I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world as a guest in the most diverse Dentistry events. Sometimes as part of scientific and technical contexts, and others to share my vision of a concept I like to call No Half Smiles.
On the 19th September, I had the opportunity to present it once more at the 12th SENAME International Dental Congress, and thus would like to dedicate a few lines to this idea that has been guiding my professional life (as well as some aspects of my personal life) throughout over than 20 years in my profession. It was this idea which helped develop my actual medical practice at White Clinic, from the Invisible Dentistry concept to Life Design’s broader concept.
When I was little, all my siblings knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up. As for me, I hadn’t the slightest clue and, as I got older, I decided I wanted to be a heart surgeon in order to save lives. When I started Dental Medicine in college I tried to discover that same passion for changing people’s lives and, fortunately, I ended up finding it.
Do we all know what our passion is, and strive to materialize it daily? I think it is of the utmost importance that each one of us increasingly focus on ourselves and on our work to truly understand the answer to that question.
In our profession, success can be measured by the percentage of lives we do change. By participating in TV shows that are grounded on this premise, featuring people who couldn’t financially afford the treatment, I saw up close several cases which taught me that to restore someone’s well-being is an inestimable value. And that’s where the truth of what we do resides.
The more I see, the greater the perception that Portuguese dentists are super dentists. And believe me, the international community does recognize that: we are extremely effective in what we do. I have, however, come to conclude that all around the world, dentists are also egomaniacs. Fully focused on navel gazing. Driven by results when we should be one step ahead and practice live-saving dentistry.
And that’s mainly the reason why I consider that, by improving people’s lives, Dentistry becomes something personal.
Thus, I can only imagine Dentistry delivering excellence if exercised using the best materials, standing on the shoulders of a great team, and using the best technologies. Today, for example, the use of a CBCT (Cone beam computed tomography) in clinical practice is crucial. All of the above, added to the experience and the time we give to our patients, minimizes the error margin.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”
At this point, I think is important to introduce the cornerstone to this whole jigsaw puzzle: the absolute availability to realize that failing and making mistakes are crucial to achieve success. In our day-to-day lives, we are obsessed by success – but we often forget the importance of making mistakes. And believe me, we all fail daily over and over again. This might seem stranger at first, but take Michael Jordan as an example and a recent campaign he participated in, where he tells us how throughout his whole career he failed over 900 shots, 26 points that could decide a game, and lost more than 300 games! All of these was just a small step for all the times (many, many more) in which he achieved his goals.
In our profession, we must make mistakes so that we can understand our business, our cases, and manage processes.
Dentistry is a medical specialization that causes the greatest increase in someone’s self-esteem. It turns out to also have an effect on the psychopathology, self-image, happiness, professional success and moral integrity. The study that proved it evaluated all these premises before and after the treatment.
All that people wanted was a complete smile which would make them happy. Because we are smile builders, we are the absolute crossover between health, beauty and well-being.
A major problem in Dentistry is the tooth by tooth treatment. Therefore, the first thing I do is to avail my patients’ real needs and understand what they want for a final result. Many patients who show up at the White Clinic are not even treated, either because they don’t really need treatment or because they cannot go through the whole treatment. Part of the success we have is due to our consistency. We deliver a full smile. This requires us to learn how to manage their expectations. And to say NO whenever necessary.
From then on, you can count on the best possible result. A result not dependable on either the clock or the budget and that can keep a patient on surgery for hours and hours if needed be. Even years ago I had the opportunity to underline: finance based diagnosis is killing Dentistry. Let us specialize in people instead.
To cut a long story short, make sure you have the necessary skills. Don’t save on material and equipment. We always blame the implant, when many times the implant is just fine. You might want to think twice about your plan and protocol. Establish a relationship, create bonds. You’re always treating a health problem, not a teeth case.
The ability to look at ourselves in the mirror, predicting results and knowing our patients, will determine if we are successful or not. And success is nothing more than the delicate management of our personal ambitions, our abilities and our patient’s wishes.
After all, what’s our area of performance? Personally, I can only see one answer: happiness. When a dentists touches someone’s mouth, he’s affecting their lives and determining their happiness. And I love holding that responsibility.