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Kill the Loop

Routines.  Systems.  Reflexes.

Our lives depend upon daily repetitions to move us efficiently through our lives.  I brush my teeth, take a shower, and shave without having to think about it.  Which is good because my brain hasn’t fully powered up at that hour of the morning and I might otherwise try to shave my teeth.

When was the last time you had to think about tying your shoes?  It’s a reflex at this point.  You may even feel that way about some dental procedures.  Maybe you can give an inferior alveolar block or take an impression without expending any mental energy.  It’s incredible to master a skill like that.  Watching this guy iron a shirt is almost beautiful:


But there’s a dark side to routines.  At some point a well-oiled machine can become a nightmare.

One of the more common signs of crossing over that dark tipping point is boredom.  Not just a little fatigue that can be resolved with a week vacation; I mean real boredom.  That horrible despair of going to work to a job you hate.  And that’s exactly what dentistry has become in these cases.  It’s deteriorated from a profession into a job.  If this has happened to you, all the vacations in the world won’t turns things around.

Another MOD? How exciting…

What will make a difference?  Do less of what has become monotonous.  Dread doing operative?  Give it to a partner, associate, or someone else in the practice.  If there isn’t another person in the office than consider hiring a part-time associate to handle it.  Now you get to explore something new.  Perhaps you’ll take some courses in implants or complex endodontics.  Find a niche that excites you and develop that part of your practice.

Another dark side of routines is never evolving.  When I lecture I’ll sometimes have dentists approach me and say “But I’ve done that procedure my way forever and it still works!”  Yes, they may have a technique or material that is successful in their hands and that is great.  But we must be vigilant for new techniques and materials that raise the bar for success.  The definition of “success” is constantly evolving and so must we.  That’s why we have CE requirements, after all.

If you think you’ve mastered a procedure, keep reading the literature and attending CE courses.  Try new techniques and materials to see if your results improve.  Challenge your definition of success all the time!


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