Matt Bynum, DDS
I have written about the varied factions and philosophies that exist in dentistry in past columns. But one I have not written about is a group of dentists you find in every city and town across the country. You know the one I am talking about. The one that is comprised primarily of older dentists who hold onto older thoughts, beliefs, and philosophies. This is the very same group who despise change as we know it to be happening in the world around us and in our profession of dentistry. This is the group that some label as the "tribal elders" or the "good ol' boys."
What is it with these people? Is it that they are angry that they never took the chance to be better or never wanted more out of their respective careers and practices? Are they jealous of what we have at our disposal and that they have not taken the time to learn it for themselves? Are they blinded by the necessity of selling their practices to retire because they did not invest in their own futures wisely? Are they upset because they aren't being listened to when it comes to the way things are now? Or, is it that they feel good and revitalized to know they still have some control over what is slowly slipping away as the profession of dentistry changes before their eyes? Whatever it is, it is time for a change!
I have sat idle for too long and watched this group of individuals force-feed their opinions and beliefs on dentists who need so much more than negative energy. I have listened as these groups have flustered the free- thinking individuals who dare to step out of the box of mediocrity. I have listened as dentists from around the country tell stories of being ostracized from communities for saying, acting, or doing something that these good ol' boys thought was wrong. The decaying thoughts of yesterday are not a part of the philosophy of the dental practices of today, and it is time for those who have fallen subject to these beliefs to wake up! The young dentists of today need "real" mentors who support education and continued learning for the sake of practice, patient, and individual success. We need people who are capable of understanding what dentists are facing in today's marketplace.
The good ol' boys want to keep the field of play in the same way they have maintained it for many years. They do not want you to look any different than they do, because dentists are only supposed to look "professional" in the way they look professional. You are not supposed to advertise or market your practice to attract new patients because they didn't do that when they started out. Besides, that would be unprofessional! They reject thoughts or views outside of their own.
I recently read an article on the concept of "mentorship" and what it takes to make these programs successful. This article presented somewhat limited parameters on who should serve as the mentor by stating that exceptions could be made if the new member would be better suited to work with someone else. Who is to decide who this "better person" is? Is it the group at large or is it the new member? How can you dictate who would and would not be better suited for someone else? How can we begin to call a program — which already begins to stifle the process — mentoring?
Today's dentists need positive energy and re-enforcement. They need to hear what the possibilities are and that they can succeed. They need an open mind, an open ear, and an open heart. They need a mentor to provide guidance in practice, in theory, and in life. They want a mentor to lead by example. Most of all, they want a mentor to inspire them.
In the good ol' boys club, they protect their own. The divisive lines in generation and philosophy are clearly marked. Yet, the tribal elders wonder why we have this separation. Our profession is in need of people of all ages and philosophies to take a stand for the profession. We need a group of open-minded people who are able to come together in discussion and celebrate the advances that dentistry has made — and continues to make — in the lives of our patients. We need to eliminate this sense of the good ol' boys, and focus on how great it is to be in the profession of dentistry.
What will each of you do to bring something positive back into the local communities of the profession? What will you do to help the new and younger dentists of today? Can't we all just get along?
Dr. Matt Bynum lectures internationally on aesthetic 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 Matt@DrMattBynum.com.