Yes… Batman. I grew up reading comic books (surprise, I’m a nerd) and Batman was one of my favorites. Fortunately the new films starring Christian Bale are excellent and quite popular so writing a post about this won’t seem too strange.
What does Batman have to do with being a dentist? It lead me to an interesting thought experiment. You see, being Batman is a terrible business model. It costs a lot of money for that fancy armor, Batmobile, and other high tech equipment. And Batman doesn’t charge you for saving your life.
You're welcome for drop-kicking that mugger to the face. That will be $50, please.
The whole operation runs at massive losses. Fortunately, Batman is fueled by the untold riches of Bruce Wayne, so he stays in the villain-punching business. In a way, being Batman really isn’t a business for Bruce Wayne but more of a hobby. A super-cool, vigilante hobby.
So this got me to thinking… what if you were ridiculously wealthy like Bruce Wayne? How would that change how you practice? What if dentistry was just a hobby and you didn’t need to do it for income? Here are my answers:
(1) I wouldn’t work 5 or 6 days a week.
I love being a dentist. But I get burned out if I don’t juggle different things. Do you tell people you’re too busy to take a vacation? Rubbish. It’s your life, do what you want. Take a week off to visit another country. I promise the world will not end. But if I wasn’t dependent on dentistry for income, than it would be a lot easier to scale down to maybe two days a week in the office. And cutting down my schedule would mean I could be more selective about the patients I treat, which leads me to…
(2) I would be more selective about the patients I treat.
I recently wrote a post about the red flags that make me consider firing a patient and about how to end bad relationships with patients. If I had a zillion dollars, I imagine I would stick to those principles more rigidly. I would only treat the good, kind, and appreciative patients out there. No more losing sleep over the nasty, unreasonable, and unappreciative people of the world. There aren’t many of them, but they certainly know how to ruin my day.
(3) I would be more charitable for those in true need.
Here’s a tricky one. The key phrase is “true need.” There are plenty of people out there who willingly ignored their oral health for decades and now need a lot of treatment. They had the means to take care of themselves but they instead chose to spend their money on vacations, tobacco, etc. I’m sorry if they think their treatment is too expensive now, but they need to assume some ownership for that. Tough cookies. No discounts for you.
But of course there are also people who are down on their luck. There are good people who could use some help getting back on their feet. Or maybe they never had the opportunity to take care of themselves; children from developing countries or areas where there are no dentists.
If I really had Bruce Wayne riches, I would set up clinics in remote areas that would be staffed by visiting dental students and their professors, as well as recent graduates looking to pay off some student loans. Maintenance fees, overhead, and staff salaries could be paid for by donations, trusts, and other financial vehicles. I like this idea. Somebody call Bill Gates.
Well at the end of my thought experiment, I realized that I don’t need to be a multimillionaire to practice this way. I can still choose to take more time off from work. I can travel and treat those who are less fortunate. I can be selective about the patients I treat. Who said I have to have megabucks to make that happen?