I look forward to getting Dental Economics® each month. It serves as a good barometer of dental consciousness. It tells me about mainstream dentistry and gives me ideas for my own writing. One of the magazine’s regular writers, Dr. Matt Bynum, never fails to upset me, and in the March 2005 issue he did it once again.
Let’s start with his uncalled-for rebuttal (March DE; Letters) of Dr. Craig Callen’s comments (January DE; Letters) on Bynum’s October 2004 column, “The Good Ol’ Boys” (page 88). I share many of Dr. Callen’s views about the column, and wrote about it in my newsletter, Dental Life. I received feedback on my article, and can tell you that many dentists also agree with Dr. Callen. Dr. Bynum tells us that 90 percent of his feedback was positive - I guess most people follow the rule that when you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Bynum’s biggest issue is that Callen misinterpreted his Soapbox column. His letter explains that it was more about leadership and mentorship. I never got that message. Maybe the role of leaders is to be clear and not create confusion. I was certainly confused, as was Dr. Callen. Writing and leading is about clarity. And vision. That brings me to Bynum’s latest foray into the world of leadership.
In his March Soapbox column, “Fix Your Grill” (page 128), Bynum relates his experience in purchasing new gym equipment. He tells us that as the salesman was talking to him, he was thinking how out of shape the salesman was and if there was someone else in the store who knew the equipment better. Bynum spins his tale in order to make the point that, as dentists, we should value our work and fix our own mouths if we want our patients to accept our recommendations. Bynum left that store and found another store with Stewart, an in-shape salesman. Bynum tells us that Stewart made the sale because he was friendly, well-mannered, and well-built.
Although I find some validity in the “out-of-shape guy selling gym equipment and the dentist with horrible teeth” being a “contradiction of terms,” I also think Bynum is telling us this story to tell us something else - but it isn’t quite clear until the end - fix your own teeth, doctor! Maybe this is Bynum’s vision for dentistry. I can’t tell for sure because I saw other issues in Bynum’s story - and what I saw may reveal why I find so much of the cosmetic dentistry revolution, well, just revolting.
I once heard that the man who invented Nautilus gym equipment actually started out by selling it himself. I saw a picture of him and he didn’t remind me of Arnold. He knew the equipment, and if I wanted a demonstration I would seek him out rather than some over-friendly, over-intending, steroidal salesman. I would want someone who really understood the equipment and really cared about how I was going to use it. How would I know who my salesman was? How would my salesman know who I was? The answer, of course, lies in the relationship.
Maybe my salesman was someone who was working two jobs just to make ends meet, and if I was buying a brand name anyway, why not give him the sale just so the world could be a better place? I could spin the story anyway I wanted, couldn’t I?
Matt, that’s what leaders do - they create clarity. They provide hope for a better future. If you want to stand up on your Soapbox and be a better leader, then lead those young dentists to a place that honors people rather than things. That is what I find so revolting about the “cosmetic revolution.” It’s not the arguments of the different philosophies of occlusion; it’s how we treat people. Dentistry’s better future rests more on relationships than on the things - the veneers, the implants, and the technology.
Leaders help people find meaning in their work. We need to help people find their will to meaning rather than their will to pleasure and their will to power. We do that through love and service, not things. Those who focus on pleasure and power never find meaning in their work. You tell Dr. Callen to “walk a mile in my shoes, or in the shoes of any of us younger, more adventurous dentists, and you will begin to understand the meaning of the ‘good ol’ boys.’”
Matt, I have walked that mile, and I can tell you that the meaning doesn’t come from how your shoes feel. It comes from people, not things.
As a side note, I notice a new cosmetic group is now forming. It calls itself IACA - the International Academy of Comprehensive Aesthetics. Your name is included in the list of speakers. I have some observations and questions.
1. How many more groups or affiliations do we need for a group of dentists who want to represent a field that isn’t even recognized as a specialty by the ADA?
2. What is the intent or the vision of each of these groups?
3. What is “Comprehensive Aesthetics?” (That seems like an oxymoron to me, like jumbo shrimp.)
And lastly, Matt, to me, “comprehensive” means “all-inclusive” - form, function, and most important, the people who make it all work.
Barry Polansky, DMD
Cherry Hill, N.J.