Oral Health Group

Careful what you wish for … Dad and Mom

October 1, 2012
by Peter Birek, DDS, MSc, Dip. Perio

There is no more precious moment in the life of a parent than the celebration of a child’s achievement – in my case a graduation. One such moment occurred this year when I hooded my daughter in front of the Chancellor accepting her into the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree at her convocation from Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University in London, Ontario. I am grateful to Schulich to have allowed me participate in the proceedings, and equally so for training my daughter at this fine institution.

As I waited for the big moment in full regalia, listening to the solemn hymns played by the orchestra; I started to think about what to wish for her. Seemingly a simple task wouldn’t you think? Suddenly I was speechless; or “wish-less,” to be more precise. Trying to avoid a textable cliché of “good lk in y career :)” and such, suddenly I was unable to deliver. Instead, I thought it would be easier and more appropriate to put together a wish list for the dental world she enters now and will work in for the next three decades. One would think that putting together a list shouldn’t be difficult for a well-seasoned practitioner, who has seen dentistry go though major developments over several decades along many shores and landscapes. But remembering the saying that I should “be careful what I wish for…” the task became daunting. Needless to say that the list didn’t get finished for the “big moment,” but here are my wishes for the reader to ponder and for my daughter and her classmates to wish for. Perhaps we could start a “wiki-wish” movement.


I wish that my daughter’s dental world would:

• … foster a return towards the dentist being a health care provider more than a “fixer of smiles”.

• … recognize that we don’t treat clients, rather, we treat patients with various diseases and needs.

• … fix the relationship between dental hygienists and dentists and return to the concept of the health-care-provider team based on respect and full cooperation, rather than drifting towards the current trend of compartmentalization and duplication of duties.

• … elevate family dentistry to a specialty status requiring additional training of the internship type.

• … consist of dentists who completed a professionalism and ethics courses of the caliber my daughter took in her first year at Schulich

• … include the treatment of patients with special needs, the geriatric patient population within the mainstream of dentistry.

• … consist of dentists, hygienists and assistants who wouldn’t dispense treatments with little evidence of benefits to patients for the hope of financial gain.

• … include specialists who would not push each other’s boundaries, rather, cooperate where specialties inevitably overlap.

• … foster and maintain “autonomy” by proving, day in and day out, that we “serve and protect” rather than “drill and bill”

• … encourage taking more courses and put more effort into “treatment planning” rather than “financial planning”

The saying “be careful what you wish for” has an ominous flavour to it. Namely, if one is not careful in wishing the right things you may get to see your flawed wishes come true. Sort of the “Caveat emptor” clause of the person who wishes… (Caveat Voler – my flawed translation – volare = wish in Latin; I Wish I did not skip some Latin classes in high school). The saying rings true, as it is a warning for all those who are careless at this endeavor. The truth is that we are very poor at predicting the future. The crystal ball of dentistry is less than crystal clear. Anyone who pretends to know what the profession will be like in a decade or … three is doing nothing but guessing. So why not do some “careful wishing,” and instead of fearing the contrary we should hope that our wishes will come true for future generations of dentists. Perhaps let the list serve as example to them, and foster these values in their dental careers. What a mother or father wishes for their children upon graduation should also be what “seasoned” practitioners wish for our young protégés – who are our children in more ways than one.

And finally – and carefully – I would dare to say; I wish that all Dads and Moms would experience a similar joy at their child’s graduation.  OH

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