Touchstones? Which do you choose?

March 25, 2022 Sheri Kay RDH

It seems we all have things I call “touchstones” that we keep around to help us feel grounded and to remind us of who we are. We also have items around us simply because they make us smile.

A good friend of mine used to talk about having a garage sale for her thoughts and behaviors, and I love that idea! My own experience has taught me that the people, belongings, and structures I surround myself with have an enormous impact on my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

A few years back, I downsized to an 800 square foot mountain home in Black Mountain, North Carolina that I lovingly call the “Tiny Mansion.” When I made this move, I got rid of so much stuff! I literally touched everything I owned and made a thoughtful decision on what would stay and what would go.

I found that I kept things that connected me in a concrete way to different people, places, and experiences that had special meaning. I let go of lots and lots of things that were not essential tools as well as things that were related to people, memories, or parts of my life I was ready to release. I’ve learned that growth is not only about adding to our lives, but maybe even more importantly, it’s about letting go of that which no longer serves us.

Now what I do is intentionally surround myself with what encourages me to be the person I want to be, and to feel the way I want to feel when I’m in the world. All the books I have on my shelf are purposefully there. I scan through them on a regular basis to make sure they are still books that have special meaning. Another habit I’ve created is to get rid of something every time I make a purchase. Buy shoes…get rid of shoes. Buy a shirt…get rid of 2 shirts. It’s a deliberate choice designed to keep me from becoming overwhelmed by a whole bunch of stuff that I no longer want or need.

To live that intentionally was new to me when I decided to make my move to the Tiny Mansion. Necessity drove me to become highly selective about what I would see and touch in my day-to- day world. This idea became part of my updated philosophy…my living, thinking approach to curating positive things, people, actions, and experiences in my life. I am in a dynamic process of becoming my best self (almost) every day.

What inspired me to share this is the realization that I was smiling when I poured a smoothie in one of my Pankey cups. This particular piece of my “Pankey merch” collection was a gift from Dr. Lee Brady, and I love (on many levels) what it means to me.

I feel absolutely uplifted by being surrounded by things I love. The ability to see and touch these “stones” is a positive force in my life. I wonder what you might surround yourself with that is intentional and has meaning for you. I also wonder what you might be ready to let go of. Which things do you choose to be visible touchstones in your life?

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Sheri Kay RDH

Sheri Kay started her career in dentistry as a dental assistant for an “under one roof” practice in 1980. The years quickly flew by as Sheri worked her way from one position to the next learning everything possible about the different opportunities and roles available in an office. As much as she loved dentistry … something was always missing. In 1994, after Sheri graduated from hygiene school, her entire world changed when she was introduced to the Pankey Philosophy of Care. What came next for Sheri was an intense desire to help other dental professionals learn how they could positively influence the health and profitability of their own practices. By 2012, Sheri was working full time as a Dental Practice Coach and has since worked with over 300 practices across the country. Owning SKY Dental Practice Dental Coaching is more of a lifestyle than a job, as Sheri thrives on the strong relationships that she develops with her clients. She enjoys speaking at state meetings, facilitating with Study Clubs and of course, coaching with her practices.

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There Are Multiple Paths to Happiness

January 3, 2022 Barry F. Polansky, DMD

Seventeen is young to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. Deciding you want to become a dentist means that you are making a huge decision before you are aware of all the knowledge you will have to attain and the multiple skills and micro-skills in which you will need to become proficient.

It was a long time ago when I made that decision. I can’t even remember how I made it. I remember I was under pressure to decide from my parents and their friends. I remember telling others I thought dentistry was a good career because I had spent so much time in dental offices growing up.

That’s because I had malformed supernumeraries blocking the eruption of my centrals when I was seven years old. The dentist who suggested the supernumeraries should be removed, proceeded to remove the two good centrals by accident. This was followed by surgery to remove the supernumeraries and alas no centrals. This was traumatic to me at the time, but early in life, I learned to adapt to a dental prosthesis, having that replaced as I grew, and so on.

I wish now someone had set me down when I was in high school and given me real-world career advice like I did for my kids as they were growing up. Hoping they could avoid some of the mistakes I made, I would begin those conversations with Stephen Covey’s habit #2: Begin with the end in mind. And I would disqualify money as an end. Because money only buys people what they really want. I’d get my kids to think about what they really wanted to spend their lives doing.

Warren Buffet says he wanted to make money so he could be independent. In his biography, The Snowball, Buffet wrote, “It could make me independent. Then, I could do what I want to do with my life. And the biggest thing I wanted to do was work for myself. I didn’t want other people directing me. The idea of doing what I wanted to do every day was important to me.”

There’s truth in that for me. Independence is a universal thought that drives many of us, yet we are unique in our own lives…in how we ultimately determine and design our game plan to live independently.

If we had understood what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives when we were seventeen, then we could have better designed our careers to meet our adult desires. But that isn’t realistic, is it? It sometimes takes decades to a lifetime to understand ourselves.

Adam Grant in his book Think Again questions the unreasonable question kids are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In his book, he uses his cousin Ryan as an example of someone who chose to go into medicine because that’s a profession parents applaud. Once Ryan made his decision, he spent years staying on track.

Once you start, there is no turning back…financial debt…sunk costs…physical, mental, and emotional. We hit a certain milestone like owning our own dental practice and we tell ourselves we will be happy… that we will have all the things we want. But positive psychologists confirm that this is a poor prescription for happiness.

Positive psychologists say the road to happiness includes mastery, autonomy, positive relations, engaging work, and accomplishments. It’s a never-ending road. But each person takes their own road. There are many roads of mastery, freedom, positive relations, engaging work, and accomplishments.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying dentistry was a bad career choice for me. It is a great profession. The message of this blog is twofold. One, at the start of my predoctoral and doctoral education, at the start of my career in dental practice, and even midway through that career, I didn’t understand the complexity of what was before me–including getting to know myself well. And two, everyone needs to find their own happiness.

If you are reading this, you likely chose a career in dentistry. On your road of your own design, I believe you will find happiness in the continual act of mastering more, working with autonomy, fostering positive relations, and setting out to achieve new accomplishments. Money will be just a way to fund the things that really matter to you, and for many of you that will be making a profound difference in the health and lives of your patients. And when you segue, as I did, away from hands-on dentistry after practicing for four decades, you will find that new ways to use your people skills keep emerging. Your road to happiness continues.

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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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Bring on the New Year! It’s all about Growth.

January 4, 2021 Paul Henny DDS

If I were to select one word most strongly associated with a successful relationship-based, health-centered practice, it would be the word growth.

What kinds of growth? The kinds I am thinking of are growth in knowledge and growth in sophistication of attitudes toward people and dentistry. As I meditate on this, I am enlarging my hope for and commitment to fostering personal growth … interpersonal growth … care team growth … patient growth … and, of course, practice growth. I welcome you to come along with me as I breathe fresh energy into leaving 2020 behind and growing in 2021.

Notice I didn’t mention a single word about teeth or techniques. I didn’t mention a word about technology, or what you must physically own to achieve growth. And that’s because growth isn’t a material thing; it’s a spiritual thing.

Growth can be promoted, or it can be impaired by the way we think, and consequently the things that we do and say day-in and day-out. And what we do repeatedly is driven by what we believe … what we believe about ourselves … what we believe about others … and what we believe about the purpose of dentistry.

What is your purpose in dentistry?

Each of us have a purpose that is driven by our philosophy … our world view … our perspective of things … and therefore what it all means to us. This changes as we grow in knowledge and sophistication of attitudes.

Avrom King said that it all boils down to these three questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why am I here?
  3. What is it that I am trying to achieve?

All three of them are philosophical questions, and all three lead us to answers which directly influence almost everything else. If we do not understand who we are on a values and beliefs level—what Mac McDonald likes to refer to as “the deep structures of ourselves,” we cannot predictably lead ourselves in any desired direction. And as a result, we cannot predictably lead others in a desired direction either.

Growing with Purpose

Growing with purpose requires Hope and Agency. If we do not hope for something of greater meaning to ourselves and we think we have truly little personal agency, we flounder.

In a world where we believe we have minimal personal value, everything around us starts to look scarce, and everything around us starts to look scary, so we’re tempted to take short cuts. We’re tempted to just grab what we can get for ourselves as quickly as possible. After all, who knows what tomorrow will bring? If we “stay on shore” with feelings of disempowerment and a little too much wine and whining, we ultimately achieve very little with our lives.

If we “stay on shore,” we will attract others who similarly think and behave. Like attracts like. Avrom King liked to call this “King’s Law.”

We tend to create our practice in the exact image of what we believe about ourselves, and consequently, that could be some version of heaven or hell. All of this happens because we choose to grow or to not grow.

Growth requires hope, courage, attitude, energy, and action, i.e., self-determination and self-control. Talk is cheap, so what will you do to master these? Surround yourself with a vision of your preferred self … your preferred career … your preferred dental practice. Acting on that vision leads to a next step and a next. In doing this, you will attract “likes,” and this positive reinforcement will help keep you on the road of your personally purposeful life. How much growth is happening in your practice today?

Can you see the green shoots of enthusiasm and creative change all around you, evidence of constant renewal? Or do you see an ossified structure struggling to maintain the status quo? Are you surrounded by people who are down, frustrated, and thinking that they have no other choice but to keep plodding on as they are?

Who are you?

Why are you here?

What is it that you are trying to achieve?

Philosophy Matters.

And that’s why L.D. Pankey, Bob Barkley, and other of our dental heroes constantly talked about it.

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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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Hard Skills/Soft Skills Part 2

February 10, 2020 North Shetter DDS

In Part 1, I discussed combining Hard Skills and Soft Skills to wisely and intentionally produce the best outcomes. Soft skills are necessary to establish rapport, work with emotional intelligence, listen actively, and do outcomes based thinking. Hard skills are necessary to produce excellent clinical results. 

In Part 2, I would like you to consider there is no single specific thing that will differentiate your practice and make it successful. Our work life and personal life are based on balance. Whether you use the Pankey model of Work, Play, Love and Worship or Stephen Covey’s model, balance is the key.   

As a professional, there is an expectation among your clients and peers that you and those around you will own and maintain excellence in the hard skills of your callingbut the aforementioned soft skills are also essential. Our family, clients, and staff also deserve to be part of the other three parts of the cross of life. For example: 

  • Pre-block days off in the schedule just like you book productive time at work. Your most productive time will be when you come back to work after a vacation.  
  • Take the staff to a Study Club event for fun.  
  • Support your staff having a volleyball team just like you support your kids’ soccer team.  
  • Be respectful of personal events in your employee’s family lives. Support from you when times are tough will be repaid many times over.   
  • Whether formally or in private take time to be thankful for the blessing of your family, your career and those who trust and support you.   

James Allen, in his book As A Man Thinketh, emphasized the incredible power of positive attitude and abundance thinking. When we find our staff doing something good and we compliment them, there is ten times the power of “constructive criticism.” When we hear laughter in the office, it is a good thing. Stress is lower among happy people. When we take time to train staff to take intra-oral photos and then trust them to do it right, we are all winners.   

The leader in your life and practice is you. Think deeply about the life you want to live and how that will affect those around you. When you learn to see the glass of life as half full and not half empty, you are making progress. When you then are willing to share your glass with others, you are ready for success. 

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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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Hard Skills/Soft Skills Part 1

February 6, 2020 North Shetter DDS

There have been numerous articles lately about the growing importance of “soft skills” (behaviorally adept process) in the development of a successful dental practice. Where have these writers been living for the past forty years?  

In the early 1980’s one of the key points of The Pankey Institute Continuum courses was the proper balance of skills at work and in life. L.D. Pankey learned that from studying the Greek philosophers. L.D. often said, “You can’t deliver what you don’t have on the shelf.” He was talking about more than occlusion and crown margins. He was talking about the ability to understand and work with our family, clients and our staff. So, what is more important – Hard Skills or Soft Skills? 

Hard Skills/Soft Skills Combination 

Over the course of my career, we have been blessed with a myriad of technical breakthroughs. Does anyone remember the joys and frustrations of early composites like AdapticToday the strength, color, and marginal integrity of resin restoratives gives us the ability to do dentistry we never imagined in 1976. Our diagnostic and imaging tools have made life better by being both user-friendly and patient-friendly. We have implants that really work, bone regeneration, and much more.   

This generates some hard questions. Are we as a professional staying current and taking advantage of these breakthroughs? Are we doing a thorough diagnosis and comprehensive treatment plan on all our clients? Are we taking the time to understand the outcomes desired by our patients and then educating them on the options that exist today? These are Hard Skills/Soft Skills combinations. Well managed, they will make any practice “special” in the eyes of clients new and old. 

We do not have to be able to provide all the technical aspects of our profession.  We should, however, know about them and be able to understand where they might be used to our client’s advantage. We must then be able to educate our clients about the potential value of a service and know where to send them to have it delivered with care and quality should they choose to do so.   

If you own a CEREC unit does that mean you will never again do a cast gold onlay? Truly mastering the capacity of your CEREC is a daunting task. It is a hard skill you can be proud of. However, if your practice begins to revolve around only Emax restorations you have missed the point. Your clients deserve a comprehensive exam and diagnosis. Their treatment plan should be based on the whole field of dentistry and the outcomes that they desire at this point in time. This is a hard skill and soft skill combination. 

A Balance 

If you and your staff develop the soft skills necessary to establish rapport, work with emotional intelligence, listen actively, and do outcomes based on thinking, then delivering the hard skills with excellence will be easier and more fun.  

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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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