Day: November 24, 2021 (page 1 of 1)

My missing piece: Reaffirming my love for puzzles during the COVID-19 pandemic

While studying for my DATs about a decade ago, I remember being frustrated with the PAT section of the exam. Why would I ever need to know which asymmetrical and strange shape would fit into which hole? How would this be relevant to the practice of dentistry? As I passed time by working on a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle during a 12-hour overnight call shift at my GPR, I had a moment of clarity.


Dr. Khan

I am an imaginative person by nature. I have always found creative tasks like coloring, embroidering, or crocheting not only enjoyable but relaxing. However, my true passion lies in creating order out of chaos – my chaos of choice being jigsaw puzzles.

The first commercial jigsaw puzzle was made in 1762 by London-based mapmaker John Spilsbury, who mounted a map onto a wood basing and then cut around the borders of individual countries with a scroll saw. Throughout their early years, the primary goal of jigsaw puzzles was to help children learn geography. The invention of the “tredle jigsaw” tool in the early 19th century allowed for the creation of more intricate piece shapes and faster production.

During the Great Depression the popularity of jigsaw puzzles exponentially increased and allowed families a way to spend time with one another through problem solving while distracting themselves from daily hardships. More recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic jigsaw puzzles offered a quiet, inexpensive escape from the ever changing world during a global pandemic.

Oral health is multifactorial and only after a comprehensive medical, social and dietary history are we able to get the full picture of a patient’s oral health. Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, it is only after putting together the pieces that you are able to see the entire picture; in the case of dentistry, as a provider you can now tailor treatment and oral health recommendations to the specific patient. Moreover, jigsaw puzzles challenge our perceptual ability, color matching and pattern recognition and matching – a dentist’s dream! Puzzling allows me to achieve creative meditation and mindfulness through the marriage of the left and right sides of our brain.

I reaffirmed my love for puzzles in March 2020 when “elective dental procedures” were canceled in New York State. Our clinic schedule switched to weekly shifts covering emergency patients. I was anxious not only about the consequences of a global pandemic but also the impact it would have on my didactic and clinical education during my pediatric dental residency. Organized dentistry rose to the occasion and I was inundated with hours of online CE that allowed me to strengthen my clinical acumen. Yet, my hands remained fidgety. I wanted to create. But at the same time, I wanted to seek mindfulness. I found my nirvana through jigsaw puzzles. My hands were occupied with actively searching for the next piece while my mind was laser focused on the final picture.

Puzzling, much like many dental procedures, creates a unique sense of accomplishment. A little moment of success that only happens because of my efforts and achievements. The final picture of puzzles has evolved from antiquated landscapes to modern and vibrant pictures-capes depicting a wide variety of exciting and unique illustrations.

My favorite puzzle is the Clemens Habicht, 1000 Colors puzzle where each individual picture has been engineered to be its own distinct hue. While completing this puzzle I was transported back to my dental school days of trying to rearrange the VITA Classic Shade Guide by shade or brightness. When I encountered a roadblock with the hues of green I turned to an esthetic dentistry tip by photographing the pieces in black & white to aid in distinguishing them with no luck. Soon enough, the puzzle was complete – almost too fast. It remained on my kitchen table for a week after it was completed and put a smile on my face whenever I walked past it. Once that allure faded, I quickly disassembled and started on my new adventure: a 1,000-piece puzzle of a world map composed of flowers has since been framed and is hanging in my living room.

A year and a half later, we are still in a pandemic and the uncertainty of things becoming a constant, much like puzzles as my favorite mindfulness hobby. In the face of uncertainty in our lives, working on a puzzle is grounding while being nostalgic to a life unencumbered by the burdens of technology. I always have a puzzle in progress in the corner of my apartment as a reminder that no matter how small – each step forward brings you closer and closer to the end goal.

Furthermore, puzzling requires singular attention and can be an avenue to center yourself in the disarray of colors, patterns and shapes. More than ever, mental health is the cornerstone of a successful dentist and I encourage everyone to find a hobby that is the missing piece to their overall happiness and wellness.

Dr. Sarah Khan is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. She grew up in Long Island, New York and graduated Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine in 2016. While in dental school, she concurrently completed a Master’s in Public Health. She went on to complete her GPR at NY Presbyterian/Weill Cornell in 2017 and subsequently worked in Philadelphia, PA for two years. In the summer of 2019 she started her pediatric dentistry residency at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. She is passionate about health advocacy and is always looking to get involved with organized dentistry on a local, state and national level. In her free time she loves to travel with her husband, complete 2000+ piece jigsaw puzzles and laugh.  

Business side of dentistry: Golden rules of marketing

Editor’s note: This is the tenth article in a series exploring the business aspects of the dental profession, from starting a practice and marketing to hiring staff and finances.


Dr. Deshpande

Based on my experience, marketing has two main components: internal and external. Internal includes gaining higher case acceptance and introducing new procedures to your existing patients. External marketing involves efforts taken to bring new patients into the practice.

There are so many ways of bringing new patients into your practice. The following are only a few techniques mentioned. You can pay a company to do this for you, or based on your demographic testing, conduct this yourself.

1. Direct Mail. Some say this is the best way to bring new patients in. I think it depends on the demographic you’re targeting. If there’s a dentist in my market (downtown Seattle), trying to get me in the door, they may not succeed in doing so with a mailer. Most young couples that rent out apartments in the city throw their “junk mail” before leaving the mailroom. Where do these young couples look for a dentist? Online, specifically on Google.

2. Which bring me to reviews. Asking for a review can be the best way to boost your online presence, keep your SEO happy, and bring new patients in. Googling “Smile & Co.” — a boutique dental practice in Sacramento — provides a great example. Although they have a wonderful, bright website and active social media page, what keeps them in the game is their 500+ Google reviews. Your reviews are your community’s way of showing you they love you and will vouch for you.

3. Use your marketing as a try and fail method to test your market. If you’re targeting 50+ patients living in a retirement center, consider sending out mailers consistently for a few months and evaluate the return on investment. Did patients come through? Maybe consider offering specials to veterans or senior citizens, to make your clinic seem more attractive. Many patients lose their traditional employer sponsored dental insurance at the age of 60. A membership plan may help retain your aging patients.

4. Are you part of the local Chamber of Commerce? Consider hosting your space as a venue for one of their events, use that opportunity to meet more businesses in your area, and partner with entrepreneurs.

5. Are you a specialist? Join a study club with general dentists or make it a point to pick up the phone and call general dentists in your neighborhood to introduce yourself. I personally love meeting specialists who respect my drive to learn specialty procedures, and yet continue teaching me. It makes me connect with them even more and refer my favorite patients to them. Dr. Sonia Chopra, my mentor in endodontics, and Dr. Alan Yassin, my mentor in implants, are two great examples of specialists who have made teaching general dentists their life’s work.

6. Think of your ideal patient. Who is it? One of my favorite speakers had once told his audience that his ideal patient is a “busy businessman.” He tried to picture where those busy businessmen frequently hang out. Answer: bars and high-end restaurants. This is why he started offering free dental treatment to bartenders and servers, and in return, left his business cards at those local watering holes. Without trying too hard, his dental work got facetime with his preferred client, and often sent referrals to his office.

7. Focus on giving patients a 100% amazing experience. Work on creating a beautiful monthly dental newsletter, with updates on the team, office or community participation. Send out a birthday wish, either by email or a fun video. Call patients after surgeries, long treatment appointments or after any appointments involving small kids. Parents appreciate you calling after their kids. It increases trust and creates goodwill.

What if you’re still an associate at this time? Or maybe you’re in dental school and wondering if you can begin marketing at this stage? The answer is yes!

1. Consider creating a personal website and professional Instagram/Facebook account. Think about your personal brand carefully, what is your vision for the future? Why should patients come see you? Think of the photos you currently have plastered on the internet; do they convey the image you want to have out there?

2. Remain true to yourself. One of the dentists I admire partnered up with a nonprofit that helps rehabilitate women who suffered domestic abuse. For every new patient appointment, he donates a part of his fee to the nonprofit. He also offers free cosmetic treatment to a survivor every few months. This work aligns with his socially conscious practice. It has also helped create a community of supporters around his startup.

Do you have any other ideas about marketing? There are so many out there, and so many dentists who do it well. Be open to learning from people you meet and always be willing to tweak your existing strategies for the better!

Dr. Sampada Deshpande is a general dentist based in San Francisco. A foreign trained dentist from India, Sampada earned her DDS from the University of Washington in 2018 and is a 2020-2021 UW-LEND fellow. Outside of clinical dentistry, she enjoys teaching at the New Dentist Business Club and improving access to technology in healthcare via her involvement in Samsotech. You can reach her directly at @dr.deshpande on Instagram or visit her website www.sampadadeshpandedds.com for more information.

Building trust with our patients

As dentists, we took a professional oath to care for our patients. We entered the profession with the ideological belief that we can and will make a difference in our patients lives. We are hopeful, eager and will go above and beyond to ensure their needs are taken care of.


Dr. Ahmed

We are sincere in our efforts and in this selfless endeavor, we seek appreciation so that we can feel “good” about our decision to be a servient clinician.

So when we walk into the operatory to meet our patients, we’re excited and  filled with optimism. We hope to charm our patient so they like us. We ask “how’s it going?” but sometimes a patient will respond with a cold demeanor or simply say “Doc, nothing personal but I hate the dentist.”

They are gripping the chair and are defensive in their tone. You do the usual exam and go over the findings. You ask if they have any questions, and they say “How much is this going to cost? Cause I can’t afford this. I’m on a fixed income.” Or they say “My last dentist said [this and that]…and I came in to see if she was right. Why are you guys are telling me different things?  Don’t you think it’s a problem that you don’t have the same diagnosis or treatment?”

These are examples of psychological barriers that I was not prepared to deal with out of dental school. I realized there is an unhealthy amount of cynicism and skepticism in our patients as a result of previous negative experiences or stereotypes of dentists.

Hollywood often depicts the dentist as wild, gray-haired men who cause pain, and our capitalistic society assumes being a dentist is a “get rich quick” scheme.

If patients believe you exist to either hurt them or take their money, where in their mental space does the word “help” fit in? It can’t because its contradicting.

Throughout dental school and residency, I invested my time and energy in being a great clinician. I wanted the quality of my work to speak for itself. I soon realized it takes more than just clinical skills.  Unlike some of our health care counterparts, dentistry demanded other types of skills vital to our success. Such skills are necessary to help our patients overcome fear, anxiety, mistrust, and suspicion of our services.

One of those skills is listening. By listening, I started to understand the cause of my patients contempt when they say “I hate the dentist.” I learned about their traumatic pediatric experience or traumatic surgery. I learned about the priorities in their life that led to neglect or the series of dental visits that resulted in frustration.

Regardless of how upset or combative a patient can be towards their previous dentist, I believe it’s important to empathize without scrutinizing the provider.  You have to remember we’re only hearing one side of the story.

As practitioners, our approach to treatment is shaped  more by our experiences especially as we mature in our profession. Our postgraduate training (informal or formal), the practice business model (for profit vs. nonprofit) and our personal risk tolerance help shape our treatment philosophy. Such influences can result in differences in opinion among dentist leading to multiple diagnosis or treatment choices.

But a caries is a caries…right? A simple cavity has many stages and depending on the life cycle some dentist may choose to intervene early (why not take care of it when its small) or some may choose to wait (it may be arrested).

I like to believe that most of us became dentists because we sincerely want to help. Therefore, it’s imperative to maintain integrity, educate and intently listen to our patients. By doing so we can rebuild trust in our profession and ultimately change the pessimistic narrative for future generations.

Dr. Nashid Ahmed is a New Dentist News guest blogger. She is general dentist in Phoenix, Arizona. She earned her dental degree from Indiana University in 2019 and completed an AEGD in Phoenix. During her free time, she likes to explore the city of Phoenix and the great outdoors of Arizona. She enjoys hiking, biking and trying new restaurants. She also enjoys reading and blogging about career development and workplace culture.