Slip Slidin’ Away

October 30, 2020 Barry F. Polansky, DMD

If you watch one episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, you will see a repeating theme. Previously great restaurants have come close to shutting their door, because the owners’ passion for maintaining high standards has waned. Diners have dropped them from their A list, their B list, maybe even their C list. Without a dramatic makeover and grand opening, diners are not going to come through the door.

Bring this forward to 2020 and the pandemic. Patrons… clients… customers… have legitimate concerns about moving forward with their lives. Dental teams are doubling down on conversations with patients, along with adopting and adapting to many changes in how they practice. And, then, there is another problem I am seeing in all businesses, not just dental practices. The government gave money to employees to “not work.” Now when they are needed (especially in dental practices and labs), employees want to stay out not only for more “free lunch” but also out of health concerns of their own. They don’t want to take coronavirus back to their family members at risk.

Some of this comes down to the history of the business and how they practiced before and the culture they created…that went way beyond “money.” I’m not saying this is true of all dental practices and less so in the relationship-based practices, The Pankey Institute and other thought leaders promote. But, practicing every day consistently at the quality level of the past takes tremendous commitment. The moral compass of the practice leader—the dentist, must continue to show courage, trust, respect, authenticity, integrity, communication, education and growth, excellence, resilience, purpose, and alignment. Whew! That’s a tall order when you are feeling stressed and exhausted.

It’s no wonder if some of your pre-pandemic passion for spending time with individual patients has waned. When I came out of dental school in 1973, Paul Simon had not yet written his monumental song Slip Slidin’ Away, but within my first decade of practice, I knew the song well and already sensed that life was not on the trajectory I wanted. My passion for dentistry had waned.

We work our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away

With inspiration at Pankey and Dawson, wide-wide reading, and encouraging colleagues, I found my way… my passion… my balance… my joie de vivre in dentistry. I discovered how to not only conserve my personal energy but also generate more energy through personal contemplation time and daily exercise. The greatest discovery I made was that my practice of dentistry actually centered around one specific system: the comprehensive patient examination and the meaningful conversations I had with patients during the exam.

The One Thing to look out for is the quality of your comprehensive patient exam. Is it at the highest level?

The comprehensive examination is the “one procedure” or process that gives the dentist the opportunity to express and display his or her leadership “virtues.” Don’t let it slip slide away.

Conversation is where the human side of health care takes place. Continue to spend extra minutes in conversation. The meaningful moments you share with your patients will energize you and help you get through current stressful days. Just remember that having a meaningful conversation, in many cases, requires us to let our guards down and become vulnerable. It means sharing our philosophy and showing our human side… maybe even how challenging dentistry is right now… and yet still so rewarding.

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About Author

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Barry F. Polansky, DMD

Dr. Polansky has delivered comprehensive cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, and implant dentistry for more than 35 years. He was born in the Bronx, New York in January 1948. The doctor graduated from Queens College in 1969 and received his DMD degree in 1973 from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Following graduation, Dr. Polansky spent two years in the US Army Dental Corps, stationed at Fort. Dix, New Jersey. In 1975, Dr. Polansky entered private practice in Medford Lakes. Three years later, he built his second practice in the town in which he now lives, Cherry Hill. Dr. Polansky wrote his first article for Dental Economics in 1995 – it was the cover article. Since that time Dr. Polansky has earned a reputation as one of dentistry's best authors and dental philosophers. He has written for many industry publications, including Dental Economics, Dentistry Today, Dental Practice and Finance, and Independent Dentistry (a UK publication).

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Up Your Game

October 26, 2020 North Shetter DDS

Over the years I have visited many offices and found every office has a special “hideaway” reserved for the new technology that the doctor is going to implement that never happens. I just looked over an article by Dr. Lou Shulman in Dental Products Report that reviews a multitude of technology options available to us. I was surprised to note the number of doctors who stated that they do not plan to purchase three specific tech areas that we have found to be significant in increasing our production, quality of care, and positive patient reaction. Based on our practice experience, these three items will very quickly provide a return on your investment when you integrate them into your practice.

Voice Activated Software

We have been using Dentrix VoicePro, a voice-activated perio charting and clinical note dictation, for over 15 years. Our hygiene staff would quit if we took it away. We do a full perio charting on every re-care appointment. This software makes it quick and easy, AND the patient hears the numbers and pays attention. There are numerous other features, but the perio charting is worth the price and learning curve. In today’s environment, the system eliminates the need for added staff as a recorder or the constant picking up and putting down of pens or probes.

Intraoral Scanner

We are using iTero and love it. We have had a CAD/CAM system for years and use it routinely. However, if you are doing any aligners or sleep appliances you will love the scanner. Your patients are so appreciative that you no longer have to have them sitting with “goo” in their mouths. There is a learning curve, but it is not too steep. The accuracy of the images is excellent. The unit will not let you send a poor impression to the lab. The cost of a scanner is far less than CAD/CAM. Your lab loves getting your impressions electronically. Your patients are fascinated by your ability to image their teeth with ease and accuracy. Our staff has quickly adapted to the use of the scanner and loves it.

Soft Tissue Laser

The price of soft tissue lasers has dropped dramatically. We were relatively early adopters of the soft tissue laser. We use ours for soft tissue shaping in crown and bridge, desensitization, and soft tissue periodontal procedures. We have had near-zero post-operative complaints in any of these procedures. The desensitization of teeth is amazingly quick and easy. All of our hygiene staff has been trained in laser use and feels that was worth the effort. Patient acceptance of soft tissue laser in hygiene/periodontal procedures is very high.

We try to be at or near the leading edge of the technology curve, not the “bleeding edge,” and we expect technology to have long term value as well as a rapid payback. These items have proven to be time savers, improve our quality of care, and are recognized by our patients as adding value to the experience in our office.

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About Author

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North Shetter DDS

Dr Shetter attended the University of Detroit Mercy where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1972. He then entered the U. S. Army and provided dental care at Ft Bragg, NC for the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces. In late 1975 he and his wife Jan moved to Menominee, MI and began private practice. He now is the senior doctor in a three doctor small group practice. Dr. Shetter has studied extensively at the Pankey Institute, been co-director of a Seattle Study Club branch in Green Bay WI where he has been a mentor to several dental offices. He has been a speaker for the Seattle Study Club. He has postgraduate training in orthodontics, implant restorative procedures, sedation and sleep disordered breathing. His practice is focused on fee for service, outcomes based dentistry. Marina Cove Consulting LLC is his effort to help other dentists discover emotional and economic success and deliver the highest standard of care they are capable of.

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