It's OK to be successful!

I was having a conversation with one of my dental friends the other day about his BMW M5. I have only seen him in the car a handful of times since he purchased it.

Matt Bynum, DDS

I was having a conversation with one of my dental friends the other day about his BMW M5. I have only seen him in the car a handful of times since he purchased it. We were discussing the fact that he had to take it into the shop again for repairs. I asked him why he did not drive this beautiful and expensive sports car more often, like to work and back home everyday. His reply was typical of so many professionals, and one about which I have a lot of emotion and strong opinions.

Please don’t get me wrong here and think this is about materialism. I am prefacing this article with this statement so that those reading it will not jump to the wrong conclusion. My friend’s reply was that he did not want his patients and staff to see him driving this expensive car for fear they would get the wrong impression of him. Wrong impression! The fact is, all patients think you are rich because you are a dentist! Most people have no idea what it costs to obtain the education needed to become a dentist, let alone the cost to sustain your practice. All patients know is that they are paying you whatever fee you are asking ... and that it is high. Whether it is $200, $500 or $1,000, it is too expensive!

Your staff is not stupid. Each of them knows what you are charging for the procedures being performed, and each knows how many patients you are seeing in a given day. They also have a pretty good idea of what you are paying out in total staff salaries. Beyond that, they know you are making more than they do, and they perceive you to be wealthy.

My friend with the BMW’s worry was that if his employees saw him with something as nice as this expensive car, they would feel the practice was doing very well and they deserved more of the financial returns.

I have two words for my friend and you readers out there who think that way: “So what?!” Is success really a bad thing to have? Think about it! Whether you are successful or not, people will judge you. So is it OK to work hard to attain everything you have? Is it better to have less because of what someone might say about you? Will you lose your patients because you drive a better car than they do or live in a better neighborhood than they do? Where does it stop?

Success does not just happen! It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve anything in life. Sometimes, the level of sacrifice is more than you bargained for, and the strain and stress of everyday life become extremely difficult. The profession of dentistry is not easy. We deal with individuals who are frequently in pain, dealing with financial hardship, filled with anger, or simply not interested in taking care of themselves. We are more than just “tooth mechanics.” We serve as counselors, therapists, physicians, family members, friends, and so much more.

The cost of running a practice is very high. The advancements we are seeing in dental materials and equipment means our overhead costs continue to rise. Insurance has our hands tied to statistics geared for those who are seeing the masses and at reimbursement rates allowing these companies to be extremely profitable. Yet, those not in the field of dentistry still have the impression we are the ones that make all the money!

Again, so what?! You put in eight to 10 years of education to achieve this level of professionalism. You are the one who has sacrificed his or her time, energy, and life to become the dentist you are today. It is you who deserves all the spoils which come with this level of sacrifice. It is you who did without while your friends started families, drove nice cars, and ate at the nice restaurants, while you continued your education and delayed receiving the rewards from a successful career!

You deserve to drive a nice car and have a nice house, and although dentistry is a demanding profession, it also is fulfilling in every way imaginable. Most people have no idea what it truly entails to run a dental practice and to deal with what we deal with on a daily basis. Do not let the impressions and the perceptions of anyone else dictate the level of your success. Do not alter your lifestyle for fear of what others in your community, practice, and/or profession will say. You deserve to reap the rewards of your hard work ... and you deserve not to be afraid to show it.

It’s OK to be successful, so go for it! Success is there for the taking. The question is, “Who or what will you allow to get in your way?” The answer should be, “Nobody and nothing!”

Dr. Matt Bynum lectures internationally on esthetic and reconstructive dentistry, practice management, motivation, and team-building. He is a clinical instructor and featured speaker at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies and is co-director and co-founder of the “Achieving Extreme Success” lecture series. Dr. Bynum maintains a full-time private practice in Simpsonville, S.C. Reach him at (864) 297-5585 or

More in Practice