Create an Organizational Culture that Is the Antithesis of Learned Helplessness 

May 24, 2024 Pina Johnson

By Pina Johnson, Professional Certified Coach, and Edwin (Mac) McDonald, DDS 

B.F. Skinner, a noted 20th century behavioral psychologist, conducted an intriguing and provocative experiment using laboratory mice. Using behavioral conditioning he was able to condition one group of mice to believe that through their actions they were able to determine their fate. Using the same methodology, he also succeeded in conditioning another group of mice to believe that there was nothing they could do to alter their fate. 

He then placed the first group of mice, the ones that believed their actions mattered, into a large tub filled with water. As anticipated, this group of mice, when placed in a life-threatening situation, acted instinctively and began to swim to the side of the large water-filled tub. Upon reaching the edge of the tub the mice were able to crawl out to safety. 

The second group of mice, the ones that believed that their actions were meaningless, when placed in the tub of water, simply sank to the bottom and drowned. Appropriately, the lack of responsiveness displayed by the second group of mice was termed “learned helplessness.” 

Culture Lifts or Sinks Ambition 

Belief that our actions and choices matter is essential to “making things happen.” 

According to Edgar Schein, an icon of modern leadership thought, the primary function of leadership is to create an organizational culture. The culture that we choose to create will influence every aspect of our organization and ultimately determine our dental practice’s success or failure. 

Value-based leaders understand the power to alter the course of the organization does not reside with a few; it is shared by many. Organizations with cultures based on shared beliefs and purpose are higher performing. Leaders of the highest performing organizations foster cultures rich in collaborative decision making and a profound belief that everyone has influence. 

Counter Learned Helplessness by Empowering Self-Confidence 

We have come to recognize that good-old “self-confidence” is a learned competency, and effective leaders create organizational cultures that promote and teach self-confidence to each individual team member. This is accomplished by empowering teams through collaborative decision making and ensuring each team member has been given the knowledge, skill, support, resources, and appropriate authority to accomplish each task required to meet the shared goal. 

Unleash Teamwork and Creativity 

In organizations with shared leadership cultures, human self-confidence is unleashed beyond saving oneself to act in the best interest of the organization. Knowing that our individual actions will have some effect on our organization’s future (and thus on our own future and the future of others we value) compels us to want to take actions that have positive benefit for everyone. This is “meaningful” for the individuals within the organization. This raises their engagement in the work and simultaneously generates a sense of wellbeing.  

In our dental practices, “We are serving others with empathy and care to ultimately improve their wellbeing.” This is a form of love. It begets appreciation and reciprocity. When the slings and arrows of daily life initiate negative thoughts of being out of control of a situation, remembering our purpose and prior successes enables us to see disappointments and frustrations as opportunities to create a new type of approach and carry on. 

The goal for effective leaders is to allow all of this to happen in a psychologically safe environment in which our staff need not fear repercussions for their well-intended actions even if the outcome of these actions is less than ideal. By creating organizational cultures that are psychologically safe, we draw out our organizational creativity which is often stifled by the psychological repression found in command-and-control cultures. 

Creative thinking is considered to be one our highest-level cognitive functions and has been found to be a distinguishing characteristic of exceptional organizations. The wise leader understands that their organization is best served through shared power, collaboration, and utilization of their organization’s collective creativity. 

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What Motivates Dental Teams? 

May 15, 2024 Pina Johnson

By Pina Johnson Professional Certified Coach 

 What motivates teams is a question that has been asked for as long as someone has been seeking solutions for organizational performance. The day of top-down (or command-and-control) leadership is gone.  

Daniel Pink, in his 2009 book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, takes a deep dive into the decades long effort to understand the research around human motivation in the modern workplace. Consistently, employers believe they are doing a great job of recognizing, rewarding, and motivating their employees. The people that work for them report the opposite. The tension between the two groups is observable and measurable. In this book, Pink discusses the key patterns that are consistent in what motivates people., takes a deep dive into the decades long effort to understand the research around human motivation in the modern workplace. To his credit, he uncovers the key patterns that are consistent in what motivates people. 

What doesn’t work—external rewards and punishments 

Although there are times and places to administer rewards (carrots) and consequences for behaviors that violate the organization’s values (sticks), “carrot and stick” strategies do not work and have not been working for quite some time. In fact, according to a great deal of research, these strategies reduce performance over time after a brief initial improvement when they are introduced.  

What does work—internal motivations 

Research has clearly demonstrated that there are three primary internal motivations that drive team member engagement: 

  1. Autonomy 
  1. Mastery 
  1. Purpose 

Autonomy over your work appears to be the strongest driving force among those three. There are many aspects to autonomy that you can explore in Daniel Pink’s book. My takeaways are that people want: 

  • Control over how they do their work 
  • Ability to creatively enhance the methodology of their work 
  • A strong voice in the direction and future of their work 

This begs the questions:  

  • Have you met individually with each team member and talked about this?  
  • Are you giving them the freedom to do their jobs well?  
  • Are you developing them with training opportunities and direct challenges?  

Responsibility without authority creates frustration. Responsibility demands autonomy. 

Mastery is defined as the desire to get better and better at something that matters. You can feel the natural connection to Autonomy as the desire to improve is based in each person’s unique gifts, talents, skills, and desire to use these for something important.  

Control seeks compliance. Autonomy seeks engagement. When a person becomes fully engaged in an activity, and is challenged enough to be stimulated, they can lose themself in that activity be it work or play. That optimal state of peak performance is described as flow. Mastery happens in and through those experiences of flow. Mastery is a mindset that requires a great deal of grit and becomes the infinite game that we never complete. 

Purpose answers the question for each person: “What are you supposed to do with your one short life?” When the organization has a clear purpose, the individual understands their role in that purpose. When they connect the organization’s purpose to their own life’s purpose, then you have a powerful force at work. Is the purpose of your organization clear? Have you asked the key people in your organization what their purpose is? Have you helped them to connect those two purposes?  

Our responsibility 

As practice owners and leaders, we are people developers. Everyone possesses a unique set of gifts, talents, hopes, dreams, and ultimately a life purpose. Unlocking that unique set of internal motivators for everyone on your team is the key to building an abundant future. That future is defined by a transformational mindset rather than a transactional mindset in which power is limited by time, redundancy, compliance, and efficiency.  

Each person motivates themself. Our role as a leader is to help our team members, one at a time, to discover, connect with, and unleash their powerful internal motivators. Then together, as a team, we can channel all of that discretionary energy into a shared mental model with a laser-like focus on the organization’s clearly defined and stated purpose.  

Pina Johnson PCC is a Certified Professional Coach with the International Coach Federation, and as a former practice administrator, she has over 20 years of experience in the dental field. Her coaching strategy and emphasis lie in developing leadership skills and practice cultures that produce peak-performing teams along with increased productivity and profitability. In her private practice, Pina specializes in group coaching. Partnering with Drs. Joel Small and Edwin (Mac) McDonald at Line of Sight Coaching, she coaches many dental teams with great success, resulting in increased employee engagement, reduced stress, improved performance, and enhanced communication. Pina received her professional coaching certification from the University of California, Davis. Upon completing her training, she was invited back to serve in multiple capacities as a UC Davis coaching program faculty member. Pina has been a featured speaker covering topics including, The Neuroscience of Trust, Management Behaviors that Foster Employee Engagement, and How to Talk So Your Staff Will Listen, and Listen So Your Staff Will Talk. 

Pina is a Member of the American Association of Dental Office Managers, Dental Speaking Consulting Network, Dental Entrepreneur Women, International Coach Federation, and the ICF Sacramento Chapter. 

 

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How Do You Like to Receive Feedback? 

April 29, 2024 Kelley Brummett DMD

Kelley Brummett, DMD 

Recently, I completed growth conferences with everyone on my team. The beauty of a growth conference is that it’s all about growth. It’s all about effort. It’s all about meeting each other and becoming more aligned with the mission of the practice. If I have something I want to share with a team member that’s a concern or something new I would like them to achieve such as mastery of a new skill, I think about how I’m going to communicate it. And as I do growth conferences with the individuals on my dental team, I am cognizant that they are likely to want to receive feedback differently as individuals.  

I’ve discovered that if I ask my employee upfront how they like to receive feedback, they pause to think before responding. I wait patiently for their response because I know the response will save both of us time and energy. For example, there are some team members who want the short and skinny of it—“Give it to me straight now.” They don’t want you to hold back. There are some team members who need to be gently warmed up before they can hear the message and require thorough explanations of why. 

I’ve discovered it helps to frequently ask the “how do you like feedback” question of my team to get their buy-in of my feedback. The beauty of “feedback” is that even criticism can be framed in a positive way as the next identified step in working towards a goal.  

Those of us in dentistry know that sometimes we move fast, but there are times that we need to sit back, think through what somebody gave us information about, and then come back and have a conversation. Mary Osborne has guided us to have conversations with patients that allow us to slow down and learn more about them so they can think, hear themselves speak, and learn about themselves. I’ve decided the feedback question is also a good question to ask patients. “How do you like to receive information? Would you like to know all the details or for me to summarize?” 

I’ve learned from Mary and experiences with patients that “staying in questions” helps them grow. Staying in questions also helps team members grow. Staying in questions helps us providers grow. So, feedback—how do you give it? How do you like to receive it? How do you handle it? I encourage you to think about this. 

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Kelley Brummett DMD

Dr. Kelley D. Brummett was born and raised in Missouri. She attended the University of Kansas on a full-ride scholarship in springboard diving and received honors for being the Big Eight Diving Champion on the 1 meter springboard in 1988 and in 1992. Dr. Kelley received her BA in communication at the University of Kansas and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After practicing nursing, Dr Kelley Brummett went on to earn a degree in Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia. She has continued her education at the Pankey Institute to further her love of learning and her pursuit to provide quality individual care. Dr. Brummett is a Clinical Instructor at Georgia Regents University and is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Brummett and her husband Darin have two children, Sarah and Sam. They have made Newnan their home for the past 9 years. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading and playing with her dogs. Dr. Brummett is an active member of the ADA, GDA, AGDA, and an alumni of the Pankey Institute.

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The Pre-Clinical Interview – Part 1 

March 4, 2024 Laura Harkin

The Pre-Clinical Interview – Part 1 

Laura Harkin, DMD, MAGD 

I am a third-generation, restorative dentist in New Holland, Pennsylvania, which may be best known for its blue, New Holland tractors. I own my grandfather’s and father’s dental practice where I am the sole provider for approximately 1,000 patients. My dental team consists of two hygienists, two assistants, and two front office administrators. 

I graduated from dental school in 2008 after short careers both in the actuarial sciences and as a stay-at-home mom. In 2010, I purchased my practice and signed up for my first course at The Pankey Institute. Note, my father also studied at the Institute when it first opened its doors in the early 70’s. One of my greatest challenges, early in my career, was learning how to diagnose oral conditions, develop and present treatment plans, and execute that treatment via phases. I found it quite overwhelming to simultaneously manage multiple, complex cases. Now, I love sharing my experience and the approach I’ve found works best for me. 

Above all, I’ve learned that in the midst of daily pressures in dentistry, we need to maintain our own health and strength to properly treat our patients and lead our teams. Surrounding ourselves with knowledgeable, positive, and compassionate colleagues helps! 

Knowing ourselves is as important as knowing our patient. 

Dr. L. D. Pankey’s Cross of Dentistry supports the belief that knowing oneself is of equal importance to knowing a patient whom we choose to treat. This challenge forever evolves because no person remains unchanged with time. I frequently evaluate my strengths and weaknesses as a provider, team leader, and mentor. At the same time, I ask myself what aspects of patient care and business management I excel at and most love to do. I can then choose my specialist team accordingly and empower my office team to best support me. 

Together we ultimately provide a better product and higher level of care. 

To prepare specifically for the treatment planning process, my team helps me gather key information and clinical records from a patient for a comprehensive evaluation. After a thorough analysis, I carefully craft written documentation which will help educate my patient, my team, and the specialist team I’ve chosen. An added benefit is its ability to serve as legal documentation.  

I always ask a team member to join me during treatment plan presentations. They bring another set of ears and eyes so that we may better understand a patient’s motivating factors as well as the challenges they may face in receiving treatment. We encourage open and honest conversations and understand that treatment plans evolve to fit the needs of individuals. 

How do we get to know our patients? 

In addition to gathering a thorough health history and dental history, we are seeking to learn more about our patient’s chief complaint, perception of their current state of oral health, desires for treatment, and barriers to care. 

We listen intently for clues to identify a patient’s communication style. I’ve always heard that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. I practiced with my father for two years and once, after observing me, he said, “Laura, you do far too much talking. You need to really listen to what your patients are sharing.”  

I’ve had to develop the skill of active listening. To stay in the question and become comfortable with silence takes practice. Some observations that I try to make in order to effectively communicate and build a relationship with a patient are as follows: 

  • Do they seem to enjoy conversing or are they responding with short answers in order to get through the interview quickly? 
  • Do they readily ask questions and express thoughts, or are they quiet and need to be invited and prompted to share? 
  • Are they amiable? 
  • Are they distrustful or fearful due to past dental experiences? 

We need to intentionally verbalize our empathy when we’re in conversation with a patient to help them recognize that they’re being both heard and understood. 

It is beneficial to understand a patient’s background. For example, what have they done in life? What do they love to do? Who is important in their life? Sharing in these conversations will help build a rapport, lead to improved doctor/patient communication, and can help to begin a trusting relationship. 

Does the patient have limitations such as the ability to drive to appointments, afford dentistry, or find time for treatment? Do they need to discuss their oral health condition and treatment options with a trusted family member before making a decision? 

Understanding these answers helps us to not only provide respectful and resourceful solutions but also limit inaccurate assumptions. This knowledge is especially helpful in my third-generation practice, where I have many elderly patients who are dealing with health issues, multiple medical appointments, and scheduled drivers. Their desire is to simply make a careful decision for an oral rehabilitation which fits their objectives and abilities. 

Do we hear the desire for treatment? When speaking with an existing patient, I can often recognize signs of interest to move forward with previously recommended treatment. At that point in time, I often ask, “Why now?” The answer helps me clarify their chief concern(s) so that we can move forward fittingly. 

In Part 2 of this series, we will explore additional techniques to clarify our patient’s desire for oral health and long-term, oral stability. 

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 MASTERING TREATMENT PLANNING Course Description In our discussions with participants in both the Essentials and Mastery level courses, we continue to hear the desire to help establish better systems for…

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Culture Fit Versus Culture Add

February 16, 2024 Robyn Reis

Culture Fit Versus Culture Add 

Robyn Reis, Dental Practice Coach 

When you are hiring team members, you are likely thinking about how those you interview will fit into your practice culture. Do their values align with yours? Do you share similar backgrounds and philosophies? A business’s culture is a system of shared values, beliefs, and behaviors that influence how people dress, act, and perform their roles. Most practice owners work hard to have everyone get along, support one another, and work as a team to give every patient a wonderful experience. So, it’s only natural to want to find someone who fits into that culture when a position opens up. 

In the HR world, recruiters have a different approach – they are moving away from “culture fit” towards “culture add.” What does this mean exactly? A great mentor of mine, Sheri Kay, says it best, “People come together in their similarities, but they grow together in their differences.” 

On the pages of Harvard Business Review, Forbes Magazine, Fast Company, Inc., and Entrepreneur, you will read that more and more companies are moving away from the traditional culture fit that creates a monoculture where everybody has shared similarities and there is no growth. Instead, they are recreating a culture that is open to new ideas, open to conversations where people poke holes in traditional ideas and say, “Hey, what if we did this? This is what we think we want to do. Now let’s figure out why it will or will not work.” 

In recruiting a hygienist for a client, one of the candidates stood out to me. In addition to her clinical hygiene education, she also had a financial background which represented a “culture add” for this particular practice. She had a greater understanding of goal setting, the finances of the business, and how to create a profitable hygiene department. She ended up being a fantastic and productive member of their team. 

When you are in the hiring process, do you think about adding to your culture? Diverse backgrounds correlate with more diverse problem-solving and decision-making processes. In studied corporations, diversity leads to increased profitability.  

In dentistry, diverse backgrounds can lead to the attraction and retention of diverse patients. Diverse backgrounds can fill in operational holes in your business model. Does a candidate have a background in psychology, finance, education, customer service, computer IT, office administration in another industry, or marketing? Does a candidate speak a second language that will be an asset in your community? Is a candidate artistic, an exceptional writer, a community volunteer, or actively participating in other activities? 

During each interview, seek to learn what the candidate could add to your practice culture in addition to culture fit. After talking about a candidate’s resume and interests, talk about situations that occur in the practice and current needs. Ask if the candidate has ever been in similar situations and how they handled them. Do the answers indicate personality traits and strengths that will add to (complement) the team? Ask the open question, “Based on your personal experience, what insights could you add to this situation?” 

In today’s competitive market for talented team members, consider what a new hire with additional skills could add to your culture and what these new contribution possibilities could be for an amazing patient and team experience. Happy hiring! 

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Better Blood Pressure Readings Using BP Cuffs 

July 24, 2023 Lee Ann Brady DMD

In our office, we routinely take our patients’ blood pressure, and we have a variety of cuffs. Most commonly, both hygienists use one of the convenient, digital wrist cuffs. A few months back, they noticed a trend of higher BP readings than they thought were appropriate. We wondered if the wrist cuffs were giving us accurate readings. We did a little research and I decided to reach out to my own primary care physician to ask her advice.

I learned two important things about taking blood pressure:

  1. My physician recommended that we give our patients three to five minutes sitting up in the dental chair, relaxed, and not moving. While pleasant chitchat to reduce anxiety might help, we were advised to steer away from asking any medical history questions and other questions that might produce a bit of anxiety before taking the patient’s blood pressure.
  2. One of the challenges with wrist cuffs is that the cuff is supposed to be at the level of the heart. In a dental chair, the patient is likely to rest their arm on their leg unless we instruct them to do otherwise. She advised that we have the patient take the arm that is wearing the cuff and place it across their chest to hold it at the level of their heart. To be at heart level, the hand shouldn’t come up to the shoulder but be horizontal with the elbow.

My physician asked me if we have arm cuffs that go above the elbow. I told her that we have two digital arm cuffs. She said she prefers using the arm cuffs herself because they tend to be more accurate than a wrist cuff, especially in picking up subtle variations.

This great information has enabled us to take blood pressure readings with more confidence and would be valuable to share with your team members who measure blood pressure. 


In your dental practice, it’s important to create a restorative partnership with your assistants, hygienists & front office team. Make the handoff between your team seamless, build a stronger team & create lasting patient connections. Check out our three Pankey Team Courses that are coming up: Team Series

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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A Team Approach to Creating a Dental Practice Mission

June 30, 2023 Kelley Brummett DMD

A quick, easy way to create a mission statement for your dental practice involves your team. Last year, I called a team meeting to discuss what we want the practice to be like each day for ourselves and our patients. I wanted us to discuss what we could focus on.

We sat around the table in our break room. I asked the team members to take turns going around the table throwing out one word, two words, or a phrase that they felt described our practice. After a moment’s reflection, someone started the process. They had words. They had phrases. They developed whole sentences. And the beauty of this was that I didn’t have to say anything. I just sat there and listened.

If you are asking a team to be part of a mission, I think it is important that you allow them to create the mission. By the end of the meeting, we had a mission statement that we wanted to reflect on and revisit. A week later, we had a conversation about the statement. The team changed a couple of words, and then, Voila! We had our mission statement. It was a mission to which everyone had contributed.

Our next discussion was about how we wanted to be reminded of our mission and how we wanted to make patients aware of the mission. The team decided to put the mission statement on the break room wall, where we would see it daily, and to frame it for the reception area wall, where our patients could see it.

We also met to discuss our values. The team went around the table, listing our practice values. After collaboratively sorting the values, the team developed a list of our top values. This list also has been framed and displayed in the reception area.

We want to share our values and mission with our patients because they are like family. Our top priority is helping them understand their health, so they can make better decisions to improve their health.

Curious to know the wording we settled on? Our mission statement follows: “Devoted to impacting our patients’ lives by investing in their health while establishing relationships through our exceptional care in a safe and comfortable environment.”



In your dental practice, it’s important to create a restorative partnership with your assistants, hygienists & front office team. Make the handoff between your team seamless, build a stronger team & create lasting patient connections. Check out our three Pankey Team Courses that are coming up: Team Series.

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Kelley Brummett DMD

Dr. Kelley D. Brummett was born and raised in Missouri. She attended the University of Kansas on a full-ride scholarship in springboard diving and received honors for being the Big Eight Diving Champion on the 1 meter springboard in 1988 and in 1992. Dr. Kelley received her BA in communication at the University of Kansas and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After practicing nursing, Dr Kelley Brummett went on to earn a degree in Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia. She has continued her education at the Pankey Institute to further her love of learning and her pursuit to provide quality individual care. Dr. Brummett is a Clinical Instructor at Georgia Regents University and is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Brummett and her husband Darin have two children, Sarah and Sam. They have made Newnan their home for the past 9 years. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading and playing with her dogs. Dr. Brummett is an active member of the ADA, GDA, AGDA, and an alumni of the Pankey Institute.

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Tips for Being More Present with Patients 

May 29, 2023 Kelley Brummett DMD

Tip 1: Develop the Habit of Clearing Your Mind as Your Move from Patient to Patient

One of the hardest challenges in dentistry is moving from room to room and being able to refocus and give each patient your full and undivided attention. Here’s a little trick I do to increase my presence as I move between rooms and patients.

As I move down the hall between operatories, I habitually self-talk. I silently say to myself, “The patient I just left will be fine with my dental assistant.” I intentionally turn off thoughts about the patient I left, and as I cross the threshold of the next operatory, I am interested in only that next patient. It is not easy, and the more intentional I am at bringing it into my consciousness, I believe the better my focus can become.

Interruptions of this type occur throughout the day as I need to stop what I am doing with one patient to check in on the patient in the Hygiene room. Fortunately, I have a long enough hall between my operatory and the Hygiene room to “practice” my little self-control meditation.

Tip 2: Identify an Analogy that Is Understandable for the Present Patient

I know I am not the only dentist who has patients who are not moving forward with the treatment I have recommended. Recently when interacting with a patient who was not moving forward with occlusal therapy I got to watch his understanding shift about the recommendation I had made. The difference was in explaining it in a language he understood. I credit Dr. Rich Green for mentoring me through this understanding. I related it to a real-life experience he already had.

The patient had been in my practice for a little while. We had identified that he had some occlusal disease. He had wear on teeth, some clinical attachment loss, abfractions, teeth that ran into each other, awareness that he brought his teeth together, and at times muscle tension.

One day I asked him, “Can you help me understand why you are not moving forward with occlusal therapy?”

He said, “You know, I just don’t know if it is going to benefit me.”

I happened to look down at his feet and notice he had good running shoes on. I said, “Those are fancy running shoes. They’re pretty cool. Do you wear them because you like how they look or because of another reason?”

He replied, “Actually I wear them because they are very supportive. I often have back muscle tension, and I need to wear really good shoes.”

I said, “You know, the dental orthotic that I’ve been calling an occlusal appliance is no different than wearing really good running shoes. Wearing a dental orthotic is like putting inserts in your shoes to create balance, decrease fatigue in the muscles, and provide me with the opportunity to learn what’s going on at the tooth level, the muscle level, and the joint level. Wearing the dental orthotic is likely to help you understand why you are experiencing discomfort at times, what those patterns are, and when they occur. And it just might be therapeutic in relieving muscle tension you have been experiencing and protect your teeth while we discover what is going on.”

He nodded and said, “Okay, I get it. I understand now. When can we start?”

Tip 3: Ask a Well-Crafted Question

Asking well-crafted questions allows us to better know the patient and get more complete information. Asking powerful questions also makes patients more aware that some of what they are experiencing is not healthy…is not normal.

For example, I often notice patients are not reporting pain as we do risk assessments on their muscles and joints. So, I ask the patient to rate the level of pain at which they take pain medication when they have a headache. “On a scale of 1 to 10, when would you pick up the bottle of Advil and take a pill to treat the pain?”

There are people who will take Advil when pain is at a 1 or 2 and others who will only take it when pain is at a 12. I’ve learned that there are people who have low pain tolerance who will call whenever they have pain in a tooth and other people who tolerate higher pain for months because they think it is normal.

By asking patients to rate their pain tolerance level, they become self-aware of symptoms they might be experiencing that align with the signs you observe and are discussing. They become more aware of what is normal and abnormal. If they have the tendency to not move forward with treatment until they are in acute pain, they become more aware that delaying treatment is not in their best interest. They realize the discomfort they have been experiencing is abnormal and they do not have to…should not tolerate it.

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E1: Aesthetic & Functional Treatment Planning

DATE: August 21 2025 @ 8:00 am - August 24 2025 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 39

Dentist Tuition: $ 6800

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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Kelley Brummett DMD

Dr. Kelley D. Brummett was born and raised in Missouri. She attended the University of Kansas on a full-ride scholarship in springboard diving and received honors for being the Big Eight Diving Champion on the 1 meter springboard in 1988 and in 1992. Dr. Kelley received her BA in communication at the University of Kansas and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After practicing nursing, Dr Kelley Brummett went on to earn a degree in Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia. She has continued her education at the Pankey Institute to further her love of learning and her pursuit to provide quality individual care. Dr. Brummett is a Clinical Instructor at Georgia Regents University and is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Brummett and her husband Darin have two children, Sarah and Sam. They have made Newnan their home for the past 9 years. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading and playing with her dogs. Dr. Brummett is an active member of the ADA, GDA, AGDA, and an alumni of the Pankey Institute.

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7 Simple Steps to Successfully Initiate Change with Your Team

December 30, 2022 Edwin "Mac" McDonald DDS

Change can be difficult even when it has benefits for everyone.

Some people are simply averse to any kind of change. As a result, we may encounter pushback from staff while attempting to initiate changes in protocols, practice policies, or practice systems. Anticipating and preparing for potential negative feedback is the best way to defuse staff concerns and smooth the way for needed change.

There are two prerequisites to navigating change successfully. First, the staff must believe that we have their best interest in mind. This is a matter of trust that is developed over time. Secondly, the staff must feel safe in offering unfiltered feedback before and during the change initiative. As the leaders of our practice, we are responsible for creating a practice environment that makes both of these essential prerequisites possible.

The following suggestions will prove helpful in developing a change strategy.

1. Be prepared.

Before introducing any change initiative, we must have clarity regarding the necessity and advantages of the proposed change. Painting a clear picture for the staff that includes the specifics and anticipated benefits is an essential first step. Anticipating the staff’s concerns and potential questions as well as our response will help in creating a smooth presentation. Set the expectations for how everyone might feel throughout the different stages of the transition, for example: resistance, frustration, skepticism, excitement, relief, and high energy.

2. Seek early adopter support.

Identify those people that are likely to support your ideas and seek their help in moving a change initiative forward. Most likely, these will be the leaders of the clinical and administrative staff. Collaborate with them in creating the best possible change model. By allowing them to contribute their input, they are much more likely to buy into the concept.

3. Present the change Initiative with humility and transparency.

“My way or the highway!” is the worst possible way to present any significant change. We gain acceptance by being as transparent as possible and patiently addressing staff questions and concerns. Seek collaboration and request input. Be more coach-like by using open-ended questions to draw out their underlying concerns, for example, “What concerns you about this?” and “What would need to happen for you to feel better about this change?”

4. Ask for their help.

There is something about asking for help that creates buy-in. Let your team know that you cannot achieve the desired result without their help. If the intended change is experimental in nature, let the staff know that it is reversible if the desired results are not achieved. Ask them how they think that they can positively contribute and re-affirm how important their role is in the process.

5. Consider scheduling more frequent staff meetings during periods of change.

Depending on the nature of the anticipated change, more frequent staff meetings may be necessary to address concerns and problems that may arise. For example, changing practice computer software seems to be problematic and frustrating for both clinical and administrative staff. Allowing more time to address the technical issues and frustrations of the staff has proven to the most effective means of addressing both issues.

6. Check in frequently with the staff:

Although checking in with our staff should be a common practice, it is most beneficial during periods of change. Simple questions like “How is it going?” or “What do you need from me now?” are a quick and simple way of letting your staff know that you recognize and appreciate their efforts in making the change a reality.

7. Celebrate the staff’s accomplishment:

Whenever the change is fully implemented there should be time for celebration. Consider doing something special for the team as a means of recognition for a job well done. An appropriate bonus and/or a special event away from the office are ways of expressing gratitude. Never pass up celebrating a team’s successful effort in achieving change.

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DATE: May 1 2025 @ 8:00 am - May 4 2025 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 39

Dentist Tuition: $ 6800

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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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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Dear New Associate

August 29, 2022 North Shetter DDS

A great doctor-patient relationship is the key to delivering quality care. The ideal model to help people move toward optimal oral health is based on a behavioral approach that we can use every day. This approach is allowing the patient to drive outcomes.

An illustrative example:

There is a stark difference in a patient’s emotional response between being told, “You need a filling,” and saying, “You have decay in your tooth. How would you like us to address that?”

The principles of this approach are not difficult.

  1. You need to honestly commit to always placing the best interest of the patient first. You cannot fake this. All of us know when others are not sincere.
  2. Letting the patient drive the outcomes is a habit developed from committing to this approach and intentionally choosing your words to put the ball in your patient’s hands, then waiting for their response and listening well to clearly understand the outcome desired by the patient.
  3. Is the outcome congruent with your philosophy and standard of care? Does the patient need more information and time to come to an understanding of what is in their best health interest? How might you lead them there? Most folks really do want the best for themselves and their family. They will make good decisions if we provide the proper environment and education.
  4. You, the patient, and your team must be comfortable with the means necessary to get to the outcome desired. Both you and the patient must be comfortable with the time, energy and dollars involved in reaching a mutually agreed upon goal. A key element in eliminating stress and dependence on insurance, is painting the picture for your patient that they are in control of the outcome–not their insurance company. You and the patient have the patient’s best interest at heart, not a third party. I say this again. You are working on behalf of your patient, and with this approach, they are in control, not an insurance company.

Does this approach take more time and effort up front? Yes. However, once you adopt this approach you will be forever glad you did. Patients who enter your practice through this system will value you, your staff, and your care. They will commit to more and better dentistry and pay with gratitude. You and your staff will have lower stress and more fun because you are dealing with people you understand at a deeper level. Long-term, these people will refer new clients just like them.

I didn’t invent this model. I learned it from great mentors like L. D. Pankey and half a century of folks participating in The Pankey Institute and passing forward the priceless and timeless value of this approach.

Mentorship from the Institute will help you on your way to long-term success as a thriving dentist. As my colleague Dr. Barry F. Polansky often writes, “Mastery in dentistry is a continuous journey.” It’s a lifetime of learning, practicing, and reflection that enables us to more easily and fully transform the health of others who present themselves for our care. The journey, itself, propels us forward into greater and greater connection with our patients and our true selves.

Pankey Institute mentoring and encouragement made all the difference in my life and the lives of countless others. When I try to sum up the dental professionals and patients this “approach” has positively impacted, I get lost in counting the millions we have touched as a community dedicated to putting the dental patient’s best interest first.

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The Pankey Hygienist: Where Clinical & Behavioral Science Unite

DATE: January 9 2025 @ 1:00 pm - January 11 2025 @ 8:00 pm

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CE HOURS: 23

Regular Tuition: $ 3195

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The Power of Development Hygienists and Dentists: Are you ready for your hygiene appointments to be more effective both clinically and relationally? Can you imagine having a totally fresh perspective…

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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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