So, you're all that?

Lou Reed was an amazing musician and a pioneer, but I simply can’t agree with that quote. However, many in our profession do and frankly, it’s gotten old. How?
Let me start with a short story to explain…
It was 1996. I hadn’t yet moved to Seattle and had been a dentist for 4 years. I practiced as an associate for a gifted GP who took over a prosthodontics practice and I did a lot of “clean up” work. I took every course I could get my hands on and racked up hundreds of hours of CE. I paid attention and learned  a lot and me and my wife decided that we wanted to get out of the “rat race” of NY and move to Seattle.
I went out there on a few scouting trips and one of my meetings was for coffee with a gentleman who would later become my mentor and a huge part of my future professional and personal growth. He introduced me to some of the best clinicians in the world, leaders in education with booming practices, who took an interest in my growth and taught me a ton in their spare time. I joined the burgeoning Seattle Study Club network and flew all over the world seeking out the best restorative docs, periodontists and oral surgeons to observe and learn from. We’d meet once a year at the annual Seattle Study Club Symposium and sit and talk dentistry and I’d come home with a renewed vigor and reduced ego.
I was in awe of their knowledge and their skill. They were able to accomplish things that I could only dream of. They tested the boundaries with new materials and applications of said materials. Their outcomes were gorgeous. I soaked in as much as I could.
The thing is, they were doing massive surgically driven restorative reconstructions (or restoratively driven surgical reconstructions depending on your perspective) and yet, they managed to stay, for lack of a better word, nice and kind and respectful. Upbeat and cheerful and collegial.
There was no social media to speak of, but they didn’t preen like a peacock when they showed their results. They didn’t try to bully those who aligned themselves with companies so they could test new materials and procedures before everyone else. They didn’t go out of their way to be nasty or rude to their peers. While they were often pushing the boundaries with their new treatment modalities -which carried with them significant risk- they were more than happy to show us their failures and none of us laughed at them or reveled in their failure. We learned WITH them from their failures and it helped us come to grips with why our cases didn’t work out. They certainly used every opportunity to question and learn and if they had a problem with someone, they took it to them…privately.
They were giants and I was honored to be associated with them, even in the smallest way. Some have retired. Some have passed away. Some are still at the forefront of dental education.
But I ask myself why our profession is so different today. Is it social media? Is it the ability to hide behind a keyboard? Why do so many orthodontists I meet tell me they’re frustrated with the few (but very loud) online voices that “go negative” at every chance and think they’re “all that”? Great, you showed an awesome result. You’re a great clinical orthodontist. That’s admirable but it doesn’t allow you any moral high ground over anyone else. If you think I’m referring to any single person in particular, I’m truly 100% not. But you probably have a few names in mind from your own experiences in the Facebook world. I know this because you tell me privately and when we meet in person.
I see so much vitriol from people who have a blessed life. Conversations start with skepticism and hostility rather than positivity and kindness. New procedures are attacked before the discussion has even started and speakers are disregarded because they’ve decided to take 20 cents on the dollar to lecture versus what they would have made if they chose to not leave their families, get on a flight, sleep in a hotel room and show a presentation that took them dozens of hours to create.
Some folks online take every opportunity to laugh out loud when someone makes a small misstep and others choose to deal in the currency of ridicule and hostility, providing no meaningful help or dialogue except their own opinion on how others suck.
Yeah, times have changed over the last 26 years since I graduated from school, but I laugh out loud behind my keyboard at how seriously some take themselves. This is orthodontics. It moves like a supertanker, not a speedboat. Our liabilities are pretty small compared to most of dentistry and we often need to simply take a chill pill and relax. Don’t believe me? Sit in front of a 38 year old patient who is intubated under general anesthesia (because of their fear of dentistry) and you’ve got 26 teeth prepped for crowns and you’ve got to start refining your paths of insertion on a 14 unit provisional bridge that isn’t quite seating. Make orthodontics seem pretty slow paced.
And that’s all perfectly Ok, but…
I’m just suggesting that we chill and realize that what we do, while rewarding and fun isn’t neurosurgery. Let’s be nicer to one another and act as if the person was in front of us, not behind thousands of miles of cable. Let’s not jump on folks and scream “gotcha” when they make a mistake. Let’s strive to give far more than we take. Let’s try to pay things forward when we get the chance. Let’s try to contribute to the solution rather than the problem and let’s have professional and reasonable dialogue where all points of view are considered.
There are more than a couple online groups I’ve chosen to avoid because of anger and hostility and for lack of a better word, haughtiness. 2018 is wrapping up and for me, it’s been a blessed year on so many fronts. I am proud to tell you that I am a neophyte in the world of orthodontics and am learning as much as I can from those around me on a daily basis. There are leaders who are blazing paths in the social media world and they inspire me. YOU give me strength and nudge me to be better everyday and I will not stop pushing the envelope or trying to innovate and collaborate or share what I’ve learned just because of a handful of nasty spirited folks, who don’t understand that we sink or swim as a community.
I’m not “all that” and don’t plan on being “all that” any time soon, but I do plan on being the best version of me that I can be and I hope you’ll  choose to join me.
Let’s bring our profession forward together and in a positive way!!! We got this.
All the best,
signature 2
Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, there are only two prerequisites: You’re an orthodontist (yes, you can be an associate) and you want to contribute to a group of like-minded peers who have come together to share our practice ideas and solve our common business, leadership and management issues. Email me at to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.
Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 7.35.31 AM