The Voice

October 10, 2019 Bradley Portenoy, DDS

When I was a young dental student, the voice of “right from wrong” came from my instructors. Their voices annoyed me, and I didn’t think that the dental school approach could ever work in the real world. When I got out of residency I began to learn “real world” dentistry from employers and insurance companies. They became my voice of right from wrong. I concluded that cutting corners was the way most dentists practiced—no face bows, no articulators, models or comprehensive examinations.

I found that I had a knack for selling dentistry. I was blessed with patients who allowed me to perform some rather complex dentistry…without articulators, face bows or comprehensive examinations. I became a master at making excuses for my dentistry:

  • “You’ll get used to your bite…”
  • “The temporaries really can’t approximate what the final will look like….”
  • “Your jaw pain is stress. You need to relax…”

I was lucky! Most of my dentistry worked, but it was never predictable. Dentistry became stressful and honestly downright scary sometimes. So, I studied at the Pankey Institute. I heard voices of honorable people. What was right and good and decent for my patients…and me…and my family! I thought that I can’t do this type of Dentistry; it’s like dental school! No one practices like this.

Then, a Voice Appeared

One day I was fabricating a provisional and left an open margin. “So what?” I thought. I became aware, however, of a very faint voice that said, “Do the right thing; close the margin.” Hmm, close the margin. “Why should I?” I thought. “The new crown will be here in two weeks. What’s the big deal?” Again, I heard a whisper, “Close the margin.”

Annoyed, I explained to the patient that I wanted to work more on the temporary in order to make it fit better. The voice stopped whispering. The patient said, “Thank you for caring and being so thorough.”

The voice, once a sheepish whisper, began to speak in clear tones:

  • “Carve the restoration the best that you can.”
  • “Let specialist perform the procedures that they do best.”
  • “Restore that patient only when you really know that person both clinically and behaviorally.”
  • “Treating a patient is not about you; it’s about them, always.”

I was really starting to feel that I was going insane until one morning a poem came to me. I titled it “The Voice.”


Who was this voice that I couldn’t see? It pushed and prodded and bothered me.

The voice was strong and judgement free, and I began to like its philosophy.

As time went on its words rang true, and I began to see the good I could do.

The voice which spoke of doing things right, began to be my guiding light.

I began to live with genuine care, with genuine love, a genuine air.

Who is this voice that I can’t see, that stirs my soul and bothers me?

This voice lives in me deep and strong.

It guides my path. It sings my songs.

It is so much a part of me

Who is this stranger I can’t see?

One day the voice said loud and clear:

“I’m always with you. I’m always near.”

I asked the voice to give its name,

to show its face, to stop playing games.

The voice just laughed. It said with glee.

It’s always been you, yourself, you see!

To the many participants who come to The Pankey Institute to study, I hope that you all let your best inner voice become your guiding light throughout your journey. That voice, that wonderful voice will never let you down!


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About Author

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Bradley Portenoy, DDS

Dr. Bradley Portenoy earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery with Thesis Honors in Behavioral Science from SUNY at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine in 1985. Dr. Portenoy practices comprehensive relationship-based family dentistry in Rockville Centre, NY. He was one of the first dentists to complete the Pankey Scholar program at The Pankey Institute (2002) and has been on the Visiting Faculty of the Institute since 2005. Currently, he also serves on the advisory board of the L.D. Pankey Dental Foundation, Inc.




Back on Track with “The Three Vs”

June 20, 2019 Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

Dentists in private practice face a myriad of uncomfortable problems that force us to find solutions or… S L O W L Y burn out. Do any of these resonate with you?

  • Ineffective marketing for attracting the type of new patients you need and want
  • Interpersonal problems among some team members
  • Difficulty budgeting for and incorporating new technology you want to embrace
  • Lack of energy to monitor your practice systems and staff
  • Insufficient time for yourself and your family
  • Overall fatigue

Hark, the Mind!

Often times, the problems we face in our practices are the result of our own “stinking thinking.”

I recently retired at age 60 after practicing for 28 years as a solo practitioner in Wolfeboro, NH. Over the years, I went through my fair share of issues but found a way to thrive with the influence of programs like The Pankey Institute and Dawson Academy. I focused on developing deep relationships with my patients and team. So, when I say your life and your practice will be more productive and fun when you live your life in alignment with your Values, your Vision, and your Voice, I speak from experience.

To makeover your “thinking,” you’ll need to engage you mind and consider these three Vs.

Values – Exercises 1-3

Values are the non-negotiables in our lives. These are the things that are most meaningful to us, things we would “go to the mat for.” They are personal and unique for each of us, for example, honesty, integrity, transparency, spending time with family, etc. Some practice values might include technical excellence, timeliness, cleanliness, appreciation, efficiency, scheduling sufficient time for conversations with patients, and fiscal responsibility.

So why are values so important? When violated, our personal and practice lives will be “out of whack.” Frustration, anger, helplessness, and despair are some emotions we might feel. So, start with Exercise 1.

  • Exercise 1. Take an inventory of your values. Make a list of what’s most important to you, as many as come to mind. Then choose your top ten and prioritize them. Once you know what’s most important to you, figure out the steps you need to take to make them a reality.
  • Exercise 2. Do Exercise 1 with your team. Have them each identify and prioritize their own personal values.
  • Exercise 3. Combine your findings and do the same exercise with your team to identify your shared practice values. This exercise alone will propel you and your team forward towards a more fun and productive workplace.

Vision – Exercise 4

Once you and your team know what you value the most, write out the vision for your dental practice. As you write out your practice vision statement, think about how you want to practice and what the ideal team member looks like. Think about your practice setting and how you want to relate to your patients. Get a clear picture in your mind, write it down, and then communicate it. You should be able to articulate it clearly and succinctly if someone asks you, “What is the vision for your practice?” Stating your practice vision should be as automatic as breathing.

Voice – Exercise 5

When you know who you are (your values) and how you want to live (your vision), your thinking changes­­–and with it your voice. Your words and actions will become authentic, intentional, and magnetic. Patients will be attracted to you and your staff because you are “the real deal.”

A “Magic” Process

The five steps to establishing your three Vs compose a highly effective process that bonds team members and clarifies a common direction for your team, as well as your office systems. Many times, we are tempted to evaluate and make changes in office systems when we are faced with problems. What I learned is that, as you strive for more happiness, more joy, and more financial success, looking at “The Three Vs” first, before looking at the office systems, is optimal. In my practice life, we took a fresh look at our three Vs frequently.

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About Author

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Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

Dr. Maguire is a Navy Veteran who got his D.D.S. degree from Georgetown University School of Dentistry in 1984. He completed Bachelor of Arts at the University of New Hampshire in 1980 and Master of Arts Degree in Strategic Communication and Leadership at Seton Hall University in 2009. He was a former president of the New Hampshire Dental Society from 2014 to 2015. Dr. Maguire is a fellow in the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists. He is also a member of the American Dental Association and the New Hampshire Dental Society. Early in his career, Dr. Maguire became an avid student of both the Dawson Center and the Pankey Institute, completing all of their week-long continuums. It was the "Pankey Philosophy" that inspired him to continually develop his technical and communication skills. In addition to these credentials, he is also a certified trainer for the DISC Personality Assessment Tool. Dr. Maguire specializes in teaching others to be effective communicators ( Dr. Maguire recently retired at age 60 after practicing for 28 years as a solo practitioner in Wolfeboro, NH. He attributes his success to the deep relationships he made with his patients and team. His practice thrived without the influence of PPOs or Premiere programs with set fees.