By Dr. Greg Psaltis
Few things in dentistry amuse me more than colleagues’ confusion about my passion for pediatric dentistry. Many of the referring dentists apologize to me for the patients they send and are often quick to add some variation on the theme of “thank goodness for pediatric dentists.” Non-dental people, when learning what I do, will invariably say that I must be “very patient” or a “very special person” to do my work. I am neither. In fact, I am rather compulsive and regular. So how is it that I cannot only find success, but also enormous satisfaction in working all day with children? The answer is as simple as C-B-A.
While there are doubtless many tricks to being successful with children, such as “blowing sugar bugs away with a whistle” instead of “drilling the decay out of your tooth,” I believe the formula for success lies much deeper than that. I was stimulated recently by a speaker who said that the secret to most successes in life depends on this formula: if you can Conceive it and then you Believe it, you will Achieve it. C-B-A. This simple formula is universally applicable and certainly so in pediatric dentistry. It never fails to amaze (and inspire) me that about one half of all our referrals (usually sent to us because the children “wouldn’t cooperate”) are ideal patients by the time they have taken their seats in our operatory. How can this be? My talented and dedicated Team has embraced the philosophy that is the hallmark of our practice. It is simply this: We believe that every child will have a perfect visit every time. Do we accomplish this? Of course we do not. If a child has a difficult experience with us do we abandon this belief? Again, we do not. After 35 years as a pediatric dentist, I am convinced that much of the success in the practice comes from nothing more than the belief by all members of my Team that each child will do well. Children sense this immediately and respond accordingly.
Unlike most other specialties, pediatric dentistry is defined by our patient population, not by the procedures we do. This may account for the focus placed on relationship rather than technical care. It is not lost on me that much of the treatment we provide will ultimately fall out. The attitudes we engender in the minds of our patients, however, will not exfoliate. My legacy as a pediatric dentist will be that the attitude my patients take to their next dentist will be a positive one lacking in the fears that many adults still carry toward our profession.
While it doesn’t pay my mortgage or buy me groceries, a significant part of my “pay” in my practice comes in the form of gratitude. Children give me hugs and send me senior pictures; parents thank me with relief (if not disbelief) written all over their faces and at the end of my day, I take home thoughts of satisfied, grateful clients. As if that weren’t enough, I also enjoy the fact that the government will not be taxing me 35% of this form of pay. I get to keep it all.
I am a Stanford University graduate and, quite frankly, one of the least likely candidates I know to be spending my day squirting “sleepy juice” and holding “raincoats” on teeth with a “button.” If anything, I am more of an academic than a daycare provider. My career has taught me much. It is the lifelong education that I could never have gotten in college or even dental school. My private pediatric practice has taught me the power of positive thinking and the stunning results that come out of it. Dale Carnegie understood this years ago. I smile at dental conferences when my behavior management course is in a room across the hall from the “How to make a bazillion dollars in dentistry” course. That room, of course, is packed with dentists. My room is filled with assistants and hygienists. Ironically, if dentists really wanted to be more successful, the information about relationships and positive thinking would get them much farther than learning how to “sell” a treatment plan or sending their patients computer-generated birthday cards. Almost every day a parent will ask me, “Can I come here for treatment?” I doubt it is the cute vocabulary that attracts them. I believe the successful formula is as easy as C-B-A.