Dentists Who Don’t Change Get Trapped by Their Environment

Oct 01, 2009 No Comments by

What happened last year to my gross production? Where did all the new patients go? How am I going to get my growth engine started? Am I the only dentist with these problems?

Most dentists have asked themselves at least one of these questions during the past year. We can only begin to improve our practice and financial future by understanding the answers to these questions.

Most dentists are not irrational but intelligent people. Behavioral dentistry tells us we are normal but have brains that often overflow with emotions. The trick is to learn how to increase our smart behavior and find the tools to help us act intelligently even when our feelings tempt us to behave differently.

Let me give you an example. Dentists who continue to practice and behave the way they did when the economy was booming have had a real wake-up call. “Where are the new patients?” they ask. The busyness of the past disappeared, leaving room for their emotions to take over. They started believing the economy was so bad that nobody would want dental care. They shut down and stopped presenting the true needs of the patient out of fear of being rejected or from simply not knowing what to do.

Six months ago a dentist told me, “After twenty years of practice, I was looking for a fast way out of dentistry. The recent years have been so frustrating. My staff and I had become frustrated with one another to the point that we just wanted to get the job done and get out.”

To change your economic environment, you’ll have to change your attitude.


After a change in attitude, this dentist and his entire staff have risen to the challenge and have overcome their questions of fear and doubt. What happened? After taking a few courses on coaching and mentoring, they began to ask themselves, “Why are we doing things the way we are?” They realized that the only reason was because they had been doing it that way for twenty years!

A Total Team Training course with Tawana Coleman helped the staff learn that people who don’t change get trapped in their environment. They also learned how to replace fear and doubt with hope, faith, and increased production. They discovered that it was possible to look forward to each new day at the office.

This dental staff has also learned to think comprehensively in dentistry and not limit their thinking to what they think the patient can afford. From Dr. Jim Downs (Denver, Colorado), the dentist learned how to prep a full arch and be comfortable with it. His patients now receive better dentistry and are pleased with the care given.

You have complete control of your life and your practice. To change your economic environment, you’ll have to change your attitude. For example, we don’t have 9 percent unemployment; we have 91 percent employment, which includes our existing patients. Take inventory of yourself. Consider your worth—not only to your patients but to yourself and to society.

Recently, I’ve had a number of dentists attend my programs that heard me years ago. At that time, they had great success with the information but eventually fell back to their old ways and wondered why their practice had declined. They’ve had a wake-up call by hearing the message of how to cope emotionally.

I’ve always believed that persistence pays big dividends. I like to think of it as “stick-to-it-iveness.” However, if you don’t acquire and follow the correct principles of human engineering and motivation, your persistence will lead you in the wrong direction.

An old proverb says, “If you don’t change direction, you’re liable to wind up where you’re headed.” Stick-to-it-iveness, or persistence, coupled with correct principles, will help you improve your practice and secure your financial future. Make this year the year you overcome the fears and doubts of the past and become the best dentists you can be.

Editor's Commentary, Fall 2009

About the author

Dr. Dick Barnes is the leader in practice development for today’s cosmetic practice. A graduate of Marquette Dental School, he began his general dentistry practice in Rialto, California. As his practice, skills and reputation grew, he became known as one of the world leaders in cosmetic dentistry. In addition, Dr. Barnes taught at Loma Linda University and the University of Southern California, at their respective dental schools.
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