Embracing Change


What’s Holding You and Your Patients Back?

For over forty years, the Dr. Dick Barnes Group and Arrowhead Dental Laboratory have made it our goal to help dentists become better and more productive. During that time, I have come to understand a truth that is at the heart of why change can be so difficult. That truth is centered on the role that memory and imagination play in the formation of what we allow ourselves to become.

Memory can be our worst enemy because it can remind us of failed attempts and mistakes. It can limit our vision to the confines of the past. In this capacity, memory becomes the “food” of fear and doubt. Imagination, however, liberates our vision and allows us to contemplate a rich and satisfying world of possibility. The movement from memory to an imagination-based approach to life and dentistry requires that we stop feeding on fear and instead embrace change as a means of making imagination a reality.

The process of change is something that both dentist and patient need to do together, for truly life-changing dentistry. Dentists often fear harming a patient or doing something that might open themselves up to liability. Patients sometimes fear pain and the perceived costs involved in comprehensive dentistry. Such fears are the primary reasons that case presentations are not presented well and consequently not accepted. For dentists, the responsibility is two-fold: we must change and overcome our fears before we can help patients do the same. Fear and doubt must be replaced with hope and faith in oneself. If you have hope and faith, there is no room for fear and doubt.

Change or Be Changed

To make an effective change, you will need the proper mindset. In my experience, there are two primary ways that most people approach change:

  1. They change because they are forced to.
  2. They change because they want to realize a vision.

Most people are predisposed to the memory mindset. That means they typically resist making change until external forces compel them to do so. Ironically, doing so is likely to result in negative outcomes, which makes them even less likely to make meaningful change in the future. This mindset is one of the key reasons that so many dentists and their practices never reach their production potential and why these same dentists are often unhappy with their choice of profession.

Consider fostering an imagination-based mindset, in which you make changes to realize your vision. This is critical if you want to make meaningful strides in your career and take your dentistry to the next level. Having this mindset is also critical for patients to accept your case presentations. I have said for many years that patients buy “you” before they buy “your dentistry.” If you don’t have a vision, then patients have nothing to buy. I’ve always liked the saying, “It is better to shoot for the stars and miss than aim for manure and hit it dead center.” If you miss the star, you can catch it the next time around.

Creating an imagination-based mindset that fosters change sounds easy enough, but most dentists fail because they don’t know how to begin. Fortunately, I have a couple of suggestions to get you started.

First, read Dr. Downs’s article on page 36. He shares some of the ways that he has embraced change and moved past some self-imposed limitations. Many of his insights are also part of the courses he teaches with the Dr. Dick Barnes Group.

Second, if you have difficulty imagining your future, set daily production goals. I have a simple rule that I applied in my own life: “Become a better dentist every year.” There should never be a time when you are just coasting on your skills. If that describes you, start today to improve and copy success by copying successful dentists. Nothing inspires the imagination like learning from other dentists who are already doing amazing things.

Finally, dentists should share their vision with their patients. I highly encourage every dentist to practice what I call “human engineering.” Present value to patients in terms that resonate with them. For more information, read Tawana Coleman’s article on page 14. Tawana shares the importance of the new patient interview and how that interaction helps patients move past their fears and embrace the world of possibility that you can offer.

There has never been a better time to be a dentist. You are practicing at a time when materials are the best they have ever been, technology allows you to do more advanced procedures, and educational opportunities allow you to go to new frontiers. If you can’t remember when you were excited about dentistry, then imagine what you want it to be. Now is the time to make a meaningful change. You can make it happen!

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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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