Slip Slidin’ Away

October 30, 2020 Barry F. Polansky, DMD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Barry F. Polansky, DMD

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

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May I Please Have Another Cookie?

February 18, 2020 Kenneth E. Myers, DDS

I wrote this article 20 years ago for The PankeyGram, and it is still relevant today.  

As I walked into the room, the nurse was applying medication to a hand wound my grandmother had received from a fall a week earlier. My eight-year-old son, Tim, and I had traveled a thousand miles to say goodbye to my grandmother. At 89 years of age, her body was finally ready to give in to breast cancer, and her mind had fallen victim to Alzheimer’s disease over previous several years. 

I knew she would hardly know who I was, and if she did remember, the memory would be gone moments after I left. However, my father was an only child, and it was important to help him through these difficult times. My son also needed to learn about his roots. 

It was sad to see her unable to hold herself up in a chair, and she seemed so frail and weak. I said hello to her, and she opened her eyes enough to gaze at me. Her air-filled voice repeated, “I’m so tired. I’m so tired.” I held her hand and comforted her the best I knew how. I showed Tim to her, and she struggled out a sincere smile towards him. I told her stories about my family, my job, my tree we planted in honor of my grandfather, and how full and complete our lives were. It was as if I was trying to justify her life through the one, I was able to live now. 

We had brought some cinnamon cookies with us, and I offered one to her. Her dry frail hand reached for a cookie. She slowly nibbled on it.  

As you spend time with someone who is close to death and appears to have lost everything, one naturally thinks about how unimportant much of one’s life can be. I thought about the worldly parts of my life: the cars, the boat, my home, or ability to travel. I thought about the simple function of life: walking, running, feeding ourselves, dressing ourselves…. We have so much when we are healthy. Being a dentist, I reflected on how trivial teeth seem at a moment such as this. I pondered these thoughts as the first cookie disappeared, then another. 

My grandmother’s exhausted manner seemed to temporarily dissipate. She had found pleasure in nibbling the cookies. With her eyes closed and body relaxed, my attention focused on a collage of colorful photographs hanging next to her bed. Looking down at me was a picture of my grandfather, almost as if he approved that I had come. 

My grandfather was a righteous man who always felt it was important to do things the correct way. His home was not large, but it was perfect. Every part of it was neat, crisp, and clean. The saying “everything has a place and every place has a thing” describes how well he took care of his belongings. In the same manner, his and my grandmother’s health had been important to them, including their teeth. They both had most, if not all their teeth until the end. Even at the time of my grandfather’s death at the age of 84, he was scheduled to have some major dental work completed. My grandfather had been comprehensive about caring for his health and life. 

My grandmother was now working on a fifth cookie. I watched as she gently grasped it, lifted it to her mouth, bit and sighed with pleasure at its wonderful taste. Suddenly, I realized that because she had her own teeth at age 89, she was able to find some pleasure in what most would consider horrible existence. She could still eat and experience the pleasure of taste! What had seemed small in the scheme of things a moment ago had renewed importance. 

Many patients judge the competence of a dentist based on whether they are free of pain. However, a dentist’s true competence is measured by whether patients still have the ability to eat at the end of their lives. This can only be achieved with a comprehensive long-term approach to dentistry and helping people understand the importance of this type of care.  

No matter what you do in this world, you need to treat people in a personalized, comprehensive fashion. Now I look at every patient with the hope that when they have lost everything else, including their mind and most body functions, they might enjoy the ability to eat and the sense of taste. 

As her hand reached out, her fragile voice whispered to me, “May I please have another cookie?” 

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Kenneth E. Myers, DDS

Originally from Michigan, Dr. Myers moved to Maine in 1987 after completing a hospital residency program at Harvard and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. His undergraduate degree in biology and his dental degree were both earned at The University of Michigan. Upon first arriving in Maine, he worked for a short time as an associate dentist and opened his private practice in 1990. During the mid-90’s he associated himself with the Pankey Institute and became one of the first dentists to achieve the status of Pankey Scholar.

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Tips for Introducing and Marketing New Adjunctive Treatments

October 10, 2018 Pankey Gram

There is always room for improvement in the dental practice, but it can be challenging to know where to start. One of the best places to change things up is with CE on topics you may have never learned before. Another option is to delve into new adjunctive services or work toward providing more comprehensive care.

Adding and Marketing Adjunctive Treatments

For example, how strong is your whitening protocol or treatment options? Bleaching is incredibly popular, but just because you offer it doesn’t mean patients know or understand what is available to them. It’s a good idea to find creative ways of adding or marketing at-home tray bleaching alongside other more complex or involved services.

Another adjunctive treatment that can be a great boost in the practice is Invisalign. It’s a fabulous way to improve the outcome of many comprehensive treatment plans by optimizing tooth position. It also has some serious brand name cachet.

Invisalign can make your treatment plans more conservative because it can lead to requiring less restorative work. Additionally, patients who wouldn’t be willing to try traditional orthodontia will likely be far more interested in the clear Invisalign trays. Invisalign can be a new stream of revenue for the practice. That along with bleaching will noticeably increase profitability.

All in all, adding more services will keep things lively, introduce you to more interesting concepts, and inject some energy into the practice. Patients who trust and appreciate you will be excited to take advantage of previously unavailable treatments. These services will also help attract new patients to the practice or draw the attention of a unique demographic. There are plenty of options to explore!

Curious what makes dental care a valued investment? Check out this Pankey Gram blog we’re loving from Dr. Will Kelly here. And let us know what adjunctive services you offer in your practice …

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