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How workplace environment impacts dentistry

There are many myths about quality dentistry. As in many conversations, it is our human nature to put inordinate amounts of effort into the least important aspects or any procedure.

Dentists argue ad nauseum about bonding agents, and not very much about things like exquisite isolation, care with having clean enamel, following primer times, drying carefully and gently. The things that make a difference. Thinking that by changing a bonding agent (easy) can compensate for effort, self discipline and dedication (hard).

However, even of more concern is the myth that any dentist can do great dentistry under any circumstances. This is an elephant in the room that not only do most of ignore, but that some in positions of authority wilfully deny. The truth is, that no matter how good you are, how dedicated, how disciplined, the level that the work you can achieve will be heavily influenced by the environment that you work under.

Despite a frequent chorus of denial, time pressure has a huge affect on how meticulous your work is. It's not just the physical time it takes to make sure everything is perfect before proceeding to the next step, but also having time to redo something if it didn't work first time.

Time pressure doesn't just make us work quicker, but also affects us mentally. The more pressure we have on us, the harder it is to do any task to the same level. This is called human factors and is heavily studied in the world of aircraft piloting (try doing your best root canal with someone screaming in your ear).

This realisation has come from watching how quickly a new grad can improve their work when they have no time pressure, no financial pressure, notes written for them, treatment plans done for them, financial consents signed for them. Only one expectation. That they do their absolute best

This level of luxurious support comes with a heavy responsibility

There is no excuse for anything less than your best in such a supportive environment.

However, realistically, many people do not work in such an environment, and will have significantly more time pressure not only from shorter appointment times, but also from having to write their own notes, go through all the paper work themselves and lower fees creating more financial pressure.

I get a lot of satisfaction seeing people working in difficult circumstances who do their best to at least do very solid, long lasting, if not particularly fancy work.

And the people who inspire me most are those that work in poorer countries with much lower fees and generally lower standards, who nonetheless strive to do world class work. If they can do it, I have no excuse.So how do you get a good environment to work in that makes it easier to produce your best work?

Not very easily!

The most common characteristic of those people who have created a great environment to produce excellence, is that they earned less for some period time while they developed their reputation. That they strove to reach a quality even though some patient's more interested in the cheapest price left their practice. Working for someone who would provide excellent mentoring rather than finding the job that would give the biggest new graduate salary.

However it was done, it was not easy

In my own case, I earned a lot less than other new graduates for many years to build the practice I have now. I've had the pain of losing patients I care about because they did not want to strive for higher quality.

Of course, we could use the environment as an excuse to do lower quality work than we are comfortable with. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, you are responsible for the work you provide. And if you know the environment you work in forces you to do work that you are not comfortable with, you are still quite responsible for choosing to work there.

So look around you? Does your surroundings, your staff, your boss, your office allow you to do your best?

If not, start working on a way to make it better. It won't be easy.