Ask Questions About How Your Patient Feels 

May 13, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Paul Henny DDS

I wrote about this topic last October in The Never-Ending Interview and wanted to revisit it to connect the timeless teachings with my most recent thoughts. Bear with me as I recount some of the history from that previous article. 

Dr. F. Harold Wirth had a very successful restorative practice in downtown New Orleans but he always felt that something was missing until he met Dr. L.D. Pankey and was influenced by his teachings. Dr. Wirth became a missionary for Dr. Pankey’s philosophy of dentistry and life, and he gave Dr. Pankey most of the credit for developing a deeper understanding of people, both physically and emotionally.  

One of Dr. Wirth’s key messages from the podium was that dentists are always presenting the case, even from the beginning of their first encounter with the patient. Another key message was that the patient’s feelings matter in accepting care and the patient interview should be forever ongoing. 

He said, “Every time the patient comes in, you’re doing a presentation. As a matter of fact, I think the interview is forever ongoing. It might only be one word, but every time the patient comes into your office, you should be interviewing them.” 

He said, “Ask questions that have to do with how the person feels. A case history is exploring what happened. An interview is about how they feel! You need to understand the difference!” 

We might ask, “Since I last saw you, have you noticed any changes in your oral health? How do you feel about these changes?” We might ask, “How do you feel about the appearance of your teeth?” or “How do you feel about the restorations we did?” We might ask, “At your last visit, you talked about the possibility of doing ortho; how do you feel about that now?” We might ask, “You mentioned last visit that you weren’t looking forward to Thanksgiving because it was difficult to eat all your favorite foods. Would you feel good about revisiting the possibility of replacing your denture with something more stable?”  

Do you feel better after a long conversation with someone who knows you well on the emotional level? I know I do. Over time, those kinds of conversations cause us to feel more positive and hopeful. They occur when a person gifts us their full attention while making no attempt to judge. And because we experience no judgment, we share more feelings, which leads us into an even deeper level of self-understanding. 

Doctor-patient conversations that tap into how a patient is feeling on an emotional level enable patients to grow in trust and to become more open to the possibilities we offer.  

In her recent blog series, Mary Osborne has encouraged us to journey toward health with our patients as fellow travelers because we all have health issues we hope to resolve. We can make connections over shared feelings and hopes. These connections bond us so we can pursue a mutual, positive goal with our patient.  

What I love and sticks with me from Mary’s blog is that the medical health review during each preclinical interview is an ideal time to check-in about feelings regarding health in general. So, if you and your team are not doing that now, you might want to add a question about the patient’s feelings about their current health. It’s ideal if the doctor or hygienist  asks the question. It may be as simple as “How do you feel about your overall health?” Wait for the patient to think and speak.  

One of my favorite quotes is this: 

Any kind of gesture that pulls another living soul out of despair is indistinguishable from magic. – Michael Xavier, Author 

The medical history review is a prime opportunity to demonstrate we care. Expanding our preclinical interview to routinely ask one or more questions that surface feelings related to health will give us opportunities to touch hearts on a deeper level. This will engender greater trust so patients more readily accept us as partners in their health.  

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Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Green Eggs and Ham 

May 9, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Paul A. Henny, DDS 

Oftentimes, perspective is everything. Our thoughts influence our emotions, and then our emotions influence our behavior. How we view our situation as challenging but surmountable, impossible and insurmountable, or somewhere in-between, influences the outcome itself. 

When challenged with a difficult situation, for example, chronic intra-staff turmoil, how we view the problem makes all the difference in the world. A conclusion of “That’s just the way people are and I can’t change it,” yields a very different outcome than “I’ve got to do something about this right now, because it is holding my practice back.” 

In 1960, Bennet Cerf made a $50 bet with Theo Geisel. Bennet, the founder of Random House Publishing, bet Geisel, already a well-known author, that he couldn’t author a successful book that only had fifty different words. 

Bennet lost the bet because Geisel saw the imposed limitation as a creative opportunity. The outcome was a book that would sell over 200 million copies. He titled it “Green Eggs and Ham.” 

It’s old news that dentistry is rapidly changing—and in some ways not for the better. But if we focus on the negatives, we automatically shut down the creative solution-oriented side of our brain. 

When we are locked into a glass-half-empty mindset, we think the glass will surely be even more empty soon. Einstein, Jobs, Edison, and Tesla avoided such thinking. That’s why they just kept on creating and overcoming seemingly impossible odds along the way.  

Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  

Putting on our overall and going to work is precisely how we should approach our challenges. We need to stop ruminating over what we think can’t be accomplished, because chances are quite good that they can be. Failing to do so will cause another day to be lost spinning our wheels instead of moving forward. 

Looking for inspiration and examples of creative opportunities in dentistry? My CoDiscovery book—available on Amazon and in the Pankey Institute’s online store, is full of them. 

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Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Trust Is Essential to Helping Our Patients 

April 3, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Paul H. Henny, DDS 

Trust is commonly thought of as a firm belief in the reliability, truthfulness, and capability of another. But trust is about vulnerability . 

The more a person trusts, the more they are willing to allow themselves to be potentially hurt. They make a risks-benefit analysis, and when they feel they are ready, they decide to throw the dice.  

Conversely, when a person isn’t willing to trust, they have strategically chosen to minimize their vulnerability.  

Think about the times when you were personally unwilling to let someone into your life—when you were feeling too vulnerable. 

It’s easy for us to project our values without sensitivity to others’ often hidden concerns. When a patient says no to x-rays, to allowing us to proceed with a proper restoration, or other appropriate procedures, they don’t trust us enough right now. And when that occurs, it’s easy for us to instinctively respond by projecting our values onto the situation.  

A better strategy is to empathetically explore why a person responded to the situation the way they did—try to understand the situation from their perspective, and then focus on finding common ground in shared goals and values. Hopefully, with the right questions and empathy, we can build a bridge of trust and help our patients cross over to a place of more information on which to make the appropriate decisions for themselves. 

“No” often means “not yet,” as in “You haven’t convinced me yet that I should allow myself to be that vulnerable around you.” 

Co-Discovery requires a leap of faith on our part—a belief that most people will eventually do the right things for themselves. If we are unable to trust our patients on that level, then we’re going to struggle emotionally, demonstrate frustration, and to some extent inadvertently manipulate patients into doing what we want them to, a behavior that drives emotionally sensitive patients away. 

We need to trust our patients will make the leap as well. We need to willingly take the time and energy to continue in and trust the Co-Discovery process during which the patient starts to believe that we are the best resource to help resolve their problems and achieve their goals. When we allow our patients the time to make decisions based on what they think is in their best interest, they usually make healthy choices and appreciate the services we provide. This is how we succeed in helping them (and us) have a healthier, happier life. 

For an in-depth look at Co-Discovery and multiple essays on patient-centered dentistry, you are invited to read my recently published book: CoDiscovery: Exploring the Legacy of Robert F. Barkley, DDS, available at The Pankey Institute and on Amazon. 

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Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Life Is More About Possibilities than Probabilities

March 18, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Paul A. Henny, DDS 

Dentistry can be an isolating profession, wherein there are few people around who fully understand the pressure we’re under and the extreme level of responsibility and personal accountability we face on a daily basis. As a result, the isolation and pressure can easily cause us to feel like we’re in a lonely battle against a cold world that simply doesn’t care about what we are trying to accomplish. 

When we get into that mindset, it’s easy to think that competition is outside of us, that ultimately life is a battle of “us” against “them” and zero-sum. But few things in life are truly zero-sum, because very few things in life are that black and white. In truth, life is more about possibilities than probabilities, which means life is largely what we make of it instead of what happens to us. We are only in competition with others and the world at-large when we try to be like others, and we try to play the game by other people’s rules by aping of their behavior and adopting their mindset and values. 

The belief that we are in a constant state of competition is just an illusion because we can never become someone else, nor can we replicate their path to success, much-the-less become a mirror image of how other people think. 

Our true and authentic self has no competition. There is nobody else on this planet who can do exactly what we do, the way we can do it – that is, if we have the courage to try and fail until we master it. Hence, our authentic self has no competition because there’s nobody quite like us, and the sooner we accept who we are with grace, the sooner we can stop fighting our identity by attempting to become something that we cannot become. 

When we are clear about who we are, what we believe in, and what we are willing to fully get behind and make sacrifices to achieve, the more we’ll come to the realization that our feelings of competitiveness are a self-created illusion. Achieving this deeper level of self-understanding allows us to see ourselves from a perspective from which we are no longer envious of what others have accomplished, and we no longer desire what others have created, because we understand that we cannot build a life that’s not our own and we need to proceed forward and do the work necessary to create something for ourselves and others. 

The fastest way up the ladder of success is through the lifting up of our true selves. Sometimes that process can take a while, because in the beginning we don’t fully understand who we are, and we therefore can’t be clear about what we’d like to accomplish with our life. 

We can only rise up when we care enough about ourselves to invest in our future self – today. We can rise up by developing ourselves into the best person we can be today instead of spending our energy chasing after other people’s ideas of what “good,” “optimal,” and “admirable” mean. 

The simple fact is that we’ll never become our best self until we stop trying to be something that we can’t be.  

To quote a line from one of the songs of my childhood, “If you’ve found your place at last, then you need not use the looking glass.“ 

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Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Getting Case Acceptance to 90%

February 26, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Getting Case Acceptance to 90% 

Paul A. Henny, DDS 

Studies show that the average comprehensive care treatment plan acceptance rate is in the 30% range. Why do you suppose that is? 

Humankind’s Innate Prediction Machine 

Our brain is a prediction machine that’s always turned on. To a large degree, it operates like the autocomplete function on our phone – it’s constantly trying to guess the next word when we listen to a book, read, or conduct a conversation. Contrary to speech recognition AI bots, our brains are constantly making predictions at different levels, from meaning and grammar to specific speech sounds. Our brain continuously compares sensory information with memories. The more negative the memories, the more negative the predictions. 

Additionally, there’s a central purpose behind our prediction machine: Survival, successful reproduction (propagation of our genome), and rewards that might take the form of rising up in the social hierarchy or gaining scarce resources. 

Regarding survival, our brain likes to stack the odds 4:1 in its favor, meaning, it tends to predict negative outcomes 4X more often than it will positive outcomes. This is nature’s way of staying safe so we’ll have the opportunity to live another day. 

Stacking odds in Its favor is very primal, yet the stacking influences many of our impressions and decisions. Complex situations requiring complex decisions must go through this 4:1 negative bias loop. 

A Steep Slope to Climb 

Now, apply this information to how you work with your patients. Unless you enter a relationship with a stellar reputation that has transferred a high level of trust, you are starting off with 4:1 odds against the advancement of your agenda. That’s a steep slope, yet we ignore that truth every day. 

The only way to overcome the 4:1 odds against us is to allow trust to organically develop in the relationship. And that must be achieved in small steps: Simple proposals, agreements, and experiences that meet unspoken expectations.  

Would you agree to hire a contractor to build your dream home after talking with them for only 15 minutes? Wouldn’t you want to see examples of their work and call one or more of their clients to learn how good they are at following through and sticking to their word? 

I thought so but for some reason, we all want to believe that when a person needs extensive oral restoration or rehabilitation, that they will be ready to make a multi-thousand dollar decision within minutes of seeing our amazing digital presentation. In fact, we’re so confident that it will work, that we’ll do our exams for free to create a “sales funnel.” 

The Common Approach Fails 

Most people don’t react well to this approach because it’s too much information-too fast, and it’s all coming from a virtual stranger. They’re not ready to have us build their dream home for obvious reasons. Why, then, do we ignore all of that and call them “tire kickers?” 

The Alternative Approach 

Dentists who deploy the co-discovery, co-diagnosis, and co-success treatment planning process outlined by Dr. Robert F. Barkley often get above 90% case acceptance. I bet you wouldn’t be surprised to know that Pankey Institute faculty are among them. Understanding how the mind works and structuring your new patient processes to beat the 4:1 odd is more than possible. I invite you to read my recently published book: Co-Discovery: Exploring the Legacy of Robert F. Barkley, DDS. The book is available at the Pankey Institute now with all proceeds benefiting the Institute. 

  

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Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Are You Prepared for Your Next Hiring Challenge?

January 25, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Are You Prepared for Your Next Hiring Challenge?

Most dentists hire during a crisis because a vacancy created for various reasons drives a need to fill a position immediately. This high-stress, time-sensitive situation often undermines the dentist’s ability to hire more strategically and therefore move their practice up to the next level. In other words, dentists tend to re-create the status quo out of desperation, rather than strategically evolve their practice over time based on how they hire and develop team members.  

Understanding what you need and want to create ahead of time (skills and values that are non-negotiable in a person) is key. Hopefully, this article will prompt you to think about this truth as well as prepare for the next hiring challenge. 

Seek These 8 Personality Attributes 

According to Avrom King (and my own experience), there are eight personality attributes that must be predominant within a care team for it to prosper over time: 

  1. Optimism: Despite all the craziness in today’s world, team members routinely demonstrate a hopeful and positive attitude toward adversity and others.
  2. Involvement: Team members actively pursue problem identification and resolution. They are caring and committed to seeing the practice function at an optimal level.
  3. High Self-Regard (not to be confused with high self-esteem): Team members feel competent, capable, and worthy of success. They believe that their lives make a positive difference in this world, and they demonstrate it every day.
  4. Missionality: Team members are committed to living clarified personal values. This commitment goes far beyond themselves. They see their life as an integral part of a greater whole and congruent with the mission of the practice.
  5. Energetic Curiosity: Team members are stimulated by their curiosity about people, things, and challenges. Consequently, their positive energy is contagious, and their problem-solving ability is high.
  6. Resilience: Team members are flexible and able to adapt in a healthy and functional way to routine day-to-day stressors. Consequently, they don’t avoid conflict. Instead, they approach conflict maturely and with the intention of positive resolution.
  7. Self-Control: Team members know who they are, where they are, and where they want to go. They also know what they are doing – or are in the process of finding out. In other words, they are effective self-leaders with the ability to delay gratification.
  8. Relationship-Oriented: Team members prosper via long-term open, honest, and hidden-agenda-free relationships. Consequently, they’re able to seek out and effectively propagate opportunities for commitment in others through those relationships.

Conduct Behavioral Interviews and Assess Emotional Intelligence 

The bottom line is that our hiring process must be behaviorally sophisticated to predictably assemble a highly symbiotic team of emotionally intelligent individuals. Conduct behavioral interviews and make use of emotional intelligence and personality assessment tests. Behavioral hiring interviews ask candidates questions about how they handled specific situations in the past and the candidates are urged to provide somewhat detailed answers about their role, actions, and results. You may ask how they feel about the experiences and what they learned from them. Knowing what they know now, what would they do differently? Don’t shy away from asking them about their life goals and what appeals to them about working in a dental office. Are they enthusiastic about teamwork and making a difference in the lives of patients? 

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Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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The Never-Ending Patient Interview

October 11, 2023 Paul Henny DDS

In the year 1958, Dr. L. D. Pankey asked one of his most devout students to join him and teach the Pankey philosophy about dentistry and life to dentists around the world. And that’s precisely what they did. F. Harold Wirth, DDS, was one of the most dynamic speakers in all of dentistry. He rivaled Drs. L. D. Pankey and Bob Barkley in his ability to engage an audience and make his points clear using real (often funny) stories from his practice and life experiences.

Harold understood people on a very deep level—physically and emotionally. For this, he gave Dr. Pankey most of the credit. He had a very successful restorative practice in downtown New Orleans prior to meeting Dr. Pankey, but always felt that something was missing. L.D. Pankey showed him what that was, which turned Harold Wirth into a missionary for whole-person dentistry from that point forward:

“Give the case presentation to the person who makes the decisions,” Dr. Wirth said. “If I ever get to the point where I’m explaining what I’d like to do…If I’m not already about 90% into gaining their agreement, then I have messed up! Because I should have already won them over with the interview, the aura of my office, the literature that I’ve given them to read, and whatever else I’ve done before that time.”

Dr. Wirth said, “The case is constantly being presented: Every time the patient comes in, you’re doing a presentation. As a matter of fact, I think the interview is forever ongoing. It might only be one word, but every time the patient comes into your office, you should be interviewing them. Are you comfortable? Does your bite feel good? Are your teeth sensitive?”

These are questions that have to do with how the person FEELS. A case history is exploring what happened, but an interview is about how they feel! You need to understand the difference! How do you feel about your restorations? Are you comfortable? Are you satisfied with the appearance of your smile? Can you chew everything you want to chew?

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Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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True Listening in the Pre-Exam Interview

June 2, 2023 Paul Henny DDS

An essential technique in effective listening with new patients involves an interviewing discipline known as “bracketing.”

Psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck described bracketing as “the temporary giving up or setting aside of one’s own prejudices, frames of reference, and desires so as to experience—as far as possible, the speaker’s world from the inside, stepping inside his or her shoes.”

True listening requires a setting aside of ourselves. It also requires acceptance of the person as they are in the moment.

In his book Ways of Being Unconditional, Carl Rogers defined “unconditional positive regard” as accepting and supporting another person exactly as they are, without evaluating or judging them. At the heart of this concept is the belief that every person has the personal resources within to help themselves. They simply need to be offered an environment of acceptance that can foster their own recognition of this.

The goal is to create a safe psychological space where the patient senses acceptance, and therefore feels less vulnerable and thus more inclined to open up to share their fears and concerns regarding dental issues. This is challenging, particularly in the middle of a busy schedule, as most of the time, we lack the capacity to truly listen while other responsibilities and distractions are present.

We need to set the environment with intention.

To do this well, uninterrupted times in the schedule must be established as well as a comfortable non-clinical location. The battle seems to always be between structuring our schedule for efficiency versus creating more open-ended opportunities for trust to develop and knowledge conveyed.

We need to truly listen.

Are you able to turn your focus to orchestrating an interview in which you actively listen? Yes, well, then good but how easy is it for you to maintain that focus?

Even though we may feel we are truly listening, what we are often doing is listening selectively, with a preset agenda in mind…thinking about what we want to happen next…procedurally or financially, wondering as we listen how we can achieve a certain desired result by redirecting the conversation in ways more satisfactory to us.

Even though we may feel we are truly listening, we often respond to what the patient is saying by assuming our interpretation of the question they ask or the concern they relate is actually what the patient is attempting to say. And this is why Mary Osborne’s Staying in the Question Part 3 blog is so on point that I recommend others read it. 

True listening, no matter how brief, requires effort and total concentration. This means we cannot truly listen to another person and do anything else at the same time. While in the middle of a busy day at the office, this is challenging—very challenging.

The first step is willingness.

Our willingness to truly listen is the most tangible form of esteem we can give to another person. And if we give a new acquaintance our esteem, they will feel less ashamed or embarrassed. Consequently, they will start to feel less threatened and more valuable. And it’s those who feel valuable to themselves, who are most likely to be interested in taking better care of themselves through fine dentistry.

Carl Rogers helped us see there is no better way for our patients to learn they are valuable (rather than deficient or flawed) than by our valuing them first through careful listening.

  • When we offer no judgement, they feel less fearful, and they can share their thoughts and emotions more freely.
  • As we accept them, they feel encouraged to find self-acceptance and think for themselves.
  • As we invite them openly to share, instead of asking questions designed to illicit certain answers, we give them space to think for themselves, and with such space, they can begin to cultivate their inner resources and rise to our expectations for what is in their best health interest—on their own.

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Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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A Meditation on the Personalities of Dentists

January 2, 2023 Paul Henny DDS

Introversion and extroversion are psychological preferences first outlined by Carl Jung and then implemented in psychological models such as the Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI). The terms introversion and extroversion share the Latin root vertere meaning to turn. These preferences enable individuals to relate to the external world in different ways

Extroverts gain a significant part of their sense of self via feedback from others. Consequently, they thrive on interaction, which is energizing to them. They find more isolating situations stifling.

By contrast, introverts tend to develop their sense of self individually through reflection and clarification. They thrive in quieter and less stimulating environments, such as small gatherings with others whose thinking and values are aligned with their own. (I think this is why introverts tend to thrive in small person-centered practices that are values-driven–where their values are commonly shared by team members and patients alike.)

A Pankey Institute study in the 1980s showed that most dentists lean toward introversion. This makes sense because the profession requires full attention to small details all day—both physically and psychologically. Consequently, most dentists will say something like, “I love the technical aspects of dentistry, but I’m constantly frustrated with my staff and patient management responsibilities.” And in response, they will delegate the latter to others, creating a psychological wall between doing what they enjoy and the responsibilities they find too frustrating.

On the other hand, dentists who are more gregarious and outgoing tend to build up practices more quickly but struggle to stay on task because they thrive on social interaction. Consequently, these dentists tend to benefit from consultants who help them create systems where they “stay at the chair” and produce for the team.

If you lean toward being an introvert, you will likely discover that your practice grows more slowly, but with more intention. That can be a good thing and a strength if you learn how to leverage it. Why?

  • The more conservative approach introversion brings to decision-making is more values-driven. Consequently, it’s not as heavily influenced by the environment and emotions as it is by personal insight. Thus, behaving more like an introvert helps us to identify smart risks that are worth taking because they have long-term, values-aligned potential.
  • Additionally, Introverts are very sensitive to the environment. They tend to spot “warning signals” from team members and patients.
  • Running a dental practice is a long-term investment, much like what Warren Buffet said about stock investing, “You need a stable personality. You need a temperament that neither derives great pleasure from being with the crowd nor against the crowd because this is not a business where you take polls. It’s a business where you must think.”
  • Additionally, introverts can be more creative IF they structure their work environment in such a way that it tends to support their creativity. That’s because it is the nature of extroverts to mimic the opinions and behavior of others. Having a more solitary thinking style allows a person to tap into more creative solutions.

Introverts can learn to be more extroverted and many adults become ambiverts as they experience life. Certainly, in my case, I grew in my ability to engage in both patterns of listening and talking more equally—and effectively, despite being an introvert at heart.

From my blogs, you probably have ascertained that I am drawn to human psychology. I agree; both the psychological and clinical aspects of dentistry interest me. One of the benefits of lifelong learning is that I have learned to enjoy the business and social operations of my practice more over the years, and any psychological wall I started to build (between them and the clinical side) has been intentionally torn down.

Workplace environments are more enjoyable when there are variety and balance. If you are an introverted dentist, I recommend that you have extroverts on your team to encourage conversation and draw out the group’s perspective on various challenges. If you are an extrovert, I recommend hiring introverts in key positions whose instincts and intuition you deeply trust, so you can listen to their thoughts before making final decisions.

Susan Cain is the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Cain says weighting our teams to having everyone be like us is “a colossal waste of talent.” It’s my opinion that businesses, dental practices included, are better served by taking a yin and yang approach to team hiring to create a balance of the two personality styles.

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DATE: July 17 2025 @ 8:00 am - July 20 2025 @ 2:30 pm

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CE HOURS: 39

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Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (Per Night): $ 345

Transform your experience of practicing dentistry, increase predictability, profitability and fulfillment. The Essentials Series is the Key, and Aesthetic and Functional Treatment Planning is where your journey begins.  Following a system of…

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Why I Focus on Health-Centered Patients

May 23, 2022 Paul Henny DDS

More dental leaders are blogging on the subject of leading dental patients to improved health by learning what is important to them. Often, the next words we read are “We need to meet patients where they are.” What exactly does that mean???

To me, this doesn’t mean we meet expectations of low cost, faster care, with immediate results. This doesn’t mean we make promises that all their dental needs are met for the next six to twelve months. It doesn’t me the therapy we provide will solve an incipient or chronic problem for life. It doesn’t mean their insurance coverage dictates the value of the care we deliver. It doesn’t mean we are going to open our office after hours or on the weekend because that’s what someone wants. It doesn’t mean we guarantee a crown or veneers will last and never need to be replaced.

To me, this means understanding the individual patient, not patients (plural) as a population with trending, new expectations in 2022. It means focusing on the things each person thinks are important and relevant to their lives…where their priorities lie. Then, we can attempt to strategically tie what they value to their dental health to help them make a connection to a preferred future self. Most people, it seems, are unable to make these connections on their own.

Two Big Questions We Ask Ourselves

What do our oral health findings–ideally uncovered during a co-discovery exam, mean to a particular person? If our findings don’t have meaning to the patient, how can we possibly motivate the patient to take action? All of us struggle with these types of questions because we can’t force our values, our philosophy of oral health on others.

We can, however, create opportunities to reveal a pre-existing, unrealized value of health the patient has. If we find the patient is not health-centered, we can triage that person appropriately so we spend most of our time with patients who are health-centered.

“Revealing” Unrecognized Value Takes Time

Early in my career, I thought I could educate my patients to see the value of oral health the way I saw it. I found I was often knocking my head against the wall. Some people just didn’t value it. They wanted help when they were in pain, but preventing dental deterioration wasn’t something they felt needed immediate action. Moving forward with treatment was not on their personal agenda.

Gradually, as I read Bob Barkley, L.D. Pankey, Nate Kohn, Jr., and others, I realized they had gone through a discovery process of their own. The first task was to get to know the patient and understand the patient’s value for health and the patient’s oral health objectives. It was also to try to discover if their oral health circumstances were important to them so I could help them envision their preferred health future. But that takes time—time with each patient.

If your practice is primarily insurance dependent, you are underpaid most of the time. How do you compensate for this problem? You find ways to work faster. You find ways to see more people in a day. You delegate more. You look for a way to cut your lab technician’s salary out of your life. You buy in bulk and wake up in the middle of the night wondering why you got into dentistry in the first place.

It doesn’t have to be that way!

Many years ago, when I began spending time with new patients to learn if they are health-centered, I was able to better manage my time with them. If they valued health…if I could connect them with their dental needs on a deeper level, then spending even more time with them was well worth it.

Those who value health are the patients we can easily help understand why we take our comprehensive approach to restoring and maintaining optimal oral health.

You can be more productive per hour than you can imagine, IF you take the time to connect with patients on a deeper level and you strategically find ways to spend most of your time with people who care about their health in the first place.

L.D. Pankey wisely said, “People change, but not very much.” And that’s a critically important life lesson, one that took me years to accept because I thought my philosophy would psychologically trump theirs, and I would therefore win the day. I was wrong – very wrong.

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Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

What if you had one tool that increased comprehensive case acceptance, managed patients with moderate to high functional risk, verified centric relation and treated signs and symptoms of TMD? Appliance…

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About Author

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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