If you won the lottery...

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Teddy."
"Teddy who?"
"Teddy is the beginning of the rest of our career."

Paul Homoly, DDS

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"Teddy."
"Teddy who?"
"Teddy is the beginning of the rest of our career."

One summer morning, Adam walked into a 7-Eleven store and bought a gallon of milk. With the change, he bought a lottery ticket. Later that afternoon, while watching television at the golf course bar with his cronies, the winning lottery number was announced.

"The grand prize number is 347424812," the announcer said. In a heartbeat, Adam Clarke, DDS, became a millionaire. He yanked out his cell phone, called his wife, Karen, told her the great news, and insisted she drop everything and meet him at home.

"We're rich. We're millionaires. I just won $20 million!" Adam sang as he and Karen danced in their kitchen. "Let's take a vacation!" said Karen. Two months later, Adam and Karen returned from Tahiti, tanned and mellow.

"So what are you going to do about your practice? We don't need the income," said Karen.

"I'm not sure," said Adam. As he walked through his quiet office that Sunday afternoon, he realized that he enjoyed dentistry. In fact, he actually missed it! Not all of it, of course. Too much of his practice had become an exquisite pain. It was the people he missed - Rita, the old-maid school teacher, whose face had lit up like a jukebox when she first saw her new smile; Stanley, the barber, who drove everyone nuts with his clicking dentures; his staff, who, in spite of their high-maintenance behavior, had become like family - a bit dysfunctional, but enjoyable nonetheless. Adam decided to stay in practice.

"We're going to do some great dentistry and make this place fun again," said Adam to his staff that Monday morning. "We're going to make some big changes."

The biggest change, of course, was in Adam. He began to act as if it was impossible to fail. For the next year, Adam led his practice in a brave new direction. He evolved his new-patient, recare, and emergency-patient procedures into a friendlier experience. Soon, he and his staff realized that they had less stress. Gone were the contests between patients and the practice over money. Gone were the battles over who gets their teeth cleaned.

Case acceptance began to soar; Adam and the staff heard "yes" from the most unlikely people! Adam learned that when he was comfortable with the treatment plan, his patients followed his lead. Marketing his practice took on a new energy. Adam realized more than ever that marketing is about the patient, not the dentist. Why not spread the good news of dentistry? Why can't patient education be community-wide?

Adam's practice thrived!

One evening, after a study club meeting, Jay, one of Adam's buddies, said, "Winning that lottery sure put your practice into orbit!" Adam usually brushed off remarks about the lottery, some of which were made out of curiosity, others out of envy. That night, though, he was in the mood to tell it like it was.

"How would you practice if you won the lottery?" Adam asked Jay.

"I don't know if I would," said his colleague. "If I had the money, I'd probably do something else."

"I thought the same thing," Adam confided, "but when I started looking at what else I'd do, I remembered how I used to think dentistry was fun. I decided, 'Why not rediscover dentistry and practice it in a way that's fun and fulfilling?'

"Winning the lottery didn't change my practice; it changed me. I let go of my fear. I realize now that when my fear left, it opened me to relationships. Having a great practice is not about the teeth, it's about the people.

"So many dentists think that dentistry will make them happy. It won't. Dentistry doesn't bring us happiness; we bring happiness to dentistry. It's your passion that's the greatest asset of your practice. You can't buy what it takes to have a great practice."

Most of us will never know the thrill of winning the lottery. We can, however, reclaim the joy of practicing dentistry - and enrich our lives in ways that no game of chance ever will!


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 e-mail at phomoly@mindspring.com. Visit his Web site at www.paulhomoly.com.

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