When we have practiced dentistry for more than a year, we begin to develop routines and habits that are meant to help us get through our day better, and more efficiently, but sometimes, those habits are created out of frustration rather than efficiency. When we are busy running our dental practice, hopping from patient to patient, worrying about making overhead, stressing about potential complaints, when we hear our patients ask, day in and day out, “will my insurance cover this?”, most of us simply give up and do less. Do what the insurance will cover and move on. It’s easier, simpler, quicker, and fills the schedule, right? Yep, for this week. But what about the future? What about your future? Does it fill you up? Does it make you love what do? What about the person you are, the dentist you believe you can be, the professional you envisioned becoming when you were young, naive, and full of passion? Where is that person? Is he/she beaten down but that famous daily question? Is he/she worn out by constant whining and complaining? Or is he/she tired of trying, fighting, and pushing for more when nobody else seems to want more?
I have been where you are; felt what you feel. I have been there countless times, and felt myself slipping again recently. It’s exhausting knowing what the right treatment is, telling them what they need to do, and then getting turned down time after time only to “patch this up for now, doc”. So I stopped patching. I ran out of bandaids. Literally, actually. It was the day where patient after patient called or emailed or whined about something that I had told them about, or warned them could happen, or advised them to do but they didn’t… because their insurance wouldn’t cover it. And so I walk away from my computer for a minute, and noticed some boxes that just came in, so I grab a pair of scissors to slice them open and instead, slice up my own finger. Blood is pouring out of it while I go in search of where we keep the bandaids. I open the drawer and see the emergency kit. All the drugs that are supposed to be there are there. Like they are supposed to be. Epinephrine, ASA, Diphenhydramine, Nitroglycerin, all well labelled, expiry dates checked and rechecked, as we always do. We make sure we have those ready to go, don’t we? Because we know that if we need them one day, they’d better be there and not be expired. They can save someone’s life. So where the heck are the bandaids? Oh, I see the box. Open the box. One band-aid left. It’s kind of small but it will have to do. So I pull it out and wrap it on my finger but I forgot to wash the blood off so the bandaid is soaked with blood and falls off 2 minutes later. So my patch-up only worked for two minutes, and now I ran out of bandaids! Isn’t that exactly how it goes?
Carl Honore is an award-winning writer, broadcaster, and TED speaker. He is the voice of the global SLOW Movement, and something he said once appeared in my head just then. He said:
“Whether it’s mending a failing company, fighting corruption, tackling disease, or rebuilding a marriage, the hardest problems defy just-add-water remedies. Indeed, slapping on a Band-Aid when surgery is needed usually just makes things worse.”
So no more band-aids for big problems. I am not a magician. I can’t fix a broken tooth without doing a crown. I can’t make bacteria disappear without performing endodontic treatment. I can’t do some bonding to a bunch of massive large broken resins, without using porcelain. And no, it won’t be covered by your insurance but that is what you need, Mr. Patient. And yes, you may be in some discomfort for a while after even though nothing is hurting you now. And please refer back to your post-operative instructions that tell you to simply give it a few days to settle because sending me eight emails about cold sensitivity the day after you had lots of dental work done. I am all out of Band-Aids!