Proactive vs. "crisis" dentistry

Sept. 1, 2003
At a dinner party, a new acquaintance named Bob was seated at my end of the table. He learned I was a dentist on the faculty of The Pankey Institute.

Richard A. Green, DDS, MBA

At a dinner party, a new acquaintance named Bob was seated at my end of the table. He learned I was a dentist on the faculty of The Pankey Institute. I learned that Bob was a retired Chief Financial Officer of a medium-sized manufacturing company. He had traveled extensively in his career and had many experiences in dental offices.

Bob indicated he was impressed by how quickly dentists make decisions. "Whenever I went into a dental office with a broken tooth, the dentist would have a quick look around and then tell me I needed a crown. Sometimes he was ready to do it on the spot!"

I also learned he was an accomplished golfer with a 6 handicap. He had three homes, and each home had an identical set of golf clubs ready for use at that location. All were recently updated, matched, and swing-weighted custom sets. He was a serious golfer, to say the least!

My mind was spinning thinking about the huge discrepancy between those matched sets of clubs and his unmatched set of teeth! How could I get his attention? Before too long, the "light bulb" came on and I said, "Tell me how you made decisions as a CFO in your business."

"Well," he began, "I take a thorough look at the short- and long-term impact of the decisions, the cost of capital necessary — both short- and long-term — and the risk and reward potential to the bottom line of the company."

"It sounds like you study the problem and/or opportunity with reflection and quite a bit of detail," I replied. "You slow down and take the necessary time to uncover the best possible solution before making a decision."

"Yes, of course, they would be important decisions, and they would take time!" declared Bob.

"Bob, let's compare your teeth to your sets of golf clubs," I said. He was listening. "When you were a young man, you had a new set of golf clubs. You used them through the years as you refined your golf game, but one day, you broke the 9-iron. You went to the Pro Shop to buy a new one. Right away, you noticed it felt different than your old one. It was a 9-iron, of course, but the grip, the shaft, and the swing weight were not quite the same as your original set. But it was OK; you knew how to adjust if you remembered to compensate for the differences. As time went on however, you had the same experience with your 7-iron, 4-iron, the pitching wedge, and your favorite wood.

"In time, you were adjusting your swing and stance every time you used a club. As a result, you noticed times when certain muscles would get sore, and that too, would get in the way of your swing. Finally, you realized that both you and your game were suffering, and decided to get refitted with a whole new set of clubs."

Bob seemed intrigued. I continued, "You went to a professional who put you through a whole series of tests and thorough evaluations to diagnose and plan the best solution that fit your uniqueness. The result worked so well for you that you not only bought one completely new set of golf clubs, you bought three so you'd never experience the problems and discomfort you had before, no matter where you played."

Bob agreed wholeheartedly, but his quizzical look now told me that he was wondering what all this had to do with his teeth. I explained, "Many dentists believe that a very busy man like you wants to get in and out of the dental office with dispatch. Acting on this belief, they respond in a 'crisis' mode to your dental 'events.'

"At The Pankey Institute where I work, we encourage our dentist-participants to slow down and be thorough in decision-making. Therefore, in the short range and long range, it will be better for you if your teeth, gums, and bite were as thoroughly evaluated as your golf swing, and then treated with the best plan for your uniqueness."

As we said good night and shook hands, Bob asked me to refer him to dentists — who think like I do — in the three locations of his golf clubs.

For more excellent motivational tools from Dr. Richard A. Green, please visit www.dentaleconomics. com.

Richard A. Green, DDS, FAGD, MBA, is the director of business systems development of The Pankey Institute and is responsible for developing the business systems and financial-management portion of the Institute's curriculum. You may contact Dr. Green by phone at (305) 428-5547 or by email at [email protected].

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