Getting Case Acceptance to 90%

February 26, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Getting Case Acceptance to 90% 

Paul A. Henny, DDS 

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

Humankind’s Innate Prediction Machine 

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

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

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

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

A Steep Slope to Climb 

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

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

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

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

The Common Approach Fails 

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

The Alternative Approach 

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

  

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Paul Henny DDS

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

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Are You Prepared for Your Next Hiring Challenge?

January 25, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Are You Prepared for Your Next Hiring Challenge?

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

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

Seek These 8 Personality Attributes 

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

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

Conduct Behavioral Interviews and Assess Emotional Intelligence 

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

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

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The Never-Ending Patient Interview

October 11, 2023 Paul Henny DDS

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Henny DDS

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

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True Listening in the Pre-Exam Interview

June 2, 2023 Paul Henny DDS

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

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

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

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

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

We need to set the environment with intention.

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

We need to truly listen.

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

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

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

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

The first step is willingness.

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

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

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

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Paul Henny DDS

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

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A Meditation on the Personalities of Dentists

January 2, 2023 Paul Henny DDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Henny DDS

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

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Why I Focus on Health-Centered Patients

May 23, 2022 Paul Henny DDS

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

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

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

Two Big Questions We Ask Ourselves

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

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

“Revealing” Unrecognized Value Takes Time

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

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

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

It doesn’t have to be that way!

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

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

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

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

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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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What Type of Patient Relationship Distinguishes a Health-Centered Dental Practice?

April 8, 2022 Paul Henny DDS

I think all dentists would agree that mutually beneficial and enjoyable relationships with patients are key to a dental practice’s long-term success. But what does that “relationship” look like in a health-centered practice?

To some, a good relationship represents two people who get along and perhaps enjoy being in each other’s company. But I would argue this is not enough to build a successful health-centered dental practice. Getting along and even enjoying the presence of another person alone doesn’t go deep enough. It only addresses good rapport, and good rapport is only the starting point of a truly helping relationship. We need more to help patients achieve optimal oral health.

The More We Need

We need shared values, shared understanding, and shared goals. And to a large degree, we also need a shared vision of a preferred future so that all the goals are oriented in a specific mutually agreed upon direction. That vision must largely originate from the patient because it is their water to carry, and not ours. We can facilitate the development of the patient’s vision, but we cannot realize it for them.

This type of relationship is often called “patient-centered” or “client-centered.” And it is only possible through mutual trust — and a lot of it at that. We must have enough trust present within the relationship to allow for open and transparent communication to occur. This type of communication is much deeper.

The Deeper Communication We Need

Communication that is deeper includes discussions around:

  • concerns,
  • personal challenges,
  • barriers,
  • fear,
  • short-term agendas, and
  • longer-term goals.

When a patient trusts us, they are essentially allowing themselves to be vulnerable to our actions, which could, if something went wrong, harm them physically, emotionally, and/or financially.

A first sign of trust is the willingness to have these types of discussions.

Some patients will trust us quickly because we have big capital letters after our name, but this de facto trust is becoming rare. We must EARN our patient’s trust through the quality of the relationships we build, our attitude, our philosophy, and our actions that lead to deep communication and development of shared understanding and goals.

I would argue that meaningful conversations around important issues are what distinguishes a “health-centered” or “patient-centered” dental practice from one that is an attractive and pleasant place where dental services are provided in exchange for money. A key metric to monitor in each patient record is whether the deeper discussions are taking place. A key objective is to schedule time to gently have those discussions.

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Paul Henny DDS

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

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My Patient Ron

April 1, 2022 Paul Henny DDS

We had another interesting week at the dental office when a patient (I’ll call Ron) came in. Ron has been a patient of mine for over 20 years and is nearing 80. Whenever I saw him, we would have interesting conversations about what he was doing and thinking about doing next. He was the kind of person I love to be around, always positive with a “can-do” attitude.

This time was different. I hadn’t seen Ron in over three years, because he suffered a heart attack which led to some other complications. He came in using a cane.

When it was time for my hygiene check, Julie came to me and said, “I don’t know what’s going on with Ron, but he was really hard for me to work with today. I tried to get as much accomplished as I could. I’m sorry.”

Ron was previously very health-centered but now he was behaving like he wasn’t. Do values change in that short a period? No, but a person’s priorities might, particularly when they have developed a distorted perspective due to some traumatic events.

When I entered the room, Ron’s attitude perked up. He was positive and respectful — he was honoring our long history of mutual respect. He updated me on what happened and how he was doing. Not only were his physical disabilities frustrating, but he had rarely left the house for over a year.

Following my exam, we discussed an area of decay and several cracked teeth — all restorable with crowns. He responded that he was old and wasn’t sure how much longer he would be around. He asked, “Is there an inexpensive way to fix this? I don’t want to spend a lot of money on my mouth.”

Dentists hear this every day, but in this case, I knew the REAL Ron. I knew it was his depression speaking to me. I told him it would make sense for us to develop a Phase 1 plan, meaning, “Let’s remove the decay and get everything stabilized like they would do for you in the ER if you had an emergency, and then we can talk later about restoring things back to the way they need to be — strong and secure.”

“I don’t think I want any restoration work,” he replied.

Then, I said, “Ron, I know how much you love to eat fine food, and it would be tragic if, in your last decade, you were limited to eating only soft food or you had to fumble around with a partial denture that catches food around it all the time. Like I said, let’s focus on Phase 1 and then talk about restoration later. We have time on our side.”

“Ok,” he said, “I can go along with that.” He needed to feel like he was in control.

I finished by using words that would resonate with him, “You know Ron, despite these things that need to be addressed, you have great bone around your teeth and a great smile, so there are good reasons to restore things and finish out strongly. If you were an old, uninspiring ‘84 Oldsmobile, I’d say there is no point in restoring things, but you’re like a 1956 Corvette barn find that’s still in good condition. You’re worth it. Let’s save the conversation about restoration for another day when you are feeling better. I’m so glad that you came in, I miss talking to you.”

Ron’s eyes lit up. He smiled and said, “Yea, maybe you’re right. I can’t move like a Corvette any longer, but I understand what you are saying. I really appreciate it.”

Related Course

Worn Dentition: Direct & Indirect Adhesive Management Through a Non-Invasive Approach

DATE: November 1 2024 @ 8:00 am - November 2 2024 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 15

Dentist Tuition: $ 2495

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 290

Enhance Restorative Outcomes The main goal of this course is to provide, indications and protocols to diagnose and treat severe worn dentition through a new no prep approach increasing the…

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Paul Henny DDS

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

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The Role of Gratitude in Dental Practice

May 24, 2021 Paul Henny DDS

According to a recent survey released by the John Templeton Foundation, people are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than any other place. And their feeling of appreciation toward their current jobs, ranked dead last on their list of things they are most grateful for.

Oddly, this outcome isn’t because people don’t crave receiving gratitude at work. Ninety-three percent of those surveyed agreed that their bosses are more likely to succeed if they expressed gratitude more often, and only 18 percent thought that expressing gratitude made their bosses “weak,” or hurt the organization. Additionally, the majority surveyed reported that hearing “thank you” from others at work made them feel better about themselves and more motivated.

So, What Gives?

Why is something which is so obviously appreciated and helpful so frequently withheld? Why do Americans actively suppress gratitude at work, even to the point of robbing themselves of happiness and all its benefits?

The answer lies within the nature of our “reptilian” brain which lies buried underneath or logical neocortex. Our brainstem, midbrain, and limbic system are constantly surveying the environment to determine if we are safe as well as where we are within our tribe social status-wise, as well as how our tribe ranks relative to other tribes.

As a result, we are slow to give support and appreciation to others because it might change the organization of our social structure in such a way that we might personally lose out. Another way of saying this is that we are all built on a neurobiological level to be inherently selfish.

Overcoming Our Silence

The role of gratitude in dental practice should be a positive, intentional one that makes every single care team member feel values. When they feel good about themselves and their contributions, performance will rise. To this end, we must consciously work at overcoming our tendency to remain silent and ignore other people’s contributions and exceptional performances. And how can we do this?

  1. Make gratitude part of your practice culture from the top down. One of the biggest takeaways from research on workplace gratitude is that your care team needs to hear “thank you” from the doctor regularly. This is because it’s up to the people with the most social, political, and financial power to clearly, consistently, and authentically thank, in both public and private settings, those who have helped their status. In other words, we need to lift everyone else around us. Rising tides should lift all boats.
  2. Gratitude should also be built into your performance reviews and staff meetings, where time can be allocated for each person to say “thanks” to others on the team for being thoughtful and pitching-in at critical moments.
  3. Thank those who seem to never get thanked. Thanking those who do important, but easy-to-take-for-granted work is key. Your office cleaning crew, your UPS delivery person, the mailman, your accountant… You get the picture. These simple gestures improve morale and increase trust, and therefore increase performance.
  4. Aim for quality thankfulness, not quantity. Forcing your team to be grateful to one another won’t work if they’re harboring resentment and other unresolved issues which remain untouched. Hence, forcing gratefulness as a strategy is not “cultural,” its superficial and doesn’t work. Instead, it can feed upon the power imbalances which undermine gratitude in the first place, and therefore make expressions of gratitude feel inauthentic.

The key is to create times and spaces that foster the voluntary, spontaneous expression of gratitude such as morning huddles and regular team development meetings.

Many of you are already doing these things, but are you doing them frequently enough and with the right intentions?

Related Course

E1: Aesthetic & Functional Treatment Planning at the Chicago Midwinter Dental Meeting

DATE: February 20 2025 @ 7:00 am - February 22 2025 @ 8:00 pm

Location: Chicago Midwinter Meeting

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

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Paul Henny DDS

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

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Competing with “the Corporates”

April 2, 2021 Paul Henny DDS

In Seth Godin’s blog, he writes:

“In all markets, the market leader gets an unfair advantage. That’s because casual and unsophisticated customers choose the leader because it feels easier and safer. The strategy then, is not to wish and dream of becoming a big fish. The strategy is to pick a small enough pond. By engaging with the smallest viable audience, you gain the reputation and trust you need to move to ever bigger audiences.”

As dentists in private practice, attempting to be everything to everyone dilutes our value while it simultaneously puts us in direct competition with large DSOs and every other iteration of a business model that has deep pockets, the ability to survive big mistakes, and time on its side.

Instead, we need to know our strengths, make certain they match up well with our target audience, and then relentlessly become better and better at serving our target audience well. That is what L.D. Pankey, Bob Barkley, Peter Dawson, Frank Spear, John Kois, and many other dental leaders did.

None of these people pursued a business model which aspired towards a practice full of undiscriminating patients. Instead, they targeted a small market segment. That segment is composed of those who value improved health, appearance, and function. Avrom King called those folks the “values elite. They helped their market segment on a very high level, and by doing so, they created their future.

Many of us are successfully doing this still. That is how you compete against “the corporates”—you don’t.

Related Course

E4: Posterior Reconstruction and Completing the Comprehensive Treatment Sequence

DATE: May 15 2025 @ 8:00 am - May 19 2025 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 44

Dentist Tuition: $ 7400

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

The purpose of this course is to help you develop mastery with complex cases involving advanced restorative procedures, precise sequencing and interdisciplinary coordination. Building on the learning in Essentials Three…

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About Author

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Paul Henny DDS

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

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