10 Swords of Truth


In 23 years of practicing dentistry, I have seen what works—and what does not. I have discovered great dissimilarities between what people say will work technically in the clinic and how we manage our practices. As Dr. Bill Campbell said, “Dental business owner professionals simply do not have the time to produce revenue and lead the team, let alone implement and follow through with training in complex management strategies.”

I agree. If technique oriented technology can be predictable, attainable, and sustainable in a small dental business, chaos is crushed and a practice will thrive. We’ve had great success with this approach. In fact, many practitioners have heard me refer to our strategies as “swords.” Some call them gems, pearls, or secrets of success.

Think of an analogy wherein martial arts are compared to the art of dentistry. If you practice only one particular maneuver to an oncoming threat, it will work . . . most of the time. However, the time will come that it will not work, creating stress, fear, and doubt. Sound familiar in your practice? Let me share ten “swords of truth” that can help with your technique and leadership skills.

1. BioResearch’s JVA (Joint Vibration Analysis)

This technology “sword” provides an immediate, straightforward analysis of TMJ health. The information is invaluable for assessing the impact of your treatment for TMJ, orthodontics, reconstruction, and sleep apnea dentistry. It can be recorded in two minutes by delegating to trained staff members, whereas traditional X-rays and Doppler auscultation are difficult to master.

2. Tekscan – T-Scan Occlusal Analysis

This “sword” determines both biting time and force. The T-Scan III takes the guesswork out of dental occlusion by measuring force and time on left and right sides of the arches. It provides excellent documentation and patient communication.

The practitioner can use the T-Scan to appraise maximum intercuspation (MIP) or in centric relation. Quick assessment of lateral excursion in relation to cuspid rise efficiency. This captures a patient’s attention, which in turn enhances the practitioner’s professional image. Equilibrating a dentition with certainty of which occlusal mark came first is paramount.

3. CO2 Laser

This “sword” is considered the most efficient laser wavelength for soft tissue manipulation and removal. Target tissue is sterilized to eliminate bacterial contamination and dramatically reduce wound healing by sealing off lymphatics, blood vessels, and nerve endings. Depth of the laser cut is only one-tenth of a millimeter, which translates to precise control.

The CO2 laser is the only laser that can be used successfully directly with peri-implantitis. It fosters wound healing with little or no post-op discomfort. A hygienist can use the laser in periodontal pockets for decontamination. State-of-the-art electronics give this laser a wide range of procedures. Same-day soft tissue manipulation and tooth prepping can be done with total predictability.

4. Digital X-Rays

This “sword” uses a digital X-ray sensor instead of traditional film. Practitioners gain several advantages, such as immediate image review and availability, enhancement of image for better diagnostic review, and the elimination of processing film chemicals. And most important, the sensor dramatically reduces the amount of radiation needed to produce the image as opposed to film.

5. Digital Impression—Itero from Cadent

The three fundamentals of restoring a tooth with a crown, onlay, or inlay are

  1. Proper reduction for material of choice
  2. Clearly definite prep finishing margins
  3. Proper registration of the articulating surfaces

Properly done these steps ensure a relatively smooth and adjustment-free insertion of laboratory-fabricated restorations.

This “sword” has clearly changed my practice for clinical efficiency, reduced consumables, eliminated gagging, and provided total predictability. Traditional methods require 14-16 steps in my office versus 3 steps with Cadent to send a case to the lab.

6. Electric Handpieces by KaVo

This “sword’s” biggest advantage is its powerful, constant torque for faster and more precise preparations. KaVo makes a brushless motor that is one of the shortest and lightest, plus it is whisper quiet. The water spray is conveniently located on the motor and reduces reaching for the main delivery unit. Traditional air-driven handpieces are less efficient and are more traumatic to the tooth. Patients prefer the electric over air in my practice.

7. People Smart: Powerful Techniques for Turning Every Encounter into a Mutual Win

This “sword” is a must for those who want to help others feel comfortable, with little or no tension. It focuses on how to truly relate to others’ wants and needs.

One surprising take behind the book is that the “Golden Rule” of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is false. The important thing is to “Do unto others as they want done unto them.”

With this book, you will learn how to read people of all kinds quickly. You will learn to treat them how they would like to be treated. This would have been great to learn in dental school, but too often that never happens. Get this book to help your staff become more attuned to patients.

8. Comprehensive Diagnosis

This “sword” is an absolute must in fully understanding your patient. This designates the combination of signs, symptoms, and test results that the clinician uses to attempt to determine the correct diagnosis. Dr. Dick Barnes’s CD set on case presentation is truly the best in providing a structure for predicable results.

9. Creating a Mastermind Dental Office (Staff and Doctor or Doctors)

This “sword” concept was formally introduced by Napoleon Hill in the early 1900’s. “Mastermind” participants bring a synergy of energy, commitment, and excitement to the group or, in our case, the dental office. The key questions we have worked on are:

  • What is your business mission or vision statement?
  • What are your 5-year goals?
  • Where will you find time to participate? (We have weekly meetings.)
  • What is your commitment to moving forward in business?
  • Why should you participate in a Mastermind group?

We strive to make each year extraordinary by setting goals at the start. Come prepared to ask people to leave the group (office) who are not participating up to the group’s standards. Do it quickly once the poor behavior becomes evident. A “slacking” member of the group will drain energy and fun from the whole group.

10. Authenticity

This “sword” is often referred to as the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion and intentions. Consider your practice. “Fake,” “contrived,” “phony,” “disingenuous”—do your patients ever say this about it? Is this how they feel when being presented with a treatment plan?

Today, consumers, patients, and clients view companies in terms of real and fake. They want to buy a real product from someone genuine—not a fake product from someone phony. Goods and services are no longer enough.

What patients want today are experiences—memorable events that engage them in an inherently personal way. This is difficult in production-line dental practices. The Dr. Dick Barnes Group has sparked many dentists to become authentic leaders. The group has helped today’s dentists become more successful in their practices.

Our world is constantly changing. You become what you focus on. Hone your business strategies with the best “swords,” and your enhanced practice will see constant, never-ending improvement. Take the path of least resistance and select inferior swords, and patients will see your service as fake, not real. Select swords that truly reflect who you are, and use them to provide the best dental care possible.

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Dr. Jim Downs received his DMD degree from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, MA. His post-dental education includes numerous prestigious institutes in advanced restorative fields, such as dental implants, temporomandibular dysfunction and occlusion, full mouth rehabilitation, cosmetic dentistry, lasers, office management, and leadership training/mentorship. Dr. Downs has placed more than a thousand implants since 1989 and has restored numerous full mouth cases. Dr. Downs’ extensive knowledge includes many modalities of dentistry, and he intertwines such principles with a down-to-earth, caring sensibility. Dr. Downs has lectured extensively in the U.S.A. and abroad and has published many articles on dentistry. He is currently the clinical head instructor for the Dr. Dick Barnes Group in Salt Lake City, UT, and practices dentistry at Denver Dream Dentistry in Denver, CO.


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