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Wisdom of a Dentist

by on January 12, 2013

In a short three week break between semesters there is an awful lot to do at home when you spend most of the year 400 miles away. Of course, there are great things like spending time with family, catching up with friends, and enjoying time off, but there are also less glamorous bits- like going to the dentist. Well, even that turned out to be more productive than expected for me, as my dentist turned out to have some helpful hints for me as a doctor in training.

Chiropractic and dentistry actually have a surprising amount of commonalities. Educationally, both are 4-year programs following undergraduate study. Clinically, both are part of the maintenance and prevention realm of healthcare, requiring regular visits for best results. Business-wise, both require a degree of entrepreneurialism from doctors, with the success of an independent practice relying on individual business sense. With that in mind, my dentist, a Harvard Dental graduate, shared the following wisdom for us chiropractors:

1. Learn for the sake of knowledge.

Make every effort to truly learn the material that will make you an effective doctor. Once you are in practice, even the best grades will not matter if all of the information that you learned vanished from your life and mind the moment that exams were complete. “You know what they call the person who is last in your graduating class?” he asked me. “Doctor.”

2. Know your business plan.

I have heard a number of practicing chiropractors from different schools express concerns about under-preparedness for running a business, despite being a good doctor. My dentist said that it was not much different for him, with his couple of business classes not truly preparing students for the rigors of building a business. With that in mind, he advised that as students make their way through school they should think about their strengths and how they might use those as a central pillar of their clinical identity.

3. Learn from others’ mistakes.

Don’t subject yourself unnecessarily to the same pains that other doctors could have warned you to avoid. Consult with those who have been successful, and make full use of resources such as your school’s business advising office.

4. Stay up to date.

Literature constantly provides additional guidance on providing the best care to your patients. Falling behind may discourage new patients and lead other doctors to consider you a relic, while staying up-to-date will win you respect. Consistently remaining informed is also much easier than trying to catch up later. Keep an eye on literature through published journals, internet databases, and professional conferences.

5. Learn to treat TMJ disorders.

I myself had never thought of dentists as a source of new patient referrals, but dentists are often first to identify temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders- associated with jaw pain, neck pain, teeth-grinding, arthritis, etc. If the underlying cause is structural, their course of treatment can include chiropractic, and my dentist said he makes local referrals all the time. We as doctors should stay aware of issues at all sorts of other practices and how we might help, and connect appropriately with those doctors. Here also lies a great example of the need to stay up to date; TMJ treatment has a lot of newly emerging research, and it is whoever gets the best results in an area who will receive the referrals.

Turns out you can learn about a lot more than flossing if you really talk to your dentist.

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