During the preceding five months, I have written columns to help you think about the four variables that make all the difference in dental practice: clinical skills, behavioral skills, business skills, and the time dedicated to developing them. In this, my last column, I’d like us to reflect more on what else makes us excel.
There is much to be said for the receptivity of students as we teach our participants at The Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne. After a few days of facilitated learning, we often hear them relate to the old adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
At those breakthrough moments, they and we feel soooo good. But wasn’t it really just a case of their putting on their ears - ready to learn, change, and move to a better place? They were in the right place, and this was the right time. We, the faculty, were fortunate bystanders in time and space helping facilitate growth in clinical, behavioral and financial dimensions.
Sometimes I wonder if there is a parallel adage: “When the teacher is ready, the student will appear.”
I mean that when we are ready, open, and accepting of changes in techniques, patterns, or behavioral objectives, we become students again, and that makes us better teachers and facilitators. This is something that my good friends Drs. Irwin Becker, Steve Ratcliff, and Gary DeWood nudge me toward when I teach at The Pankey Institute.
The data and information we perceive as changing might be huge and significant by all measures, like the introduction of implants or endodontics, the development of resin bonding and bite-splint therapy, or the understanding of patient engagement. Those are easy to spot, evaluate, incorporate, and teach in our own ways. What excites me - and I’m sure many of you - are the small, almost imperceptible changes that ultimately enhance our practices and lives. These are quantum changes.
In quantum physics, very small, almost unmeasurable changes exist which affect the systems we observe. Their effects are unnoticeable unless we approach infinite density like a black hole or travel near the speed of light. When we do, these slight alterations have profound effects on the entire system. For example, do you believe the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Southeast Asia right now affects the weather where you live? It most certainly does! Its effect is so small that you could not begin to measure it. When you travel in an airplane at 300, 400, or 500 miles an hour, time slows for you and you age less. Astronauts who travel 4 million to 5 million miles in a few days on a shuttle mission gain 325 milliseconds of extended time. I know - incredible stuff.
Seemingly little things such as waxing up cases with light-cured material, using dark incisal over cutbacks on my provisionals, or welcoming the Protar 5 articulator have profound effects on my dentistry. It is not because I travel at the speed of light or that I am so dense (be careful there). Instead, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of true giants who have seen much farther than I. And that has made all the difference. I am sure it has for you, as well.
You might remember the story I shared about Alice and the fork in the road where she came upon the Cheshire Cat. She asked the cat which way to go, and the cat replied that if she didn’t know where she was going, any path would do. Knowing what your dreams and visions are helps you choose paths that make a difference because you know where you are going. Begin each journey with single steps and a few degrees of separation. Dedicate your energy to developing clinical, behavioral, and business skills. Looking back, you will discover this dedication made a difference in where you traveled and what you have achieved in practice and in life.
Mark T. Murphy, DDS, FAGD, practices restorative dentistry in Rochester Hills, Mich. He is director of continuing education at Dental Technologies Inc. He is on the board and visiting faculty of The Pankey Institute. Dr. Murphy may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.