Do dentists have low self–esteem?

Oct. 1, 2009
The answer to the question in the headline is yes; dentists do have low self–esteem.

by Louis Malcmacher, DDS, MAGD

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: dentists and low self–esteem, motivating speakers, Dr. Louis Malcmacher.

The answer to the question in the headline is yes; dentists do have low self–esteem. I will say it unequivocally, and I will tell you it is time to do something about it. In addition to my general and cosmetic dental practice, my other full–time job is presenting, teaching, and educating dental professionals. I speak to literally thousands of dentists every year, so I feel I have a fairly unique insight into the mindset of general dentists. Here are a few reasons I think dentists have low professional self–esteem.

First of all, we need to make dental continuing education more engaging, enlightening, and certainly more fun and interesting. I gave a lecture a few months ago at the fantastic New Mexico Dental Meeting in Albuquerque. I was walking from the hotel, which was a couple of blocks from the convention center, with a group of dentists, hygienists, assistants, and office managers. They didn't know who I was, and I didn't know who they were. As we walked into the convention center and were joined by a few other dental professionals, I overheard one hygienist say to another, “I hate going to these dental continuing education classes. They're so boring. I would really rather be working.”

To me that was certainly a challenge, and I used her comments in my opening remarks, which sparked a good deal of laughter. Why do some dental lecturers insist on talking down to dentists, maligning other schools of thought, and having a brusque attitude with their audiences?

Thankfully, we are blessed to have many motivating and engaging speakers who really help raise the dental industry's self–esteem. People such as Sally McKenzie, Dr. Lorin Berland, Dr. Harold Crossley, our esteemed editor Dr. Joe Blaes, Dr. Lorne Lavine, Dr. Michael Silverman, Dr. Tony Feck, and others are aware that people learn better when they are engaged and entertained.

Whenever I give or take continuing education, I want to walk out of the meeting room not only educated, but also inspired and feeling that I can provide better services to my patients.

Another reason that dentists have low self–esteem is that we don't think of ourselves as “real doctors.” It's time to take a good look in the mirror and realize what we know, and how much we have that can benefit our patients, especially when we work in conjunction with other health–care professionals.

I will point to two specific areas — the oral–systemic connection, and the total facial esthetics connection. I have been heavily involved in both of these areas for the past few years.

Many dentists do not take the time to connect with a physician when a patient has a systemic disease that can be improved with proper oral care. I have had many physicians and nurses thank our office for the chance to work together so that the patient has a better health outcome.

Total facial esthetics is an area where dentists truly shine in comparison to other health–care providers. Now that I am heavily involved in providing and teaching Botox and dermal filler therapy, I work with many esthetic dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and physicians who treat dentists as peers.

Indeed, they are surprised when they learn dentists only recently were able to provide Botox and dermal fillers in many states. Dentists have a lot to teach esthetic physicians in terms of smile lines, lip and cheek support, lip lines, esthetic dentistry, and how esthetic dentistry fits into the facial esthetic world. Unfortunately, it's dentists who try to prevent us from interacting in these areas.

It's high time to look at ourselves in the mirror and understand that we are not only teeth mechanics, but we have a lot to offer to the overall health and well–being of our patients, as well as giving patients a great looking and healthy smile. Let's start working with other health–care providers, who treat us more professionally than we sometimes treat each other. We are highly trained health–care clinical and esthetic professionals who specialize in the oral and maxillofacial areas. Let's take ourselves more seriously as a profession.

Dr. Louis Malcmacher is a practicing general dentist and internationally known lecturer, author, and dental consultant known for his comprehensive and entertaining style. An evaluator for CLINICIANS REPORT, Dr. Malcmacher is a consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the ADA. Contact him at (440) 892–1810 or e–mail [email protected]. His Web site is, where you can sign up for a free monthly e–newsletter.

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