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My View: Tools for success as a dentist

February 15, 2016
Photo of Tyler Clayton, D.M.D.
Tyler Clayton, D.M.D.
I recently enjoyed a long weekend motorcycle trip with some close friends of mine. This was a chance for me to unwind and disconnect from the daily routines that we all face in our challenging but rewarding profession. I had many opportunities to engage in conversation throughout the weekend, but one particular conversation stayed with me and changed my perspective in regards to my role as a clinical leader in my practice. It brought me to realize just how valuable organized dentistry membership has been in my success and growth as a leader.

The people who joined me on this trip were a mixed bag of successful individuals, all with different perspectives. It was a general contractor, a small business owner turned professional life coach, and me, the general dentist, as we talked about our successes and challenges in our professions. I was challenged by the life coach to explain the most important factor to my success. Of course, I quickly rambled off several critical elements that make or break patient experiences, such as the quality of staff in the practice and clinical outcomes. As I caught my breath for a moment feeling satisfied with my explanation, he said that wasn’t what he was looking for. As I sat there for a moment hoping to redeem myself, he quickly exclaimed, “IT’S YOU!” Right there I had a moment of clarity that seemed to connect the dots, if you will, for my responsibility in every aspect of my profession. The weight is on the wheels per se, when it comes down to it for us as clinicians.

The fabric of our profession is woven together with many intersections that can change our success for better or for worse, everything from our assistants, materials, patient demands, etc. However, in the end, we as individuals are the very fibers that determine the quality of our professional experience, and we must know how to navigate through the infinite number of decisions we make day in and day out. In a large group practice, or any practice setting for that matter, one can easily become a product of their own culture. This is great on one hand, but on the other we can lose the vision of the big picture of our great profession.

Now more than ever, we are seeing so many changes for our profession such as political changes in health care and technology advances outpacing our ability to adapt. One of the most important tools we have at our disposal is the opportunity to have membership in the tripartite organized dentistry associations at national, state and local levels. As a leader in my practice and community, and as a professional who has the privilege to create change, I recognize the value and purpose of these organizations. The industry of dentistry is continuously flooded with new products, topics of debate directly affecting the way we practice, and regulatory standards that are always adapting to improve our profession. It can be difficult to know where to turn for unbiased reviews on products, and information on current issues we face as dentists. It’s up to us to control the quality of dentistry and its delivery.

Organizations such as the ADA and Arizona Dental Association have been established for our collaboration to protect and evolve the good name of dentistry. I have specifically used certain evidence-based reviews on products generated from the ADA to make decisions on whether I should try a new porcelain block with my CAD/CAM system. I made use of the excellent benefits available to us as members such as life and disability policies that are competitively priced. I’ve also had patients seek me out due to my commitment to these organizations.

So, my dear colleagues, I now challenge us all to ask ourselves; have we taken advantage of all the resources we have as professionals in dentistry? I would encourage each of you to research what organized dentistry is doing for our profession whether you are a member or not. It has made a real difference for me, as I am responsible for so many professional decisions that directly affect my success. After being inspired by my friend on this road trip, I realized how important my role is, and couldn’t help but recognize some of the valuable tools I’ve been given such as my proud membership in organized dentistry.

An excerpt of this editorial, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in the October issue of “Inscriptions,” the magazine of the Arizona Dental Association. Dr. Clayton is the Pacific Dental Services-supported owner dentist of Crossroads Dental Group and Orthodontics in Chandler, Arizona.