by Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Dewey."
"Dewey who?"
"Dewey have to make dentistry our whole life?"

If you read too many dental journals or listen to too many dental-seminar speakers, it is easy to come away thinking that there's something terribly wrong with you. There's a popular message out there that's says if you're not making enormous commitments to excellence; pursing the highest possible levels of productivity, profitability, and celebrity; and starting your own institute, you're missing the boat. It seems that being an average dentist with good skills who's making a comfortable living isn't good enough anymore.

I disagree. In fact, I see lots of evidence that overachieving invites more unhappiness than being average ever did. If you ever thought, "Who says dentistry has to be my whole life?" then you'll enjoy hearing Drs. Joe and Ana Chester's story.

Joe and Ana practice together in Warren, Ohio. I met them and their two blonde little girls licking ice cream cones in front of the Skinny Dip Ice Cream parlor in Sonesta Key, Fla. For over 30 years, Joe and Ana have accumulated one of the largest and most important collections of antique dental books, cabinets, instruments, and other vintage items for the interest of academicians and the public. They recently purchased an old Victorian home, where they will house their antique dental display as well as sell antiques. They're remodeling the building and, by May, they'll be open for business.

"We have a very successful practice on four days a week, which leaves us plenty of time for vacationing and searching for antiques. Family members manage the antique business," says Joe.

"We both love antiques," says Ana. "The antique store and dentistry allow us to combine what appears to be dissimilar passions. Dentistry gives us the ability to purchase the antiques we want, along with purchasing antiques for our store."

"Being dentists has helped us to be successful in the antique business. We're amazed at the number of patients who give us leads to find great antiques. There's a high level of attention to detail in antiques that dentistry has helped us develop. The fine-motor skills we use every day in dentistry I use to repair a lot of the finer ivory pieces and statues. The income we make in the practice has fueled the growth of our antique business. Antiques are our passion and dentistry helps us experience it," says Joe.

Ana says, "The greatest similarity between dentistry and antiques is that they are both relationship businesses. My father gave us advice many years ago that really has rung true. He told us to stay out of the PPOs and managed-care insurance plans, and by doing so,we could control our destiny. He told us to do a good job, treat people well, keep things honest, and the practice will grow. It's the same in the antique business. When we buy an antique we try to make it a good experience. We meet nice people and we've established a clientele who buy from us. We take pride in treating people with dignity in the dental office and in our antique business."

"The antique business has helped us with dentistry, too. After a while, things get pretty routine in the dental practice. Antiques have been a source of passion for us. If we've had a tough day in the dental practice, the antiques help relieve our stress. They are a great outside source of stimulation," says Joe.

Ana says, "I hate to say it, but dentistry can wear itself out. There isn't very much we haven't done. We offer a broad range of services. We take CE, we read journals, and we bring new advances in dentistry into our practice. But, after a while, it's hard to get too excited about it. We love our patients and our practice, but we need something outside of the mouth to keep us excited."

I hear stories like Joe and Ana's often. It reminds me that one of the best aspects of dentistry is that there are multiple ways to win. Find your passion, then pursue it. If it's dentistry, great! If not, let dentistry help you experience what you love. Dentistry doesn't have to be your whole life!

Dr. Homoly coaches dental teams to implement reconstructive dentistry through his continuing-education workshops, private consulting, and seminars. This column is an excerpt from his new book, Isn't It Wonderful When Patients Say Yes? — Case Acceptance for Complete Dentistry. Dr. Homoly can be reached at (704) 342-4900 or via email at [email protected]. Visit his Web site at www.paulhomoly.com.

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