing referral partners and amazing E-School students. 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, not all dentists have the option of referring out their endo cases in the first place. 

We endodontists have to help dentists gain the skills they need to perform the endo treatments that they can.

That’s why I began giving 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’ve taken these local seminars and expanded them into E-School, my comprehensive web-based endo CE course that hundreds of dentists have now graduated from, 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.

Improving the patient experience and public face of our dental profession

Because I’ve had years of experience as a dental patient and as an endodontist, I know the importance of understanding what’s happening in my mouth and the treatments that would help me feel better.

As a result, 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, listening, 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. And that means we have to help them know what to expect.

One way I’ve done this is by writing my digital book, Tooth Wisdom: The Empowered Patient’s Guide To Saving Your Smile. In it, I give patients all the information they need to know to save time, money, and their teeth.

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 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” becomes a thing of the past! Help me with this big “give” for all patients! The easiest way is to let your colleagues know about my blog and E-School.

 

Giving time and skills to communities in need, in the US and beyond

When I first started E-School, I had a pie-in-the-sky dream with a dual purpose. I wanted to give low-cost dental work to those in need while educating dentists to incorporate rockstar endodontics into their practice.

Well, in 2020, I made that happen.

E-School with Coaching graduates are invited to attend E-School LIVE. It’s a 3-day, hands-on experience where they provide root canals for up to 4 patients. And I’m right there with them, to support and guide them.

And the patients only spend $100 for their root canal! We had our first E-School LIVE experience in October, 2020, and we gave away more than $50,000 in FREE dental work for the Charlotte community. I still can’t believe it. I’m so proud!

Want to join an upcoming E-School LIVE session? Click here to join the waitlist. 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. Help me spread the word about E-School, and invite your friends and colleagues to subscribe to my list for weekly endo tips! Let’s better the world together, one tooth at a time.

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