The first “rules” that I can remember learning in dental school were G.V. Black’s rules for cavity preparation. My classmates and I carefully memorized those rules along with hundreds of others that our professors and clinical instructors taught us.
But now, after many years in practice, I realized that the REAL “rules” for practicing dentistry are not taught to us in dental school, but instead must be learned in our offices after graduation.
I would like to share with you some of my favourite rules that I have learned – unfortunately most of them the hard way:
• A mixing pad, if dropped while you’re mixing cement, will always land cement side down. (This law was once tested in the large dental clinic at the University of Toronto. One hundred students mixed cement on mixing pads and then tosses them up in the air. Ninety-nine of the mixing pads landed cement side down on the floor. The hundredth stuck to the ceiling.)
• Rules for office staff:
1) The dentist is always right.
2) When the dentist is wrong, refer to rule #1.
• Any gold crown or inlay, when dropped, will roll into the least accessible corner of the dental operatory and will not be found until the cement has hardened.
• Any sharp scaler or probe when dropped will always stab you in the leg on the way down.
• A sure way for you to get behind schedule is for your assistant to inform you that you’re ahead.
• Office overhead rises to meet income. It then passes it.
• The first 90 percent of a dental procedure takes 90 percent of the time and the last 10 percent takes the other 90 percent.
• More dental emergencies happen in your practice during the two weeks you are on vacation than during the 50 weeks you are there.
• For intra-oral photography, open the lens two stops to compensate for the lens cap.
• All dental offices have a junk drawer. Anything wanted from the junk drawer will be found at the bottom. Once any item is removed from the junk drawer – no matter how large or small – the junk drawer will not close.
• The forecasting of dental manpower needs by the dental schools and the government has made astrology look respectable.
• Every dentist has a scheme for getting rich that will not work.
• Any dental equipment or office machine that can breakdown will breakdown, except when the repairman arrives, at which point it will magically, mysteriously (and temporarily) repair itself.
• If you take broken dental equipment apart to fix it enough times, you will eventually have enough pieces left over to build another one.
• Dental supplies always go on sale immediately after you have purchased them at the regular price.
• Your phone will not ring for the first 10 minutes of the day unless your receptionist is late, in which case it will ring continuously until she arrives.
• When you hear Dentist A critizing the work of Dentist B, you learn much more about Dentist A than about Dentist B.
• Good patients come and go. Bad ones accumulate.
• Patients’ payments are always delayed in the mail. Bills arrive on time – or sooner.
• Eat a live toad first thing in the morning before going to the office and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day. OH
About the Editor
Dr. Randy Lang is an orthodontic teacher at the University of Toronto and past president of the Ontario Association of Orthodontics. He maintains an orthodontic practice in West Toronto and Mississauga, ON. Dr. Lang is also co-chair of Oral Health’s editorial board.