The Power of BHAGs (Part 2)

July 22, 2024 John Cranham, DDS

By John C. Cranham, DDS 

Even today, after decades into family life, dental practice, and continuing dental education, I sit down every January to outline my BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for the year. I block out the first Monday after Christmas to do this, but for the previous month, I’ve been thinking about what new goals will excite me most. I commonly do this type of thinking while I am exercising and driving.  

It’s during these alone times that I can intentionally mull over the things I could do next. I pay close attention to which possibilities excite me most. Oftentimes, these are goals that I feel will benefit others. 

Successful people have the ability to create daily behaviors that direct themselves towards their goals and take them forward on steppingstones. One of the simplest, yet powerful things I witnessed Dr. Pete Dawson do is how he started each day. He would go to his desk and spend 15 to 20 minutes writing six things on a 3×5 card. These weren’t a To Do list. These were six things that would direct him toward his next BHAG. He would place the card in his breast pocket. He did this day in and day out. 

Two weeks before he passed, Pete came to my lake house on oxygen. When he arrived, I had to help him out of the car and into the house on his walker. I looked at his shirt pocket, and there it was, the 3×5 card.  

We don’t have to use 3×5 cards to make notes for ourselves. We can use our phones. But it is powerful to reflect daily on steps that will take us in the direction we want to go and record those steps to lock them in our memory.  

In dentistry, we need to carve out habitual time to think about our goals and steppingstones. We need to carve out time to take the identified steps. The point is to have a system in place where you are thinking about it every day, because there is so much coming at us all day long that we are at risk of drowning in the noise.  

When we get caught up in the mundane, life is less interesting and less fulfilling. At least that has been my experience. When you sense you are becoming bored, you might just need to identify the next big goal that excites you. The challenge of getting there will bring you back to full life. 

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John Cranham, DDS

Dr. John Cranham practices in Chesapeake, Virginia focusing on esthetic dentistry, implant dentistry, occlusal reconstruction, TMJ/Facial Pain and solving complex problems with an interdisciplinary focus. He practices with his daughter Kaitlyn, who finished dental school in 2020. He is an honors graduate of The Medical College of Virginia in 1988. He served the school as a part time clinical instructor from 1991-1998 earning the student given part time faculty of the year twice during his stint at the university. After studying form the greats in occlusion (Pete Dawson & The Pankey Institute) and Cosmetic Dentistry (Nash, Dickerson, Hornbrook, Rosental, Spear, Kois) during the 1990’s, Dr. Cranham created a lecture in 1997 called The Cosmetic Occlusal Connection. This one day lecture kept him very busy presenting his workflows on these seemingly diametrically opposed ideas. In 2001 he created Cranham Dental Seminars which provided, both lecture, and intensive hands on opportunities to learn. In 2004 he began lecturing at the The Dawson Academy with his mentor Pete Dawson, which led to the merging of Cranham Dental Seminars with The Dawson Academy in 2007. He became a 1/3 partner and its acting Clinical Director and that held that position until September of 2020. His responsibilities included the standardization of the content & faculty within The Academy, teaching the Lecture Classes all over the world, overseeing the core curriculum, as well as constantly evolving the curriculum to stay up to pace with the ever evolving world of Dentistry. During his 25 years as an educator, he became one of the most sought after speakers in dentistry. To date he has presented over 1650 full days of continuing education all over the world. Today he has partnered with Lee Culp CDT, and their focus is on integrating sound occlusal, esthetic, and sound restorative principles into efficient digital workflows, and ultimately coaching doctors on how to integrate them into their practices. He does this under the new umbrella Cranham Culp Digital Dental. Dr. Cranham has published numerous articles on restorative dentistry and in 2018 released a book The Complete Dentist he co-authored with Pete Dawson. In 2011 He along with Dr. Drew Cobb created The Dawson Diagnostic Wizard treatment planning software that today it is known as the Smile Wizard. Additionally, He has served as a key opinion leader and on advisory boards with numerous dental companies. In 2020 he published a book entitled “The Cornell Effect-A Families Journey Toward Happiness, Fulfillment and Peace”. It is an up from the ashes story about his adopted son, who overcame incredible odds, and ultimately inspired the entire family to be better. In November of 2021 it climbed to #5 on the Amazon best seller list in its category. Of all the things he has done, he believes getting this story down on paper is having the greatest impact.

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Effective Strategies for Managing Transition in Your Dental Practice Part 3 

July 5, 2024 Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

By Edwin “Mac” McDonald DDS  

Effective management during transitions directly impacts overall success. By implementing these strategies, you’ll lead your dental practice through change more smoothly. In Part 1 of this series, I described Phase One: The Ending Zone, the time during which a team is feeling the loss of the familiar and coping with uncertainty. In Part 2, I described Phase 2: The Neutral Zone, the time when a team is learning to embrace the change. Let’s look at what is likely to happen in Phase Three as a team continues to transition through change. 

Phase Three: New Beginnings  

During the third phase, the grieving is now passing or gone. This is when you and your team begin to identify yourselves (your culture) with “the new”—whether that be a practice ownership change, addition of more team members, merging with another dental practice, moving to a new office, updating your technology, adding a new niche service, dropping PPOs, or changing your operational systems (how you do things). The change is affecting their daily work and interactions with patients and each other. Adding to this burden is the tendency for patients to ask questions about the change. They also want to know about and feel connected to the change. Time and energy go into that additional communication. 

 

But, wonderfully, uncertainty is gone and things are clearer to the team members. Commitment becomes high again, and things start to feel “normal” again. People’s sense of competence is greater, they are able to easily identify the practice’s values to what is happening and how they are personally connected to them. When leaders and team members get to this stage, they can focus on the quality of the patient experience, and a new sense of commitment is felt. 

Strategies for Managing this Phase 

  • Continue to talk with your team and individuals about how they are feeling about the change. 
  • Acknowledge team members that have contributed to the changes. Doing this publicly cultivates trust and gives an example for others to follow. 
  • Give individuals a part to play in sustaining the change and ensuring that it becomes the way of working or operating. People need to feel as though they are a part of it. Some leaders who have a hard time with delegating may need to practice letting go. 

 

Keep in Mind 

  • Ultimately, the leader’s ability to communicate effectively will be the leading success factor in managing transition. 
  • Approach other natural leaders in your practice – these are the people that others tend to follow or listen to , so get their buy-in early in the process. This will provide more support for you during the process. 
  • Expect people’s performance to drop during the process and give grace to those that are not at their highest and best. Eventually, they will reach the other side and so will you! 

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Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

Dr. Edwin A. McDonald III received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Economics from Midwestern State University. He earned his DDS degree from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston. Dr. McDonald has completed extensive training in dental implant dentistry through the University of Florida Center for Implant Dentistry. He has also completed extensive aesthetic dentistry training through various programs including the Seattle Institute, The Pankey Institute and Spear Education. Mac is a general dentist in Plano Texas. His practice is focused on esthetic and restorative dentistry. He is a visiting faculty member at the Pankey Institute. Mac also lectures at meetings around the country and has been very active with both the Dallas County Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. Currently, he is a student in the Naveen Jindal School of Business at the University of Texas at Dallas pursuing a graduate certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching. With Dr. Joel Small, he is co-founder of Line of Sight Coaching, dedicated to helping healthcare professionals develop leadership and coaching skills that improve the effectiveness, morale and productivity of their teams.

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Partnering in Health Part 7: The Path to a More Elegant Treatment Plan 

July 3, 2024 Mary Osborne RDH

By Mary Osborne, RDH 

Dr. Rachel Naomi Remin says, “Doctor, you may know what’s best for the disease the patient has but that’s not the same as knowing what’s best for the patient.”  

It’s difficult to let go of our own assumptions about what we’re supposed to do, how healthy this person should be based on our criteria, and what is the best path forward in every situation. Our clinical training leads us to believe that we’re supposed to know what’s best for our patient. 

There is another quote, from Dr. Albert Schweitzer, which has challenged my thinking about patient care for a long time:  

“Patients carry their own doctor inside.”  

I believe that every one of us has opinions, ideas, and knowledge about our own health. That is the doctor inside. Dr. Schweitzer said patients come to us knowing we have expertise, but “we are at our best when we give the physician who resides within each patient a chance to go to work.” When we do that, we help people become healthier. 

There is a place for our solutions. There is a place for our expertise to show up. But if we slow ourselves down a half step, we are often amazed at the answers patients come up with. They can be downright creative and elegant. The reason they are elegant is because they are their solutions, and patients are more likely to follow through with solutions they conceive. I’m not saying we shouldn’t guide them to understanding the advantages and disadvantages of their solutions and other possibilities that you we know are out there, but we should be open to allowing them to think about solutions and not prejudge their choices. 

For example, if a patient says she or he doesn’t have time to floss, I was trained to say, “Well, don’t you watch the evening news? You can do it while you’re watching the news. Right?” That’s about me having the solution. But now I sit back and say to the patient, “Well, it sounds like you’re very busy. Is there any time at all during the day when you’re sitting, and you feel that you could floss easily?” When I ask the question, they usually have a better answer than the nightly news. It’s a better solution because it’s their solution. They have bought into it at some level.  

In many cases, we see the “treatment” for a problem as we’re seeing the problem. That’s something that we take a great deal of pride in. But when we come together with our patient, sitting eye to eye, we can often come to a much more elegant treatment plan, one that moves us more comprehensively toward our goal of improved health. In between what is and what is possible, we encourage the patient to discover the level of health to which they aspire. We come to mutual agreement about going forward in a certain way to accomplish some things that are bigger and better than just solving “a problem.” 

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Effective Strategies for Managing Transition in Your Dental Practice (Part 2)

July 1, 2024 Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

By Edwin “Mac” McDonald DDS  

Effective management during transitions directly impacts overall success. By implementing these strategies, you’ll lead your dental practice through change more smoothly. In Part 1 of this series, I described Phase One: The Ending Zone, the time during which your team is feeling the loss of the familiar and coping with uncertainty. In Part 1, I also listed communication strategies to help them cope. Let’s look at what is likely to happen as you and your team continue to transition through change. 

Phase Two: The Neutral Zone 

During this transition phase known as the “Neutral Zone” or “Chaos Zone,” team members grapple with the loss of the old ways and the unfamiliarity of the new. Competency levels vary, and individuals may feel consciously incompetent or consciously competent. What do I mean by that? 

Some may feel they now know what they didn’t about the change and understand the value of it. They are ready to navigate the change emotionally. Others may feel they are starting to “get it” and deal with it. And others have become champions of the change and model confident competence in making the transition. Others will still experience confusion, stress, doubt or skepticism. This is when leaders need to step up and put on an encourager and coaching hat. 

Strategies for Managing this Phase 

  • Discuss Strengths Utilizations: Encourage team members to identify how the change allows them to use their strengths differently and explore new opportunities. 
  • Open Conversations: Lead them in conversation and empower them to create solutions as issues of the transition arise. Foster teamwork and purpose as you converse with them, so they feel vital to the practice. Encourage them to talk among themselves and lean on one another as a team because you want to retain that team. Express your appreciation for them navigating and embracing the change. You can take them outside of the office for a social meal that does not feel formal and they can feel connected even outside the office.  
  • Provide Support: They will feel the need for information in order to feel secure. Ensure communication networks are open. Bringing in a transitions coach helps. Consider what HR resources you can make available to support individuals during this challenging phase. 

Remember, effective management during transitions directly impacts overall success. By implementing these strategies, you’ll lead your dental practice through change more smoothly. 

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Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

Dr. Edwin A. McDonald III received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Economics from Midwestern State University. He earned his DDS degree from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston. Dr. McDonald has completed extensive training in dental implant dentistry through the University of Florida Center for Implant Dentistry. He has also completed extensive aesthetic dentistry training through various programs including the Seattle Institute, The Pankey Institute and Spear Education. Mac is a general dentist in Plano Texas. His practice is focused on esthetic and restorative dentistry. He is a visiting faculty member at the Pankey Institute. Mac also lectures at meetings around the country and has been very active with both the Dallas County Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. Currently, he is a student in the Naveen Jindal School of Business at the University of Texas at Dallas pursuing a graduate certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching. With Dr. Joel Small, he is co-founder of Line of Sight Coaching, dedicated to helping healthcare professionals develop leadership and coaching skills that improve the effectiveness, morale and productivity of their teams.

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Boundaries in Dental Practice (Part 2)

June 29, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

By Paul A. Henny, DDS 

In Part 1, we looked at personal boundaries in dental practice. I mentioned scarcity bias and how it is prevalent in undifferentiated dental practices but not so much in dental practices where providers and patients mutually share the values and agenda of the practice. Because scarcity bias is so human, so ingrained in us, I want to discuss two things in Part 2: healthy relationships and also how to address scarcity bias as it occurs in our differentiated dental practices. 

Insight Into Our Boundaries Leads to Healthy Relationships 

Healthy interdependent relationships are only possible through first understanding our personal boundaries (Who am I? What am I responsible for? What am I not responsible for?). That’s critical because psychologically speaking, boundaries are like fence lines with consciously regulated gates.  

The aphorism “Good fences make for good neighbors” prevails.  The same logic applies to the practice of dentistry and the nature of the relationships that we create—consciously or not, within it.  

And Now, We Circle Back to Differentiation  

Healthy interpersonal boundaries lead us toward more interpersonal authenticity, which leads us toward higher-quality communication of our values and purpose. Higher quality communication leads to a more sophisticated level of collaboration and healthy results, including healthy interdependent relationships, self-reflection, self-responsibility, improved oral and total body health, improved mental health, and a constantly growing reputation for your values. That’s differentiation. That’s personal authenticity. That’s success. 

Addressing Scarcity Bias 

Once we understand ourselves well and we communicate consistently with personal authenticity, we still have the challenge of “knee-jerk” scarcity bias in our patients. This is where patience comes in and empathy—understanding and recognizing their feelings. 

People are biased toward the here and now. The mind is naturally focused on meeting immediate needs at the expense of future ones. We procrastinate important things such as dental treatment unless we have an urgent need for it. We fail to make investments, even when the future benefits are significant or the costs of not doing so are substantial. 

When the dentist and patient participate equally in a co-discovery examination process and co-discovery consultations to discuss health history and current findings, and the patient is empowered and becomes comfortable mentioning everything on their mind, we have already begun the powerful process of leading each other through understanding what is happening in the body and what is happening in the mind (feelings and thoughts). We can start to talk about what the patient would like to achieve long term—the patient’s beyond-the-moment oral health goals. We can start to talk about what is possible to achieve together and introduce the notion that we can take steps at the speed that is mutually comfortable for us. 

Inspiration to do “the work” is often planted with just a few words that create a future desirable image in the patient’s mind. If we have the patience to let the inspiration grow, without overwhelming the patient, scarcity bias can dissipate. Often patients come back to the conversation the next time they visit us and say, “I was thinking about what we talked about, and I think I am ready to…”  

Negotiating health goals between two adults starts as an invitation to agree upon common goals. We can start early in the doctor-patient and hygienist-patient relationships by instilling the thought that preventive health care is a partnership. They can’t do it alone and you can’t do it for them. Everyone must play their part responsibly. 

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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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Effective Strategies for Managing Transition in Your Dental Practice (Part 1) 

June 26, 2024 Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

By Edwin “Mac” McDonald DDS  

Change is inevitable, and dental practices often experience significant shifts. Whether it’s practice acquisitions, personnel changes, or technology updates, leaders must navigate these transitions effectively. Here are some key strategies: 

Clear Communication: Effective communication is crucial during change initiatives. Prioritize clear and frequent communication with your team. 

Recognize Transition Phases: Understand the different phases your team will go through during transitions. Recognizing these stages helps you address their needs appropriately. 

Feedback Matters: Despite its challenges, providing feedback is essential. Avoiding it can lead to decreased morale, reduced productivity, and increased stress among team members. 

Remember, effective management during transitions directly impacts overall success. By implementing these strategies, you’ll lead your dental practice through change more smoothly. 

Phase One: The Ending Zone 

In the first phase of change, you are saying goodbye to the old and how people either individually or as a whole identify with the familiarity of it. People may experience denial, numbness, or resistance. The way each person feels and copes is likely to vary. 

It might feel like a significant loss to someone, so it is important that the leader understands how many people are affected at varying degrees of uncertainty and resentment due to the “loss” of what is no longer. Uncertainty and resentment create an environment in which team members may expend energy but not get much done.  

Recognize that this will be a time of loss and grieving for most. The key element that has the biggest positive impact is communication. I have walked several practices through ownership changes. One of them was a privately owned practice that was being acquired by a very prominent corporation. The initial response and reactions from the team members ranged from denial and numbness to resistance. Some employees who had been there the longest felt betrayed. These reactions varied from day to day, and week to week. What helped was constant communication. 

Before a change starts to happen, before the team sees signs of a transition coming, it is important to start communicating why and the transition that is likely to occur. Making employees feel secure and hopeful will reduce uncertainty and resentment. The more certainty you can give them about what will transpire and the future benefits they can expect the easier everyone will move forward, being productive and carrying forward the positive relationships you have invested in over the years. 

Strategies for Managing this Phase 

  1. Explain the rationale for the change and the benefits of it. If you are able, elaborate for each team member or department. There needs to be a venue to express concerns or gain support to bring about the closure. People need to know that you care about them as individuals. 
  1. Be transparent. Describe in detail what will change and also what will remain the same. Transparency is vital to cultivate trust. 
  1. Describe and celebrate the success and values of the previous ways of working and identify how they will be enhanced by the change. 

As long as we, the leaders, recognize their feelings, we have the opportunity to effectively help our team move to the next phase, so they do not stay in the ending zone too long. 

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Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

Dr. Edwin A. McDonald III received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Economics from Midwestern State University. He earned his DDS degree from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston. Dr. McDonald has completed extensive training in dental implant dentistry through the University of Florida Center for Implant Dentistry. He has also completed extensive aesthetic dentistry training through various programs including the Seattle Institute, The Pankey Institute and Spear Education. Mac is a general dentist in Plano Texas. His practice is focused on esthetic and restorative dentistry. He is a visiting faculty member at the Pankey Institute. Mac also lectures at meetings around the country and has been very active with both the Dallas County Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. Currently, he is a student in the Naveen Jindal School of Business at the University of Texas at Dallas pursuing a graduate certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching. With Dr. Joel Small, he is co-founder of Line of Sight Coaching, dedicated to helping healthcare professionals develop leadership and coaching skills that improve the effectiveness, morale and productivity of their teams.

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Partnering in Health Part 6: Seek a Mutual Goal 

June 21, 2024 Mary Osborne RDH

By Mary Osborne, RDH 

How can we make recommendations for care without fully understanding what the patient aspires to? The patient’s goals are the context or should be the context for recommendations that we are going to make as their partner in health. Too often, context is the missing piece in our conversations with patients.  

I’ve heard that Dr. Bob Barkley would say to his patients, “You know, Mrs. Jones, if I had taken X-rays of you every six months since you were born, we would have 80 sets of x-rays. And if I stacked them one on top of another and then thumbed through them, I would have a movie of the health of your mouth for the last 40 years. We would see how your teeth changed from health to the degree of breakdown we see today. We can’t do anything now to change that movie. That movie has already been made. But, if you like, you and I can work together to create the movie for the next 40 years. Is that something you’d like to do?” 

If we get agreement from the patient, “Yes, I’d like to work together with you to plan for the next 40 years,” that’s not a specific goal, but it begins to create a context for our recommendations. Instead of the provider setting the expectations of the patient, it becomes more of a mutual agreement to long-term planning, so that there’s a buy-in by both parties in the relationship. That’s moving toward a partnership.  

When we set a general mutual goal during the preclinical consults, it fits in well with our not knowing what we will uncover during the clinical piece of the appointment. Dentists and hygienists can be direct about it, and I think there is value in saying, “I’d like to come to a mutual agreement that we work together to understand what is going on in your mouth, and based on the circumstances we find, come up with the best solutions for you. Is that something you would like to do?” 

We can set expectations by saying, “As we go through this process, I will be asking for your input. We’ll take it slow and be thorough. We’ll discuss what you and I discover, and together we can think through the next steps you may want to take. How does that sound to you?” 

I think it is essential to this process to invite the patient to be in shared control by asking, “Would you like to proceed with the clinical examination? Do you have any questions for me before we begin?” 

When we come to the conversation as fellow travelers with the attitude that “the two of us can work together,” we open ourselves to working toward mutual agreement about what it’s going to take for this particular person to achieve the level of health to which they aspire. Starting as partners with the goal of improved health is a low-stress way of being in a relationship that is comfortable for both parties. 

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Mary Osborne RDH

Mary is known internationally as a writer and speaker on patient care and communication. Her writing has been acclaimed in respected print and online publications. She is widely known at dental meetings in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. Her passion for dentistry inspires individuals and groups to bring the best of themselves to their work, and to fully embrace the difference they make in the lives of those they serve.

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Values In Transition 

June 19, 2024 Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

By Edwin “Mac” McDonald DDS  

Change isn’t just about external circumstances; it’s also an inner evolution. We go on a transformative journey, and our reflections as we go touch upon our intention and legacy, our personal identity amidst the change, and decisions we make as the change unfolds.  

Challenge 1: Intention and Legacy 

When facing change, having a clear intention is like setting the compass for your journey. What legacy do you aspire to leave behind? Aligning your actions with your deeply held beliefs ensures congruence between your intentions and outcomes. But stress may cause you to move away from your most deeply held beliefs. I’ve witnessed this happen, just as I’ve witnessed deeply held beliefs guide what happens. 

Challenge 2: Personal Identity Amidst Change 

The question “Who do I want to be during this transition?” is profound. It invites introspection. Consider how you want to show up for yourself and those around you, especially those who are most important to you. Authenticity matters. 

Challenge 3: Listening and Accountability 

Change often involves decisions. Whose voices matter? Listening deeply to trusted individuals—those who respect and understand you—can provide valuable perspectives. Forming a leadership team of diverse viewpoints helps guide you toward success. 

The Importance of Values During Dental Practice Mergers and Acquisitions 

Many private dental practices are being acquired by large partnerships in 2024. These transitions have tons of potential and profit associated with them. Associated with these transitions are complex changes for the practice owner and team members…expanded ownership, more complex organizational structure, new operational systems, and a distancing of some decision making. They also come with the unknown of who will be your future partners after the next sale of the organization. Are you prepared for all of that?  

Preparing yourself and your team is essential. On the front end, asking every possible question including questions about the partnership’s core values, how they are integrated into the day-to-day operations, and communicating the importance of that to you and your team is essential to long term success. These questions and expressions are an attempt to examine the congruence and compatibility between you, your team, and your new partners. 

I am witnessing several friends transition successfully to one of these new partnerships. The common factor I observe is that each dentist has great self-awareness and received very strong assurance that they would retain autonomy to continue to practice according to the most deeply rooted values. I also observed that the large partnership was very stable with excellent systems and had high quality leadership.  

My father often told me: “The person that you have an agreement with is more important than the agreement itself.” In other words, a person of strong character will find a way to honor the intent of the agreement regardless of the specific circumstances of the moment. Values have longevity. Circumstances come and go. 

I have also witnessed an abandonment of strongly held values as an organization was going through the painful changes of decline. In abandoning their values, stakeholders were hurt and distanced themselves. It intensified and accelerated the decline. Values matter. Character counts. Clinging to our core values in times of change or decline will increase and accelerate recovery. There are countless Fortune 500 case studies to support this idea. 

Another Example of Values in Transition from My Life 

Finally, I want to leave you with a case study from my church, The Village Church. We had become a multi-site church in response to the demand of many people attending our main campus. As it grew, our leadership became painfully aware that it was not fulfilling our mission and it was not consistent with our closely held values of community and individual relationships. Over a period of several years, each church was given the opportunity to vote on becoming independent. They all voted around 95% in favor of the change. We gave away around 40 million dollars of real estate, equipment, furniture, and other assets to all of the churches.  

Today, the new independent churches are thriving as is our main campus where we attend. The decision was in conflict with everything that is happening in our business and church worlds where there is constant consolidation and scaling. However, the decision was consistent with the values that drive the purpose of the church. The change created multiple thriving churches that are serving their specific communities and growing people and their impact on our world. 

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Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

Dr. Edwin A. McDonald III received his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Economics from Midwestern State University. He earned his DDS degree from the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston. Dr. McDonald has completed extensive training in dental implant dentistry through the University of Florida Center for Implant Dentistry. He has also completed extensive aesthetic dentistry training through various programs including the Seattle Institute, The Pankey Institute and Spear Education. Mac is a general dentist in Plano Texas. His practice is focused on esthetic and restorative dentistry. He is a visiting faculty member at the Pankey Institute. Mac also lectures at meetings around the country and has been very active with both the Dallas County Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. Currently, he is a student in the Naveen Jindal School of Business at the University of Texas at Dallas pursuing a graduate certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching. With Dr. Joel Small, he is co-founder of Line of Sight Coaching, dedicated to helping healthcare professionals develop leadership and coaching skills that improve the effectiveness, morale and productivity of their teams.

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Partnering in Health Part 5: Do you have TIME for new patients? 

June 17, 2024 Mary Osborne RDH

By Mary Osborne, RDH 

How much time do you schedule for a new patient, non-emergency visit? Is your priority efficiency or effectiveness? Is your goal to gather as much clinical data as possible, or is it to begin to build a relationship of mutual trust? Both are possible if you see the new patient visit as more of a process than an event.   

Too often new patients are rushed through an assembly line: brief conversation, clinical exam, diagnostic records, and treatment presentation! Is that really the best way to help people make choices about their health?  

There is no one right way to schedule a new patient. Different practices are successful with different models based on the values of the practice, practice growth, and the personality and skills of doctors and team members. The most important determinant of success is our ability to meet each patient where they are and join them on a journey to health. I am not suggesting we should be without practice standards of care.  We have a responsibility to decide what we need before beginning treatment. Our challenge is to guide patients to understanding why we need what we need, and why that is relevant to their unique situation.   

We may anticipate that patients will resist this type of experience, but if we make it truly about the patient and are flexible, I have found that patients are more than willing to participate in an individualized process that best meets their temperament and circumstances. 

I remember seeing a new patient that I was told was a “very busy attorney” because his secretary said so when she made the appointment and his wife said so when she confirmed the appointment. I anticipated that he would be a driver and prepared to efficiently move him through his appointment.  

As I explored his health history with him he expanded on the specific answers to questions. Soon, he was leading the conversation. When I remarked that I wanted to make sure we were making good use of his time. He said, “Mary, what’s this about time?” I replied that I knew he was very busy. He said, “Mary, this is about me. I have time for me.” 

His statement has stayed with me because I realized that if the conversation had been about me going through my check list and not listening to him, it would not have been a worthwhile experience for him. It also wouldn’t have been a worthwhile experience for me. 

I have learned that when the patient feels in control of the process they are willing to give that time to themselves. A lot of aha moments occur as they learn about themselves while speaking. When patients feel like they are on an assembly line being moved through our system, they have every right to be resistant.  

Empowering patients to lead the process is both an attitude and a learnable skill. When we can lose ourselves in the moment, really listen, really encourage, and really care about the patient’s thoughts and feelings, it is easy to make connections to the next step we recommend.  It is my experience that I can more quickly become a trusted health advisor when I intentionally share control with my patient. 

Most patients are willing to invest more time in the process when they see the connection between their needs and what we recommend.  These are typically patients who have or have had complex health issues and are seeking to improve and retain health. They perceive the value of the extended process and how much value you place on spending in-depth time with them.  

The entire team’s communication can deliver the message that everyone in the practice is keenly interested in them, and their appointment is uniquely planned to meet their needs.  

What has been your experience? Are you open to scheduling more time for conversations that typically garner trust and appreciation earlier in the relationship? 

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Mary Osborne RDH

Mary is known internationally as a writer and speaker on patient care and communication. Her writing has been acclaimed in respected print and online publications. She is widely known at dental meetings in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. Her passion for dentistry inspires individuals and groups to bring the best of themselves to their work, and to fully embrace the difference they make in the lives of those they serve.

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A Simple Score Sheet Gamifies Moving Patients Forward 

June 10, 2024 Clayton Davis, DMD

By Clayton Davis, DDS 

About 15 years ago, my wife and I were on a trip to New York City. My laboratory had told me about two dentists there who practiced together and did an amazing amount of cosmetic and restorative dentistry. Their best month was about six or seven times more than my best month, so I was curious. I knew they had studied with some of the same mentors I had. They had gone to Pankey and Dawson. They have a a comprehensive approach. While I was in New York, one morning I told my wife I was going to visit their Manhattan office and see what I could learn. 

Their office had reasonable furnishings (nothing fancy) and a reasonable level of equipment. It was tidy with nice staff. It seemed similar to what I have in my office. I sat down with the dentist who was there that day, and he shared with me what they do in their practice. They do a fair amount of marketing in health and beauty magazines that are circulated in the New York City area but otherwise it all sounded very familiar to my practice.  

A few moments later, there was a knock at the door. It was the hygienist, and she said, “Doctor, ready when you get a chance for your examination. Mr. Anderson is in today, you may not recall, but he had said that he wanted to get his veneers done after his daughter graduated from college. That was a couple years ago when he said that, and his daughter is graduating in June, so it’s time to bring that up again. I mentioned it to him today, and he’s scheduled to start that in July. So, when you want to come on in and talk to him about it, that would be great.” 

She walked away, and I looked at the dentist. I said, “What just happened? The hygienist handled everything about moving that patient forward for treatment. I can’t get mine to do that. As a matter of fact, we’ve had conversations, and they don’t seem to feel comfortable doing that.” 

He said, “I don’t know. We talked to them about it, and they’re tremendous about it. They really help our practice move patients into treatment.” 

I went home wondering how I could move my hygienists in the same direction, and an old business concept came back to me. If you want to improve something, you need to come up with a way to measure it. So, I came up with a form for logging what I call “Hygiene Points” and presented it to my hygienists. We talked about how we want to improve our ability to move patients forward with their treatment through the hygiene department. I simply asked them to score themselves on how it went at each appointment in talking to patients about any kind of treatment that came up. 

As each patient passes through hygiene, they receive a score. The lowest score, a score of 1, is for when I come into the operatory, talk to the hygiene patient, bring up some previously recommended treatment, and they go ahead and schedule it. A score of 2 is for when the hygienist finds a problem like a cracked tooth and says that it needs to be monitored. A score of 3 is for when I’m in hygiene and diagnose something new and get the patient to commit to schedule treatment. A score of 4 is for when the hygienist gets previously recommended treatment scheduled at the front desk without my involvement. A score of 5 is for when the hygienist takes an intraoral picture and points out a problem to me and I get a commitment to schedule. In other words, they say, “Let’s take a picture of this. I want Dr. Davis’s opinion on it when he comes in the room.” And then because the hygienist was concerned and I confirm in front of the patient that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, the patient schedules treatment. The collaboration and communication go so well, this is worth 5 points. And then the ultimate score is 6 for when the hygienist gets a commitment to schedule treatment for an obvious problem before I come in to confirm the diagnosis.  

The first couple of months that we used this scoring, we recorded a baseline monthly total.  After that, the competitive instincts of the hygienists kicked in and they wanted to improve their total score each month. I did not give them a reward incentive, and over two years, more production was coming out of hygiene. The old saw “You can improve what you measure” has certainly increased restorative collaboration and revenue in our practice, and the pursuit of higher Hygiene Points has been fun. 

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Clayton Davis, DMD

Dr. Clayton Davis received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina. Continuing his education at the Medical College of Georgia, he earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree in 1980. Having grown up in the Metro Atlanta area, Dr. Davis and his wife, Julia, returned to establish practice and residence in Gwinnett County. In addition to being a Visiting Faculty Member of The Pankey Institute, Dr. Davis is a leader in Georgia dentistry, both in terms of education and service. He is an active member of the Atlanta Dental Study Group, Hinman Dental Society, and the Georgia Academy of Dental Practice. He served terms as president of the Georgia Dental Education Foundation, Northern District Dental Society, Gwinnett Dental Society, and Atlanta Dental Study Group. He has been state coordinator for Children’s Dental Health Month, facilities chairman of Georgia Mission of Mercy, and served three terms in the Georgia Dental Association House of Delegates.

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