Day: November 26, 2021 (page 1 of 1)

Wearing several hats takes time management

Upon writing this post, I was asked, “What does a typical day look like for you?” I must humbly reply that a typical day does not exist for me. That is one of the reasons that I chose to partake in the profession of dentistry.

There are a multitude of factors that can contribute to a day in the dental office. One day, it could be a “ho-hum” day of basic hygiene recall exams. The next day could involve a complex series of restorations with subgingival margins, while the subsequent day could involve researching a peculiar fluctuant mass needing a biopsy. Sometimes, a mere morning can encompass all three scenarios before you sit down and have your first cup of coffee. My running joke with my colleagues over the years has been that everyone in the dental community should learn to have an appreciation for iced coffee — as it may be hot when you brew it, but will undoubtedly be cold by the time you consume it.

Jokes aside, it would be wise to take some notes from Edna Mode of Disney’s The Incredibles or Louis Pasteur of scientific fame, who both agree that luck favors the prepared. It is this very preparedness that has kept me in good stead from my dental experiences in both Washington and California. From being a restorative hygiene professor at Eastern Washington University to an insurance dental claims consultant to an active associate in private practice, I have worn many hats throughout my career. This has expanded my network to include all walks of dental life; be it student, 10+ year veteran, hygienist or even a contributor to the ADA New Dentist Now blog team!

How do I manage writing a witty, insightful article while maintaining my role as a dutiful husband, all after a tiring day’s work?

Time management.

Multitasking is the key to effectively and efficiently manage my time. For example,  balancing my finances. Does this constitute me sitting down, blocking out an hour to sit and plan out the debits and credits? No, if only I were so lucky to have that amount of time to accomplish this! What this means for me is that while I wait for the water to boil for a morning cup of coffee (still hoping I can get to try it piping hot), I will check bank accounts and emails concerning finances.

Furthermore, my balancing management approach does not stop in the morning. First and foremost, I am dedicated to treating the patient that is in front of me at my brick and mortar establishment, but, if there is a lull in the schedule, that presents the perfect opportunity to help consult and answer online questions through my work in teledentistry.

Interestingly enough, this mentality does not limit itself to only dental-based ideals, as it can facilitate an increased time with family and friends. This multitasking strategy has taught me that if I can complete errands such as getting my haircut or picking up dry-cleaning during my lunch hour, I will have more time to spend with my wife and family.

Another concept that I wholeheartedly support is to invest time and effort into endeavors now that will be fruitful in the future. I opt to engage in organized dentistry, in particular the advocacy side of dentistry. Ever since I became heavily involved with advocacy in 2017, I have learned that we as an organization have been lobbying hard to reform the Mccarran-Ferguson Act. This topic was a stalwart on our list of topics to discuss with officials almost every year.

Recently, we were fortunate to see that our lobbying succeeded and the bill was reformed! In short, by having the reformation, we loosened the grip that dental insurances had on the future reimbursements that they could provide. Our team’s constant discussions with Congressional members facilitated a momentous change to policy. By allocating time and effort now, we can have a better shot at having a better financial future.

It should be noted that with all the wonderful variety of options available to a dentist, we should not bite off more than we can chew, “Like this Camembert [cheese], I am at my most delicious when I’m not spread too thin.” This season 8 quote from the show Frasier exemplifies the need to not be so bogged down with activities that you cannot focus on what is at hand.

Remember, a patient’s emergency does not mean it’s your urgency. Far less the fact that it was most likely recurrent decay close to the pulp that needed a crown before and now needs both a root canal and a crown. But if there are five patients in the waiting room, chair two will not recline and chair five’s air-water just sprung a leak, take a deep breath and know that it’s OK to offer antibiotics and analgesics until you can properly devote appropriate attention to the case.

In summation, how can a little old dentist such as myself commit to so many roles and be productive? The author Paul J. Meyer put it best, “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”

Dr. Amir Kazim was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He completed his DDS at Howard University in 2014 and an Advanced Education in General Dentistry Program in the subsequent year at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic in Spokane. During his time in Washington State, Dr. Kazim took on roles in many varying capacities such as working in Federally Qualified Health Centers, private practice as well as insurance audits and adjunct professor of restorative dentistry. To this end, Dr. Kazim played an integral role in bringing the merits of teledentistry to Washington by being one of the founding members of their established task force. While keeping busy with dental–related issues, Dr. Kazim enjoys traveling and experiencing new cultures and foods. Having recently moved to California, Dr. Kazim is excited to continue his efforts into this exciting new aspect of dentistry. He is a member of the ADA, the California Dental Association and the Harbor Dental Society.

What you should learn in dental school, but don’t

Something feels oddly familiar.

Sitting in my neighborhood coffee shop with my laptop open, staring at a course syllabus as it ominously lays out what my life will look like for the next several months. Coffee, flash cards, and wild Friday nights are in my future. And if I’m lucky, I’ll get the pleasure of writing a research paper or two while I’m at it. I can only hope as I start my endo residency.

Dr. Vaughn

I haven’t “studied” in six years. I haven’t even thought about studying. It’s been so long since I’ve studied that I’m not even sure I still know how to do it effectively. But still here I am, a student once more, and residency promises to be very much one of those sink or swim scenarios.

Luckily, I haven’t forgotten everything that I learned in dental school. There’s a few lessons I’m bringing with me this time that I’ve picked up along the way. Maybe you’ve heard these a few times before. Maybe you haven’t. But I think all of us, from brand new dental students to those who’ve been out a while, could use a refresher.  Here’s four important lessons that I learned in dental school and in my years practicing as a general dentist.

1. Get your money’s worth.

Every day you walk into your dental school, it’s like showing up to an 8-hour CE course for which you have paid top dollar. It’s tempting to coast. Many of us are guilty of trying to get through our programs by putting as little effort in as possible.

“D stands for Degree,” right?

But what I’ve learned is that dental school is filled with opportunities to learn more than the bare minimum. Some of the most impressive people in our profession work in dental education. And what I’ve found out is that many of the expensive, top-notch CE courses you take as a practicing dentist are taught by, you guessed it, dental school faculty. Take advantage of your environment. You’ve already paid for it.

2. Listen well

Having been a part-time faculty a few times myself, I’ve found one of the most desirable qualities in a student is the ability to listen well. Are you teachable? Can you take constructive criticism? Are you willing to own that “student” mentality?

Will you agree with all of your attendings? No.

Do you have to agree? Of course not.

But no one ever starts a sentence hoping that you’ll finish it for them. Not every teacher is waiting for your perfectly crafted rebuttal of why you did what you did. Oftentimes, listening is the most powerful tool we have. You will find that this translates well out in practice. Make an effort to actively listen to what your patients have to say, and you’ll have a group of raving fans who trust you wholeheartedly.

3. Hand skills rarely matter

Look through the Google reviews of any dental office in your community and you know what you won’t see? Any mention whatsoever about the occlusal composite staining of the Class I secondary grooves. No 5-Star review on the distoincisal angle of your biomimetically placed resin composite. Not even a single word about that buttery smooth crown margin that you spent an extra 15 minutes polishing for your Instagram photo.

Of course, our hand skills do actually matter (to a degree). But my point is that to the patient, what is often more important (and rarely taught in dental school) are the soft skills required to be a successful practitioner. If I could go back to dental school, I’d spend much more time honing that skill set. Because if you can effectively communicate with your patients, and if you can make a great first impression and win their trust, dentistry becomes a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable.

4. Don’t sleep on business and finance.

From my very first day in dental school, I was told that we wouldn’t learn a single thing about how to run a business, but oddly enough it was essential to our success as a dentist. After hearing that, do you think I made a single effort to learn about business and finance as a dental student? (See lesson #1. Hint: I did not)

Like so many of us, I chose the path of least resistance. I didn’t even look at my student loans until six months after finishing my GPR. I didn’t read a single article on practice management until two years into practice.

What a huge mistake. Such a huge mistake in fact, that now I spend much of my time talking to dental students about how to manage their student debt and avoid common mistakes that are made every single day. Mistakes that can set your career back years, and could ultimately affect the decisions you’re able to make for you and your family.

So don’t do what I did. Don’t do what so many of us in this profession continue to do. Start early. Take control of your student loans. Spend time learning about how they work, how to save and budget, and even how to invest.

Tap into the vast list of resources on practice management and how to run a business. Books, podcasts, blogs, and even YouTube. Ask your part-time faculty how they run their private practices. Take advantage of the ADA Success program and have an experienced dentist come to your school and talk about these topics (I’d be more than happy to visit and tell you everything I know).

Dental school was honestly some of the best years of my life. And although it was very difficult and challenging at times, the memories will last me a lifetime. I want to wish all future dentists the best of luck in this new school year. Cherish these moments and always make an effort to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you. Cheers!

Dr. Joe Vaughn is a general dentist who graduated from the University of Alabama and currently practices in Seattle, Washington. He works both as an associate in a private practice as well as in a public health clinic. Dr. Vaughn currently serves in roles with both the Seattle King County Dental Society and the Washington State Dental Association. He is passionate about organized dentistry, writing, and talking with other dentists about the many issues we are facing in our profession today. He welcomes any and all of your questions/comments and can be reached at [email protected]

What I miss most about dental school

What do I miss the most about dental school? Lunch.

Dr. Markov

As a private practice owner and a solo practitioner, it is not uncommon for me to be shoveling a snack down in between patients, trying to squeeze in an emergency patient, or taking care of admin work during my lunch hour.

But it is not the food I miss; it is the people.

Dental school is a long four years, but something that helped me get through it was the fact that I was in it together with my classmates.

I do not miss the 8 a.m. four-hour anatomy lectures. But I do miss seeing my friends at lunch after class, knowing they had a nice 3 ½ hour nap to the soothing sounds of an anatomy professor and that they might need to borrow my notes later.

Whether it was discussing tests and quizzes, the interesting patients we had to deal with, the procedures we had scheduled that we needed help with (why aren’t there more dental procedures on YouTube?), or when our next happy hour was, that hour of the day was spent together talking about everything and nothing.

And it made life better.

Post dental school — whether it is grabbing a bite with a colleague, a lunch-and-learn with a local business, or just participating in blogging and forums – I try to remind myself to not skip lunch. Because it is not about the food; it is to be reminded that we are in this together.

Dr. Peter Markov is a pediatric dentist and owner at VK Pediatric Dentistry in Arlington, Virginia. He graduated dental school with honors from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and completed his residency in pediatric dentistry at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. When he is not practicing pediatric dentistry, you can find him out in Northern Virginia golfing, eating sushi in McLean, and sightseeing the D.C. monuments.

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