Their Ideal Day 

September 22, 2023 Christine Shigaki

I’m sure there are many aspects of your work that are really fulfilling, and I’m sure there are aspects of your daily work that you wish could be easier, maybe even less stressful. What about your work brings you joy? What would it take for you to provide your best work? What would it look like? What would it feel like?

I took an informal survey of dentists and hygienists about what they would need to have an ideal day. When I examined the dentists’ answers, I realized the answers would resonate with every member of a dental team.

The top five answers from dentists were:

  1. Having the appropriate instruments to provide excellent care.
  2. Opportunity to gain knowledge and skills.
  3. Excellent performance/execution of their work.
  4. Opportunity to implement new learning.
  5. Working with patients who are grateful for their care.

All hygienists desired “time to provide appropriate care for each patient.” Specifically, they asked for:

  1. Time to select and sharpen instruments for each person and for the specific procedures they will be doing.
  2. Time to properly assess each person’s unique periodontal condition, including time to accurately measure gum pockets and recession, minimal attachment/thickness, and to assess bleeding (blood thickness, how much bleeding, and where it is coming from—is it systemic or localized?).
  3. Time to explore possibilities with patients regarding their current condition, past condition, and potential future.
  4. Time to debrief and collaborate with the doctor to explore the next steps for the patient.
  5. Supportive teamwork across the practice to provide the best care.

Speaking of collaborating with team members, I invite you to ask your team members what their ideal day would include. Discuss, as a team, your shared ideals, and expectations. Consider where expectations do not match and discuss why this is and what must change to meet shared agreements.

Understanding and affirming the needs of others will have a positive impact. The exercise of writing down what works, what could be better, possibilities, goals, and a pathway towards implementation of superior supportive teamwork is likely to increase your practice joy factor.

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Christine Shigaki

Dr. Shigaki has been in dentistry since 1989 where she started as a dental assistant while completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington. In 1994, she graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA. Dr. Shigaki, a native of Seattle, has built her practice since 1995 and opened Belltown Dental in 2003. She is a life-long student of dentistry and believes that it is her professional responsibility to provide optimal, comprehensive care in a modern facility with state of the art equipment and techniques. She has completed and continues her studies with extensive post graduate dental education, including several dental study clubs and coursework at the distinguished Pankey Institute, where she is also currently an advisor and faculty member. Christine also facilitates teams and mentors dentists. She enjoys the work/life balance that dentistry allows her and hopes that others can find their joy in dentistry. When not at the office, teaching/studying dentistry, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and extensive extended family. She enjoys being involved in her children’s activities, yoga, reading, various outdoor activities and cooking.

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The Obstacle Is the Way

December 4, 2019 Barry F. Polansky, DMD

Many years ago, when I was first trying to create a successful dental practice, I fell in love with the word “production.” I believed that production was the key to success, so I read everything I could to become more productive.  

I took courses.

In the early years, there were so many courses that centered around how to efficiently double and triple book, how to bring in more “warm bodies,” how to sell more dentistry, and how to utilize more staff to get more done. I never felt like these strategies were the answer to my production issues. I barely became more efficient, and I never became more effective as I just ran myself down. 

In my books, I have written about my issues with stress, which I believe eventually initiated adult-onset diabetes. Through it all, I continued my quest to be productive. In those years I truly learned to become more effective rather than more efficient. Reading Stephen Covey’s First Things First was extremely helpful to prioritize my work and life. But I found that was only part of the solution. The real problem for me was not managing my time. It was managing my energy.  

Diabetes became my blessing and my curse.

In my quest to control high blood sugar and the fatigue that comes with it, I found more energy. I found more mental and emotional clarity as well. A fog was lifted. My diabetes forced me to eat better and to exercise.  

I remember listening to some of Anthony Robbin’s tapes in which he tells the story of living in a small apartment in southern California, being extremely overweight and feeling like a loser. The first thing he did was to exercise. I did too. Slowly at first, I began to run. I built up my time and distance. Now, twenty-five years later, my routine includes six hours per week in the gym, running and lifting and six hours per week doing hot Yoga. The results have been nothing short of amazing. My diabetes is under control, I lost weight, I multiplied my energy level and mental clarity went way beyond what I expected. 

My moods improved, I enjoyed my work more, patient behaviors didn’t get to me as much, my work improved, I learned new techniques and took more continuing education, and most importantly, I had the energy to have a life outside of work.  

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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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Investing in My Team

August 7, 2019 Jennifer Davis, DDS

The original owner of our practice recently retired.

Although he had been planning on retiring and a new associate had been identified by both of us months in advance, this transition was very profound and stressful for the entire team. So, with a long term game plan in place, we began the transition between associates. It became evident that each individual within the practice was struggling with this change in their own unique way. Supporting others through change became my part-time passion.

While some team members were engaged in the process, no one was fully comfortable with the transition to this unknown “new practice.”

We had 1.5 years of an office atmosphere that was taking us to this destination with new team members that we did not fully know. We were wondering if it was going to be an office environment with which each person would want to identify. Thankfully, one of the values that binds us—education, came into play in a positive fashion.

In recent years, our team has attended continuing education together, locally.

However, it has been a long-time goal of mine to travel greater distances with the team. Coincidentally, The Pankey Institute unveiled the first Pankey Learning Group for hygienists. The effect that this had on my practice has been amazing thus far.

Although I offered the opportunity to the entire hygiene department, only one hygienist chose to attend.

She attends this learning group, and it has been meaningful to her personally and professionally. She has become highly engaged with her patients, and while leadership and gratitude had not been her most prominent attributes in the past, they certainly are now.

Upon her return, she begins to pull the rest of the team enthusiastically through this transition that embraces a new associate and has us enthusiastically embracing our new unknown. This one hygienist has been embedded in my leadership for twelve years, and now it turns out she has always been absorbing my vision and philosophy. She just needed a little bit of investment from me to become a leader within the team.

The value of having a team member learn, from the colleagues who have helped frame my personal and professional growth, has been priceless.

With more education planned for each of my team members at The Pankey Institute, I am thinking this will be the foundation for a cohesive group of similarly minded professionals working together to provide the best comprehensive dental care for our community.

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Mastering Aesthetic Restorative Dentistry

DATE: November 20 2025 @ 8:00 am - November 23 2025 @ 12:00 pm

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Jennifer Davis, DDS

Dr. Davis started her career in dentistry in 1988 as a dental hygienist. After receiving a certificate in dental hygiene from the University of Pittsburgh, she worked as a dental hygienist while pursuing a Bachelor of Chemistry degree at Lebanon Valley College, where she received numerous awards in organic chemistry and served as a research assistant under the guidance of Dr. Carl T. Wigal, PhD. Dr. Davis has also published in The Journal of Organic Chemistry. Subsequent to a 10-year career as a dental hygienist, Dr. Davis entered dental school at the University of Pennsylvania. Again, doing research was an important part of her educational process; she received a grant from the National Institutes of Health for work in the area of bone formation. Upon graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Davis joined the practice of Dr. Frederick S. Johnson. Together, they practice a philosophy of comprehensive and esthetic dentistry in Cleona, PA. Dr. Davis is a member of the American Dental Association, Pennsylvania Dental Association, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine. She is an alumna and Visiting Faculty Member of The Pankey Institute.

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Developing a Shared Path of Learning

July 25, 2018 Denison E. Byrne, DDS, MAGD

The phrase, “You can do this!” when offered by a trusted friend at the ideal time can help us put thoughts into actions around our learning. 

My partner Nancy and I always aggressively pursued dental continuing education for many reasons. We were racking up hours, techniques, ideas, travel, and expenses way beyond the norm.

As we went along, I started to notice a disjointedness to my learning. While I was in charge of my path, I missed discussing the journey with others.

Learning How to Learn With Likeminded People

One afternoon, while sitting in a study club meeting with two of my mentors, Rich Green and Jay Anderson, we were discussing our schedule and next meeting. Jay looked at me, winked, and said, “You can do this!” He meant that he thought I could organize a similar study group.

That was an interesting thought. The idea of gathering people in my network and developing a shared path of learning was attractive to me. Here were my next steps: 

  • I spent some time clarifying in my mind exactly what I was looking for.
  • I had coffee, lunch, or a drink with about a dozen of my peers to see what they were interested in and whether our goals meshed.
  • I gathered interested people together to “meet and greet” and develop a shared vision, direction, responsibilities, and tentative schedules.
  • I lined up facilitators and we were off.

The benefit to me was a local community of likeminded peers bolstered by the significant input they gave about the program. I learned more not only about dentistry but also about working with small groups. There was plenty of downtime with many of my dental heroes.

Of course, there are always nitty gritty aspects of creating a new study club. But those of us on the Pankey Learning Group team stand ready to help you with the process because, “You can do it too!”

How do you make sure your CE learning is deep rather than surface? 

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Denison E. Byrne, DDS, MAGD

Dr. “Denny” Byrne graduated from the University of Maryland Dental School and has been in restorative practice in Baltimore for 40 years. He is a member of the Pankey Faculty and Co-Director of Pankey Learning Groups. In addition to being the husband of a dentist, father of a dentist, and grandfather, he is keenly interested in facilitating small group learning, golfing and sailing. He enjoys cooking and is a fan of C.S. Lewis.

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Leadership Outside the Practice

April 30, 2018 Dennis Stiles DDS

How we demonstrate leadership outside the practice inevitably impacts how we lead once we return. That’s why it’s beneficial to seek out opportunities for growth wherever we can. Choosing to hold a leadership role is one particularly impactful way of doing this.

Leading Outside the Dental Practice

Re-connecting with dentistry and friends in Chicago in mid-February has been a very significant part of my journey in dentistry. The energy and buzz of new technology, new research findings and great speakers is always invigorating. But it’s not just the CDS Mid-Winter that brings me out to the Windy City in February. It’s also the smaller focused groups that make Chicago very significant and special.

The AES, APS, AAFD, AOD AARD and Lab Day are the crown jewels of dentistry that all meet over 5 days. The Chicago mid-winter vibe always reminds me of a family reunion where we catch up with each other and reboot our love for dentistry together. Over the last 30 years, I  have attended meetings held by all of the groups mentioned above.

The place I’ve chosen to plug in and serve in leadership has been the American Prosthodontic Society (APS). Founded in 1928, the APS has always been a voice for collaboration between the specialist, the generalist with interest in the discipline, and the laboratory technologist.

In 1960, LD Pankey served as President. This year, the APS will be celebrating their 90th annual meeting. For the first time in dentistry they will be installing a laboratory technologist as President. I am very grateful for the APS and its voice of commitment to quality learning and leadership in the discipline of restorative care for the patients we serve.

Taking on leadership in an organization like APS is the type of experience that can translate back to better working relationships at home.

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Dennis Stiles DDS

Dr. Dennis Stiles, a native of Amherst, MA, has called upper Montgomery County home since 1986. Dr. Stiles is currently a member of the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, the Maryland Society of Sleep Medicine, the American Academy of Implant Dentistry and has received fellowship in the the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists and the Academy of General Dentistry. In 2017 he received Diplomate status in the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM). He also served as past president of the American Prosthodontic Society (2006) and currently is serving the president of the APS Foundation. In 2009 Dr. Stiles was appointed to serve as a dean's faculty member at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. In 2016 Dr. Stiles was elected to serve a three year term as a board member of the LD Pankey Institute through 2019.

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3 Things Your Team Expects After a Dental CE Course

August 25, 2017 Pankey Gram

Our team – the people that form the basis of our dental practices – often have a few key expectations about our behavior post dental CE course. While we’re away, they flit through daydreams of the turmoil soon to inhabit their lives, wondering what fresh torment will arrive in the form of a drastic change to the way things are run.

Disrupting the status quo is fine and dandy if you understand the passion behind it, but this is not the case for most dental staff. We dentists get impassioned by our new learning and rush to implement it, forgetting our team is many steps behind us in the motivation department.

3 Things Your Team Has to Deal With After You Complete Dental CE

1. Tons of New Materials to Buy

You arrive home from a weekend of intense clinical discussions where you were surrounded by advancements in materials and technology. These ‘shiny new things’ may very well improve how you practice, but in your excitement to order them you forget to explain the ‘why’ to your staff.

Your staff now has to learn a whole new set of instructions and all new inventory control. They also have to deal with the possibility that you’ll try the materials and realize you’re not really going to use them. To you, this was useful experimentation. To them, it was a hectic couple of work weeks.

2. Changing Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Beyond the materials and tech, you also imbibed a heavy dose of alternate thought processes and clinical techniques. Your staff expects a variety of potential changes: how to answer the phone, new patient scheduling, chairside assistance, and on and on. This creates a lot of stress.

3. All Bets Are Off

Sometimes, the expectation of change is taken to the extreme. A common ‘myth’ in dentistry is that of the dentist who called and fired their entire staff from a CE course. This may or may not have actually happened and is unlikely in most cases. Still, it exemplifies the upset caused by your return. From your staff’s perspective, it’s more work and adjustments for them. If they don’t understand that these change will be better for them, patients, and the office, they see it all as another load on their shoulders.

There is a way to avoid this problem. When you complete a CE course, you should set aside time to share what you learned with your team. Share your excitement so they feel it too. Many times dentists start enforcing the implementations without an explanation. This hinders their staff’s ability to successfully apply what was learned.

As always in dentistry, come up with a system that makes your communication more effective.

How do you motivate your staff to enjoy and appreciate change? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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Learning Through Community

August 21, 2017 Amy Hunt DDS

Dr. Amy Hunt recalls the similarities between her biological family and her Pankey family that make her proud to return to Key Biscayne every year.

Dr. Hunt’s Take on the Pankey Family

Every summer, our extended family gathers in the coastal town of Morehead City, NC for a reunion. Our “special home base” is a relatively small cabin built by relatives in the early 1950’s. It’s perched on a large oyster bed on Calico Creek where the tides rise and fall under the house. Over the years, babies have grown up, cousins have married, some relatives have died, but we all carry our favorite memories of special times shared together on the shoals of Calico Creek.

The weekend culminates with a traditional NC barbecue feast and promises to return again next year. As is true with many meaningful events, the work is shouldered by a few of the most committed organizers in the family. We have cousins Helen, Kevin, and Richard to thank for making this tradition a reality.

As I think of these reunions I am reminded of another “family reunion” that I look forward to each year … the annual meeting of the Pankey Institute. Like my biological family, we have grown up and are now growing older together. This special group includes many of the friends and mentors who have helped shape me into the mother, wife, and dentist I am today. I love to “return home” every September. I have an opportunity to reconnect and renew friendships as well as create new ones with like-minded people.

We learn, laugh, and even dance together. The veterans pass on their wisdom to the next generation while they in turn share their unique perspective and insights. Like the reunions on Calico Creek, the safety of being with family allows us to be our most genuine selves. Please mark your calendars to “come home” to Pankey this September.

What do you love about being a part of the Pankey family? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Amy Hunt DDS

Dr. Amy Hunt is a native of Vero Beach, Florida. She earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the UNC School of Dentistry in 1991. She has served as president of the Fifth District Dental Society and volunteers regularly to treat patients through the Donated Dental Services program. Dr. Amy’s passion for continuing education and lifelong learning led her and Dr. Richard to participate in thousands of hours of advanced continuing education. Her goal is to create a dental practice committed to personalized care. She has completed the rigorous curriculum at two prestigious institutions – The Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education and the Dawson Center for Advanced Dental Education.

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Treating TMD: Yes or No?

August 20, 2017 Michelle Lee DDS

How Studying and Treating TMD Transformed One Dentist’s Practice for the Better

When Dr. Michelle Lee embarked on her dental career, she felt like there was a missing piece in how she approached dentistry. Discovering the power of TMD ultimately made her work more fulfilling and effective.

Dr. Lee relates her journey of achieving professional balance while attending the Pankey Institute, how treating TMD has transformed her practice, and why she believes career fulfillment is crucial to success.

Dr. Michelle Lee on the Power of TMD and Pankey Learning

Very quickly in my dental career after purchasing my dental practice, I knew I needed to expand my dental learning. I was seeing changes and problems within my patient’s dental health where I didn’t know WHY? Though I could easily tell the patient what we needed to do to fix their problem, I couldn’t necessarily explain the reasoning behind it: why a tooth broke, why wear occurred on one tooth but not the others, why the patient was having pain in their face, why pain was in a tooth for no apparent reason.

Not having these answers wasn’t good enough. I knew I needed to know the WHY. I believed if I figured this out I could partner with my patients and help them before problems like failing restorative dentistry, TMD issues, and myofascial pain started to arise. I decided to go down to the Pankey Institute within the same year I purchased my dental practice.

Dr. L.D. Pankey said, “A tooth never walked in the door.”

Attending the Pankey Institute changed my life both professionally and personally. I received a top notch dental education on comprehensive dentistry that included concepts like occlusion and TMD. The learning was presented from a technical, behavioral, and financial perspective. The Pankey Institute also guided me in creating my own personal and professional philosophy to achieve a work-life balance.

I am passionate about learning how the temporomandibular joint, muscles, and dentistry work together. Treating TMD allows me to deliver truly comprehensive dentistry to my patients. It’s like lifting up the hood of a car and examining the engine.

Learning about the TMD joint and the orofacial muscles helped me see dentistry from a new perspective. I am better able to delivery dentistry that is both protective and preventative. I have created a whole new culture within my practice because I show my patients WHY. This has made my work extremely rewarding.

What continuing education has had the most significant impact on your professional life? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Michelle Lee DDS

Dr. Michelle Lee is very proud to provide all aspects of general, family, and cosmetic dentistry to the Fleetwood and Berks county areas. Dr. Lee is a 2004 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and completed a one-year General Practice Residency program at Abington Memorial Hospital. Dr. Lee continues to keep herself abreast of dental advancements and takes hundreds and hundreds of hours of advanced dental education from the Pankey Institute and other courses for advanced dental training. She also maintains a faculty and advisor position at the Pankey Institute. Professionally, Dr. Lee is member of the Academy of General Dentistry, American Dental Association, Pennsylvania Dental Association, and serves on a committee of the American Equilibration Society. She also volunteers to treat pediatric patients through her local dental society.

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5 Thoughts Every Dentist Has During Their First Pankey Course

July 3, 2017 Pankey Gram

More than anything, Pankey is a family that grows every year to include a wide variety of dentists practicing across the world.

One thing we all have in common are many of the thoughts that ran through our head during our first Pankey course. These range from the personally insightful to the downright hilarious.

5 Thoughts Dentists Have During Pankey Essentials 1 

1. “I wish I lived on a beach island.”

As you leave Miami to cross the Rickenbacker Causeway and enter Key Biscayne, you begin to realize why Pankey is where it is. Mangroves line the sparkling blue coast and you pass a long strip of sunshine-soaked public beaches. Lush greenery rises up on both sides of the road. Soon you’re arriving at the literal paradise of a tiny island dotted with luxury resorts, mansions, and amazing Cuban food. Speaking of Cuba…

2. “I probably shouldn’t have had that third Cuban coffee this morning.”

You may have been warned about the super-strength effects of a Café Cubano, but the cups were just so small and unassuming (and let’s admit it, delicious) that you downed two to three in quick succession. Not long after, you got a jolt of razor sharp caffeine. Baptism by fire, as they say. You show up to the Essentials 1 (link) course introductions and realize you’re nodding like a maniac to everything the instructors say. Don’t worry, they love the enthusiasm.

3. “I didn’t expect to meet my best friend in dentistry.”

You’re getting to know people who aspire to practice dentistry the same way you do. It’s eye-opening to discover you aren’t alone in wanting to sharpen your skills and create a professional lifestyle that leaves you passionate rather than exhausted. You’re already forming lifelong relationships with dentists who will become genuine friends as you walk similar paths toward career fulfillment.

4. “I have a lot to learn.”

Dentists who sign up for E1 are usually hungry for growth in their professional lives. You take the CE because you want to learn about occlusion and how you can do higher-end restorative dentistry. As the lessons build, your desire to practice the way you’re being taught multiplies, but you also realize it will be a long path of dedication. You didn’t expect to learn how you could design dentistry so that you could truly love it. Pankey CE changes your perception of the care you can offer and feeds the flames for further learning.

5. “I’ve finally found my home in dental CE.”

No matter how long you’ve been in dentistry (or even right at the beginning), there comes a point where you wonder, ‘Is this as good as it gets?’ After coming to Pankey and being immersed in the inspiring philosophy, you find that the answer is, ‘No, it can always get better.’ You’ve become part of a community that yearns for more satisfaction in their careers. You’ve finally found your dental home.

What revelations did you have during your first Pankey course? It would be awesome to hear from you in the comments!

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