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!