“Mindfulness” The New Science of Finding Focus & Happiness in Dentistry

by Dr. Mark H. E. Lin, BSc, DDS, MSc (Prostho), FRCD(C); Peter Barry

As a society we are in the midst of a popular growing obsession with mindfulness as the secret to health, happiness and success in any field of human endeavour, including dentistry! What was a fringe movement in our busy society is now becoming an increasingly prominent part of our cultural landscape. Cultivating “mindfulness” into your clinical practice is an exciting opportunity that every dentist can develop to enhance patient positive experience and professional satisfaction.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, first adapted “mindfulness practice for health promotion” in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. His Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) has been scientifically validated, accepted worldwide and used in many disciplines, including medical, dental, nursing, education, sports and now extensively in the world of business. Schools are also introducing it to our future generations on a routine basis. According to Dr. Kabat-Zinn “Mindfulness” is a state of being that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience, moment by moment”. Simply put it is a mental and emotional state that is achieved by focusing one’s conscious awareness fully on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

“Mindfulness” is a much-needed opportunity to take back our lives from the clutter of noise and dramatic distraction that competes for space in our consciousness every moment of our busy practice life; much of which is spent juggling the multiple tasks an average dentist must manage on an average day – such as clinical challenges, demanding patients, changing schedules, overcoming treatment acceptance obstacles, team conflict and group dynamics, financial responsibilities & personal life responsibilities. We are also practicing in a rapidly evolving profession where we have greater clinical and theoretical knowledge; while the rapid proliferation of technology continues to change the face of dentistry and the way its practiced. Today the average dentist has so much more to think about as they go through their clinical work day. “Too many of us are over scheduled, constantly multi-tasking, over thinking, over connected and overstimulated by all the noise, interruptions and complexity of our high paced practice lives.

So, what can you and I do about this? We must learn to manage ourselves; in particular, how we think. We must learn to manage our attention and energy so that it is not diffused & diluted by things that are not relevant or important in the present moment we are in. Mindfulness experts will tell us that even when multitasking you can do it with a single tasking mindset. The ultimate goal of mindfulness is simply to give your attention fully at any given time to what you are doing, who you are doing it with, and why (the purpose) you are doing it.

One can communicate more mindfully by truly hearing and listening to our patients’ chief complaints. We can enjoy a meal with a friend more mindfully by not checking our phones or social media. We can participate in meetings more mindfully by fully focusing on the purpose and goals of the meeting. We can even vacation more mindfully with family members by interacting whole heartedly and connecting deeply while leaving work temporarily behind. Similarly, one can practice clinical dentistry and serve patients more mindfully by managing any distractions and staying fully focused on our patients. It is undeniable that our best clinical dentistry is delivered and our best patient connections are made; when we are fully engaged in the present moment with our patients and completely focused on the details of the clinical procedure at hand.

Engaging in a more mindful day to day existence at your dental office will not only be positively felt by your patients. It will also immediately begin to give you an expansion in the level of fulfillment you draw from being a practicing dentist. Ethically & morally don’t we owe it to our patients to give them our 100% undivided attention while we address their clinical concerns and deliver their dentistry with a focused and fully present human touch of excellence?

Living in the moment is the new science of health and happiness. The time is “NOW” to embrace this global movement by beginning your own journey into researching and growing this amazing skill into your personal and practice life. OH

About the Authors
Dr. Mark H. E. Lin, BSc, DDS, MSc (Prostho), FRCD(C), graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy for his dental program. He then completed a one-year General Practice Residency program at the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. He practiced general dentistry for 13 years and then returned to complete his post-graduate training in the specialty of prosthodontics at the University of Toronto. He maintains a full-time specialty practice as a prosthodontist at Dr. Mark Lin Prosthodontic Centre.

Peter Barry is a highly, sought after speaker/coach/trainer whose message has inspired dental professionals and industry leaders across North America. For more than 15 years, he has empowered dentists/teams with the skills needed to achieve extraordinary growth, higher income, and exceptional quality of life through clinical and practice excellence. He is the founder of “Practice Mastery” a practice development company that serves the growth & development needs of your practice. He provides customized team and one on one Doctor/Owner “Growth & Development Coaching” to Dental professionals across N. America.