Oral Health Group

Nobody Knows Dentistry Like Dentists

April 1, 2006
by Elliot Mechanic, BSc., DDS

We are living in what is perhaps the golden age of dentistry. Teeth are in vogue and it is suddenly “cool” to be a dentist. Because dentistry is everywhere, the public at times seems to be dictating what kind of dental work they desire and how they want the profession to practice.

There is a scene from the motion picture, The Buddy Holly Story which sums up my day-to-day approach to dental practice. Buddy has just recorded the hit record “That’ll be the day” by complete accident. When called to the record company offices in New York City, he is offered a considerable amount of money and the “best producers in the business”. He immediately turns down the offer saying that if the producers had in their head what he had in his head, then the record company would be offering the producers the money and not him. Buddy knew that he was his own best producer. Buddy kept his integrity, was allowed to self produce his own records and became a musical legend.


Just like Buddy Holly, dentists must maintain their own integrity. Nobody knows dentistry like dentists! However, dentistry is extremely big business and dentists seem to be getting bombarded from all sides.

Our patients are demanding treatments that sometimes make no sense and are in fact detrimental to their dental health. They are coming to us as the experts. Would a great artist like Vincent Van Gogh alter his vision against his better judgment? Each of our patients should be thoroughly explained the state of their dentition and the possible different treatment alternatives they have. We must try to deliver to our patients what they desire without sacrificing their oral health and our standards of care.

Dental manufacturers are developing new products which make our day to day practices easier and deliver superior treatments to our patients. However we must carefully evaluate which works best in our hands. Often just because something is new, or we are convinced by a sales person or by advertising to use it, doesn’t mean it is better.

The insurance companies are trying to standardize the fees we charge for our services. However, not all levels of expertise, materials, and treatment planning are equal. Are there not different qualities and costs for clothing, automobiles, jewellery, etc? Why should all dental work be judged as being equal?

Advertising is used by many of us to deliver our message to patients we wish to attract. Very often it is a message of sameness, almost generic in content. Claims of “catering to cowards”, “state of the art equipment” or a photo of teeth biting a sparkling pearl do little to tell the world who you are and what you do. Only you know what is special about you. Your self-confidence and integrity are the keys to your own success. No one knows how to market and deliver dentistry to your patients as well as you do. Each of us has a unique approach to treatment. So why send generic messages that give your practice a sense of sameness?

Millions of dollars are being spent on dental consultants who often lump their clients into categories. Of course some people need guidance, but is everyone really ready to listen and make a change? Do they have the self confidence necessary to make a change? Not everyone has the same personality and discipline to fit into cookie cutter mold.

There are so many nuances required to make it in dental practice: 1) office design, 2) staff, 3) continuing education, 4) dental materials, 5) procedure protocols, 6) client services, 7) scheduling, 8) emergency care.

Dentistry is one tough business! It is almost equivalent to doing micro surgery all day long. However, our patients are not sleeping. They are awake, moving, salivating, are on a tight schedule, and we are working in a dark oral cavity accessible only through lips capable of opening only so much.

In the 1970’s Avrum King spoke of two tiers of dentistry: 1) complete dentistry, 2) incomplete dentistry. To practice complete dentistry is very demanding. To often dentists search for a magic answer, a quick fix, a guru.

You must focus on who you are and what you are trying to achieve. Mentally movie outside the box, the industry has placed you in. Ask yourself:

1) What type of work do you want to do?

2) What type of patients do you want to treat?

3) What should your fees be?

Dentists are regarded by the public as being amongst the highest trained health professionals. Respect yourself and believe in what you are doing and in who you are. Take a lesson from Buddy Holly.

Dr. Elliot Mechanic practices esthetic dentistry in Montreal, Canada. He received his Bachelor of Science (1975) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (1979) degrees from McGill University. Dr Mechanic is the editorial board member for cosmetic dentistry for Oral Health Journal.

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