Two remarkable dentists
Dr. Joe Blaes and Dr. Woody Oakes are both remarkable people in our wonderful profession. I admire and respect them both, and Joe has done an outstanding job as editor of Dental Economics. Enclosed is copy of the letter I sent to Dr. Oakes in response to his letter to Dr. Blaes. Please consider printing it in the magazine. With best wishes for your continued success in every aspect of your life.
John Savage, DDS
Letter to Dr. Woody Oakes
Your letters to Dr. Joe Blaes in February's Dental Economics had a great deal of insight. "Happiness" is what we all seek as we travel on our journey through life. Certainly, it is a unique experience for each of us, and you and I deeply respect everyone's option to seek their own dreams.
However, I can't imagine going to my office each day with a "money goal" as my purpose for the day and the goal for my life. My major commitments are to learn as much as I can and to help as many people as possible before I die. My happiness is found by being as thoughtful and considerate to each person I am privileged to see as a patient. As you suggested, I ask, "How may I help you?" Your needs [the patient's] – not mine — are how I want to relate to everyone.
It is important for me to know that I can do excellent dentistry. We all have difficulty with some cases and, at times, I wish the results had been better. But, I would be delighted to compare my preparation and impressions with any "boutique office" in America. It is interesting to note that I have been practicing for 44 years and have never taken a practice administration course. How to accomplish better dentistry is my goal in our profession. Paperwork is not one of my passions, so once I didn't send out bills for four years. As Frank Sinatra sang, "I Did It My Way!"
My office is 19 miles from the closest traffic light, in no phone book , and we never do any advertising. It is an outstanding example that people will follow compassion and excellence anywhere. Happiness is the goal, but I also have been very financially successful.
When you are my age, 69, you know that money and material possessions will never, ever make you happy. Woody, you know the above statement is true.
So what is important? Your gift of life and your time on this good earth. Your health, your relationship with God, and that very important relationship with yourself. The love and support of your family and friends are equally as important. Ethics, ability, and skill that give inner peace, joy, and happiness are other criteria. Your citizenship in America is yet another.
Our purpose is to serve others in our own unique way. The great paradox is that the more we serve and give, the more we receive in return. The great lesson, then, is how can I give more and more to others?
John Savage, DDS
Improving the bottom line
It seems to me that consultants are always looking to increase the dentist's bottom line. After all, that is what we are paying them for, isn't it? It is the way the bottom line can be improved according to Dr. Roger Levin in his February column that I found to be short-sighted.
Adding adjunctive services is not the answer to increasing production. Certainly, it won't hurt. Doing it the way his article suggests is a tunnel-vision approach. If all you had in your arsenal was a hammer, all you would look for would be nails. If you plan to focus on locally-administered antibiotic therapy, for example, that is all you will see.
I think it is more valuable to take a step back and diagnose the patient comprehensively without regard to the patient's finances. Let that be worked out later, but come up with a comprehensive, ideal treatment plan first. Nothing will increase the office production more than the doctor not being just a "tooth doctor," and instead becoming a "mouth doctor." Dr. Levin's suggestion is like telling a homeowner that his or her landscaping will look better if you added a single, red-blood maple to the yard. Sure, that one tree will make a difference, but imagine the impact of a properly designed landscape (trees, bushes, perennials). The whole package is the answer!
We, as a profession, and the consultants who have the most impact on our practices need to approach this delicate subject comprehensively. Remember, if you stand too close to the forest, all you see are the leaves. Take a step back and view the forest!