5 Things I Wish I Knew at the Start of My Career – IC044

Ah, the things we wish we could tell our younger selves! This week, I’m chatting to the fantastic Dr. Alan Mead from Michigan, USA – better known as the host of the Very Dental Podcast. We’ve come together to talk about our top 5 things we wish we knew when we first started our dental career. Alongside the clinical gems, we’ve got great advice on maintaining top-notch mental health, nailing your priorities, and acing that elusive work-life balance.

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For all things very dental, have a listen to Dr. Mead’s podcast, “The Very Dental Podcast”:

  • @very_dental_podcast on Instagram
  • Very Dental Facebook Group
  • www.verydentalpodcast.com

We’re still striving to gather the money that Nafisa needs in order to receive life-saving treatment. If you can, please consider making a donation, and every share also means the world to this family – Fundraiser by Mufaddal Adamji : 1 year old Nafisa with SMA type 1 (gofundme.com)

Need to Read it? Check out the Full Episode Transcript below!

Highlights of the episode:
00:00 Intro
01:01 Dr. Alan Mead
03:14 The Very Dental Podcast
05:16 You are not your career
10:32 Don’t commit to working Saturdays
13:33 Things to avoid
17:08 Things to pursue
22:39 Work to learn
24:25 The internet
27:05 Understanding people
28:56 Magnification and light
32:04 Sectioning teeth
34:16 Private dentistry
40:34 Outro

If you liked this episode, you will also like IC037 – Personal Sacrifices 

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Click below for full episode transcript:

Jaz's Introduction: In this episode with Dr. Alan Mead from The Very Dental Podcast, we're going to cover the five things we wish we knew at the very start of our careers. It was so much fun talking to Alan. This episode is very relatable. And I know usually that's the kind of episodes you guys love the most. The kind of themes that we talk about are beyond dentistry.

Jaz’s Introduction:
They’re about life and values, but also we have a few clinical themes as well. I think you’re going to gain from this episode whether you are a young dentist at the very start of your career, or you’re going to look back your career and reflect on some of the things that, particularly Dr. Mead, who’s had 27 years of dentistry and his reflections, and my reflections for the last 11 years, and how I wish I did things slightly different from the very start.

Hello, Protruserati. I’m Jaz Gulati. If you’re new to the podcast, welcome. It’s great to have you. You are officially now a Protruserati. If you’re listening to this and you like what we do, you are Protruserati. And this is a free podcast for the community. If you want to get CPD or CE certificate and get access to premium notes, which pop up on the side, then please do support the podcast and join our membership at www.protrusive.App. Now to the main show and I’ll catch you in the outro.

Main Episode:
Dr. Alan Mead, welcome to the Protrusive Dental Podcast. How are you, my friend?

I’m good. How are you doing?

Amazing. We were just talking now before we hit the record button. I told you about my adventures of sleeping on the rug downstairs because the couch is too small and me feeling a million dollars because of the fact that I was away from babies.

My second born, as I told you, is a terrible sleeper. And then you very admirably confessed and admitted that actually your kids were good sleepers. And that’s very good of you, I think.

Yeah, both kids. The first one, you don’t know anything when you have your first one. So you don’t know what’s normal. And he slept through the night almost immediately. So that’s just what we thought was normal. So then when the other one didn’t, like, every night we thought there was something wrong with him or something. Yeah, so I’m very lucky. We have very good sleepers.

Yeah, I’ve got two bad sleepers. My four year old is okay now, but just the six month is taking its toll on us a bit, but yeah. This is the beauty of it. You have to enjoy it. It’s a phase, and we’ll get over it. Today, I’m welcoming you on as someone who I look up to so much. Obviously, I came on the Very Dental podcast and you are, as I said on that episode, you are the OG of dental podcasting. For those small number of people who haven’t seen your content, heard of the podcast, obviously I’m going to encourage everyone to check it out, but please tell us about yourself as the podcaster, the dentist, the family man.

So I’m a dentist in Saginaw, Michigan, and I live in a town called Midland, Michigan. There about both two hours north of metro Detroit area, so I’m kind of in the middle of the mitten of Michigan if you will. And compared to most of your listeners and frankly most of my listeners I probably am closer to a rural dentist like the town I work in is about 60, 000 people which is not rural, but I mean it’s it’s relatively small compared to a lot of folks Although we do have a ton of dentists here.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1997 So I’ve been practicing for 26, 27 years, something like that. I bought my practice, the practice that I’m in right now, in 1998. So I’ve been in the same practice for whatever that math is, 20, 25 years now.


Yeah, I bought a building 10 years ago and renovated it. So I’ve been in this building for 10 years. Started the podcast almost 10 years ago. It started out as the Dental Hacks podcast. I have a coffee mug that has the dental hacks on it.

Yes, I remember that original image very well.

The Dental Hacks podcast in 2021, we kind of split up and I took the podcast. He took the Facebook group, and so I rebranded as the Very Dental podcast. What’s funny about it is, is like everyone thinks as a podcaster, you need to make sure you have a really narrow niche in I mean, dentistry is a narrow niche, yes, but, like, we didn’t have a very specific, we were dental, we weren’t specifically business, or specifically clinical.

And so, I’ve kind of kept it that way, I’m sort of all over the map on dent, and I obviously there’s things that I like to focus on more than other things, but the reality is that dental, it’s for dentists, dental team members, I have a shocking amount of dental salespeople, like people who are in the dental industry who are salespeople.

And I came to realize that it’s because they commute all the time. They’re driving all over the place. And so they have podcasts.

And they gain valuable insight and inside knowledge from listening. And I have the same actually. People reach out to me. And what I like about your podcast, very little podcast is that, very clinical.

For example, like a theme, a sub branch, if you like, and you’ve got a variation of guests. So I do admire that. And you have the group functions, which actually, I don’t know if you know, I actually also have group functions. I promise I didn’t copy you. But I noticed that you had group functions and I had group functions.

It’s a similar concept. But mine, because obviously my interest in occlusion and yours generally, because it’s a great name for it.

And I think that’s one way I have a round table. I’ll have, when I have more than one guest, I call that the group function, because we used to call it a brain trust back in the day. And actually those are some of the most popular episodes in there. No, it’s podcaster. It’s harder to get groups all to be able to record. So, yeah, it’s a little harder to do the group function.

Well, with the theme of your podcast and how they can vary in across dentistry, I’m actually really excited to delve deep into today’s topic. So five things I wish I knew at the start of my career, and I was thinking, we were discussing about you coming on the show about, hmm, what could I ask Alan? I’m sure you have guests like this where you think you’re trying to put a finger on, okay, how can I make a fruitful episode to maximize the sort of exchange?

And with you, I thought, because you’ve spoken to so many dentists, you’re so well networked. And you’ve been in the same practice for so many years, which is, I think, so valuable. I’m really excited to hear your five. I’ve also brainstormed my five, but I’m more interested in yours. And I might just slip in with mine. So please, if you don’t mind, one at a time, what are the five things you wish you knew at the start of your career? What’s numero uno?

I think, number one might go through all of the things that I came up with. I guess in stated simply, you are not your career. I think a lot of people, dentists in particular, dentists in this space who are sort of social media savvy and listen to podcasts and are kind of, not only is it a job for them, but it’s sort of a lifestyle and they sort of immerse themselves in it.

I think people like us are prone to have too much focus in basically defining who we are by what we do. And I think that’s a problem for dentists because I mean, I’m guilty. I’m as guilty as the next person. I started on, in 2002, I got on Dentaltown and I’ve been kind of online in dentistry and like sort of in the know with that kind of stuff for that long.

And so I tend to think of myself as a dentist first. And the reality is none of us are dentists first. We’re people first and dentistry it’s a vocation and it can be something you’re passionate about. But I think it’s important that you realize that you’re, I have to say that, running through this, my experience, I’m a recovering drug addict and alcoholic.

And I’ve been clean and sober for 21 years. So it’s been a while. But I remember when I was in treatment. I was in treatment for four and a half months. I was basically plucked out of my practice. My dad ran my practice while I was in treatment. And the thing that I realized was, Life doesn’t change at all that I’m not in that office, like there is no one, there might have been people, oh, he’s not here today, like, as much as I want to believe that very important that I am their dentist and it’s very important in the world that I am a dentist.

For those four and a half months, I really wasn’t a dentist. I was just a guy trying to get clean and sober. And I think the other thing that I run into in the same vein, I’ve worked with a lot of dentists attempting recovery and the dental team members maybe with drug and alcohol problems is that, like there’s a lot of people that don’t get to do what they learn to do.

There’s people that have to stop whether it’s because they lose their license or some people medically cannot do it anymore and that sort of thing and in the reality is those people struggle sometimes when you know because they they think about their own personal being. They’re dentists, man.

And so it’s important that you understand that you are not your career and that sounds so trite. But it’s I think I think it’s a very it’s a really good point and I didn’t realize this until much later.

Well, two reflections I have on that. One is the second point you made about actually if you need to take either a forced or unforced sabbatical of any sort or any reason to stop dentistry, then yeah, life moves on. And it’s actually liberating. I know Gary Vee talks about this, that actually we need to see ourselves as this tiny speck in the universe. And actually we are not that important. Get over ourselves. And we’re not that important. But at the same time, we are also the most important thing because our health is so important.

Because without our health, then we cannot serve our families and be there for them. And the second reflection actually, is you remind me of the very first chapter, I believe, of the book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Have you read that classic?

Yeah, a million years ago. I did. Sure.

Yeah. And so it talks about being value centered, right? And so one of the sins is like being spouse centered or being child centers. One of the other sins is it actually talks about a doctor. Like if you’re like career centered and then your total existence is defined by your career. Like this doctor example, they gave the number plate has doctor on it kind of thing.

Then if that gets taken away from you, or if you have a patchy time, which we will do in our careers, right? Then suddenly your universe has turned upside down. So, totally agreed. And I think that’s the two things that reminded me of there. Any reflections on that before we move on to number two?

No, I’d say, I think you got it. And I think one of the problems with a lot of these things is that I didn’t realize them. I didn’t understand them or know them until I had to kind of experience them. And I don’t know that, it’s frustrating because I do a segment on one of the shows that I’ve done. I always called it, I called it the single use time machine.

It was like, if you could go back in time at one time and use the single use time machine and talk to yourself or change something in your life. And the answer always ends up, it’s okay, I wouldn’t have listened anyhow. I wouldn’t have listened to myself anyhow. Because like, at the time, I wasn’t ready to hear that.

And I think a lot of times, that’s real. That’s, I mean, and continues each day, I think, on some level. I’m not sure that a lot of times you’re not really ready to hear stuff until you’re ready, so.

Well, the beauty of what you’re saying, and what you’re going to be saying for the next 20 minutes or so, and the list of five, actually, I’m going to jump in with my, I’m going to choose the most similar one to what you say, and go parallel, if you don’t mind, and I think that’ll be quite interesting.

But I think the beauty of this is that, if you asked me five years ago, or if you asked me in five years time, and if I asked you a different moment in time, your answer of the five may be slightly different. Because of where you are in your life, where you are with your family, your career, everything like that.

So that’s interesting. So the closest one to what you said that I have in my list of five is actually, don’t commit to working Saturdays. Now, there’s a caveat there because I think when you are young, your first five years, you need to get your hours in, you need to get the experience, you need to do as best you can.

But I regret committing to Saturdays ’cause now my kid’s at school and when it comes Saturdays, I don’t want to be at work. I want to be with my children. What’s your experience been with with working Saturdays and your clinical work hours?

Yeah. I never worked Saturday. I mean, I cut back. I worked Fridays when I bought my practice in 1998. It was four days a week and then I would work half days in my dad’s practice back home. So I was an associate for my dad, and that didn’t even last all that long. That was one of the things. And I don’t, it’s really funny because I don’t even know why I did that. I don’t know that I needed the money.

Wise beyond your years.

Yeah, I don’t know that I needed the money at that time. I will say that this is not on my list, but like, I haven’t been the guy that’s needed all the things. So money hasn’t been even for a relatively low producing guy, it’s been fine.

So yeah, I listen, the older you get. Now, maybe people just love it so much they’re going to want it. I would never practice on a Saturday. I mean, like, at some point, you’ve got to have a life out of work, you know? So in the last year, I’ve actually gone down to three days clinical. I mean, so I do.

It is amazing. And what’s funny is I think, if you have patients lining up the door and you just can’t get them all in, probably cutting back that much is not a great thing. Or you need to figure out but I didn’t. I’m pretty much able to do in three days what I did in four. So because it’s not, I’m a-

That’s a recurring theme. I’m sure you’ve had doctors all, a recurring theme on your podcast as well, talking about that don’t work five days clinical, don’t work six days clinical. That’s suicidal, you know? That really takes a toll on your health.

Yeah, oh yeah, that boy does it. I mean, three is plenty at this point. I do longer, three longer days, but you’re never going to run into a spot where you think you’re working too little, I think. I think you’re probably never going to feel that way.

That’s true. And just before we move to the next one, just to justify, because I have a fairly young audience, and a lot of these people may be working Saturdays, and that’s totally fine. I’ve been working Saturdays since I was 16. I used to work at a DIY shop called Homebase. I was working Saturdays, I was working at the stadiums doing hospitalities on Saturdays, I did lots of Saturdays because I wanted to really work at that specific practice. And as a young dentist, I could only take them on Saturdays, and it was great to get the experience and stuff, but now I’m at a different phase in life, and now I’ve complicate things. For what’s right for me now in my phase is this. So, Alan, number two, what’s your number two for five things I wish I knew at the start of my career?

Your life will have a lot of benefits if you avoid alcohol or other mood altering substances, which is a pretty obvious one coming from me. But like, the longer I’ve been clean and sober, the more I think that living free of alcohol and other drugs, like completely free of, like, I don’t.

I’m not the guy, I’m not the wet blanket who points a finger at someone who’s having a drink or whatever, but I tend to, I see less and less value at all for it, even for people who don’t have a problem with it. And I mean a lot of people that sounds like a wet blanket thing again, probably, the kind of thing that one might learn after a long period of time. They may look back and realize that they wish they hadn’t done that.

But I see a lot of Instagram or Twitter or whatever, or TikTok. They have your algorithm. They know what is effective getting in front of you. I see a lot of sobriety influencers out there, which is interesting to me. I never thought sobriety would have its own selling points that way. But lo and behold, I do see some of that.

I actually, I feel like an idiot here. I don’t know what sobriety means.

Sobriety, just that you don’t use drugs or alcohol, just like, so in the United States, anyhow, a lot of times I don’t love sobriety because sobriety almost always pointed towards alcohol use specifically, and the alcohol wasn’t really my problem, but that’s in general around here, sobriety.

So basically, these are people who’ve gotten clean and sober, they’re in recovery, and they’re sort of the influencers, which is very funny to me, because that seems like, it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you would necessarily wave a flag about, but here we are. So, I guess I don’t fault them for it, and I mean if it’s a, well, let me just say this, if you’ve ever asked yourself if you might be drinking too much, people who aren’t drinking too much never ask to tell us that.

Like the idea of, oh boy, I may drinking it too much. That’s not the kind of thing that someone who doesn’t drink very much asks themselves. So that’s just something to think about.

Hey guys, Jaz, again, just interfering with a very quick message. Remember how we’re raising money for Smiles for Nafisa. So if you’re not up to speed for this, Nafisa is the daughter of a fellow dentist, a Protruserati called Sakina. They live in Tanzania and poor Nafisa has a genetic disorder, which means she’s fighting for her life. Now, I made a video about this on Instagram, so please do check out @protrusivedental. Please check out my video, my plea, and why we should all club together to save her life, because if she gets this genetic therapy before age two, we can actually do something really awesome and save her life.

I know you would do the same if you were in Sakina’s position. So as she’s part of the community, I think it’d be great if you have any money in your charity budget per year to donate, that’d be really great. So I’ll put those links in the show notes, but just to give you an update that the drugs company has agreed.

So by the way, we need to raise like 1. 8 million. I know it’s insane, right? But they’ve done almost 700 K already. And the drug companies agree that if you can give a million, if you can get to a million, then they will actually give Nafisa the genetic therapy she needs and then the rest can be on installments.

So this is, we’re actually inching closer for her getting the treatment and saving her life. So please do check out my Instagram video on @protrusivedental and please do consider donating at www.protrusive.co.uk/Nafisa. Thank you so much to all of the Protruserati who have donated so far, or even just shared that Instagram post to get more reach. Let’s join Dr. Alan Mead again for this episode.

Well, a few episodes ago, I actually had an anonymous guest, so we did this thing where we warped his voice and stuff because he was talking about very sensitive topics of drinking too much and a tough relationship and it was a really human episode and back to your first point that we are humans first and anything that can alter our human state and our mind, I echo that.

Now, on the flip side, Alan, what are the kind of things that you do to promote good health. Obviously that’s preventing bad health and keeping your mind clean. But, are you someone who takes health supplements? Are you someone who does other health things? Like on the topic, I recently started to take something called lion’s mane.

These like type of mushroom capsules, which improve your focus. I can’t comment on whether they are really working at the moment or not. I’m taking vitamin D. I do three monthly blood tests, to make sure my vitamin D is good and my other markers, cholesterol, do you promote or do any of this kind of stuff?

Yeah, actually, I mean, it’s one of my my points, but I was wildly overweight for most of my life. Actually, I lost when COVID, when they shut us down in the U. S. for COVID back in 2020, so it was March, I started running, which isn’t a good thing to do for a late 40s guy with a lot of weight.

I kind of wrecked my ankles by running. And then I switched to cycling, but I lost about 50 pounds. And what’s funny about that is that, it wasn’t that hard, but I had nothing but time on my hands. Like, what else was I going to do? So, that’s kind of what I decided to do. But like, I’m actually a type 2 diabetic.

I’ve had high blood pressure forever. I’ve had health issues and it has everything to do with my weight. Here’s the thing, this is the one thing I look back on. I used to think that if I could use that time machine, I would go back and explain to myself that I’m an addict and that I can’t safely do this stuff.

It’s actually not what I would do when I would do this. You need to lose this weight now. Because, A, the longer you’re overweight like this, the longer you’re unhealthy like this, the more toll it takes on you and the harder it is to change as you’re older.

So, one of mine is break a sweat every day if you can. Like, do something that breaks a sweat. Like, I don’t run anymore because I just can’t do it. My ankles and feet are all messed up. But, I ride a bike as many days a week as I can. And I ride pretty hard.

What’s really funny I bought a bike, I bought a really nice bike, it’s sort of what they call a gravel bike, which looks like a 10 speed, but it’s got kind of mountain bike tires on it and stuff, right before I turned 50 in 2021, and I like it, but I didn’t realize, like, I just was buying a decent bike because I was riding a lot, and it was the only thing the bike shop had, like, remember, back in the 2020, 2021, they didn’t, no one had anything to sell, like, there were no, there was no stock of anything.

I didn’t even know. I love mountain biking. And it’s not really a mountain bike. I love mountain biking. So I now have like, I think we have, I have four bikes maybe. I can’t even remember. Like, I mountain bike most days. And I have trails near my house. There’s trails I can drive to that are really good.

So I mountain bike when I can, and I sweat a lot, so I found exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise, it doesn’t at all, like I never think, ah, I gotta go ride the mountain bike, it’s never like that for me, I mean, if I get a chance to ride the mountain bike, and it’s been like this for years now, so it doesn’t seem like it’s changing.

So, I’m an exerciser. I exercise a lot. Like, like a lot, a lot. And when I get out there, I really sweat. And so I think, I think that’s really important.

But this is more of a recent thing in your time of life.

Yeah, it is.

More of a more recent thing.

Since 2020.

And you wish, like you said, the whole theme, you wish you did it at the start of your career rather than left it too late, right?

Think about this, okay? Dental school. University of Minnesota. Some of the nicest gym facilities maybe in the world. Sitting right there and I had access to it the whole time. I never did anything. I didn’t do anything. I drank beer. That’s what I did. So the reality is and these are all things that are super obvious. Everyone knows the things you should do to be healthy and they’re not an easy choice to make because there’s other fun cool things and you’re young and you’re healthy. When you’re young, when you’re in your 20s and 30s and you’re overweight and maybe you drink too much and you don’t have a lot of consequences like you don’t have high blood pressure.

You don’t have diabetes. Like it doesn’t come on until later. Here’s the thing though If I had it to do over again, I would smack myself silly and tell myself to knock it off cuz it’s like it’s a lot harder to do when you’re older and I have regrets and frankly I’m still diabetic.

I take medicine for diabetes every day. My blood sugar is really well controlled, but it’s not gone. Everyone who says once you lose the weight, you’ll lose diabetes. Nah, not really. I still have it. So, I’m managing it quite well, but it sucks. I’d rather not. I’d rather not. Thank you very much.

So it’s one of those things where the fact that I wish I knew at the start of my career, again, I don’t know if I was ready to hear it then. Like I don’t know that I would have listened to myself. But frankly, if I could have seen myself as a person that’s not carrying as much extra weight, that might’ve been more impressive than anything I might have to say to myself.

And so back on that theme, if I asked you eight or ten years after qualifying for dental school, that you probably wouldn’t have said this at that point, but now, looking back, you do. Now, that’s not on my list, the health stuff, but I kind of always have looked after my health.

In terms of exercise, it’s an important value for me, except the last year I did blip, like this year I’ve started really well, but last year I did blip and that was self induced. It was such a big feat to create the occlusion course that we did that it, I had to suck, and I actually, what I did was, and it’s really sad actually, I had to make a list of things I was willing to sacrifice and things I’m not willing to sacrifice.

And I had to value my family and time with children. And I knew that to the hours I needed to get this done, it meant that it’d be very little gym. And so that sucked. But nothing enhances my mood and reduces stress more than exercise.

And I’m sure you found that that’s all evidence based. The only thing I have perhaps not even similar, but just to offer from one of my list is when you are young, work to learn, not work to earn. And I’ve said this on podcast four, but I was offered this position on Harley street. And I was also opposite which is like the main street in London where all the quote unquote, big doctors are, et cetera.

And I knew from someone that if I’d worked there, my production would have gone up significantly at such a young age. But, this other place had a really good mentor and didn’t have as many patients. But the mentor was always there. Like, how sometimes, oh yeah, come and work for me as an associate and I’ll mentor you.

But that guy’s not there, like at all at the practice. He was very much there. And so I’m glad I picked it at that time, but it’s something I always echo. And so it’s something I realized a little bit later, but I’m glad I was told that about four years after qualifying. So, obviously you’ve always owned your place, but any experiences or reflections on that?

I’ve talked about mentorship a lot, and it’s hard, because it requires not only you to be receptive to hearing things from a mentor, but honestly, it takes a lot of time and effort for the mentor to, they gotta be pretty committed to it. And frankly, it’s hard to find someone, in the United States, it’s just mentorship just doesn’t happen much.

It’s hard. It’s a lot harder to find someone who’s going to commit that kind of time because they got other stuff going on. If you can find a mentor, it’s worth it’s weight. And frankly, if you have to take a pay cut to do it, you should. Yeah, absolutely you should.

Amazing. Glad you could. But just a cool thing. I’m a reveal for the first time. First ever time I’m revealing this is, I’m an investor in a startup at the moment. I won’t reveal the name of it just yet, but it’s all about connecting mentors with mentees. It’s essentially that and so exciting things to come. Let’s have another from your list. I think we’re number four out for you.

Okay. This one is I’ve learned more recently, of course, but it’s very valuable. And it’s funny to think that a 50 plus year old guy is sucked into social media stuff as someone younger. I’m not a TikTok guy, but I’m on Instagram like, like probably 30 somethings are on TikTok.

Social media, and frankly, the internet is not real life. So, it’s a very important thing to remember. It’s a very important thing to learn. Like I said, when I was in dental school, no one even had a cell phone. So, like if no one had any of this stuff, they didn’t have to.

Just to give you an idea, I mean, I didn’t have my first smartphone till 2010. I mean, I was already, I’d been practicing dentistry for 13 years at that, so it’s like, so a lot of the stuff we take for granted now didn’t even exist when I was there. It is funny to think of, Gen Xers are funny because we started life, what has happened in technology has happened mostly during our lifetime.

A lot of the stuff we take, take for granted, like I had, we had a remote control television that had one of those little clickers. There’s an actual clicker like that was the main TV in my house when I was a kid. So now we’re in this, basically this media, life that everything is at the click of your fingers but social media is everywhere.

It’s everywhere. And I mean, there’s a lot of benefits to all this stuff, but the reality is that what the main downside is, it’s constantly asking you to compare yourself to someone else. You’re not necessarily comparing, we talked about this the last time, you’re comparing yourself to whatever they’re putting out there.

You’re comparing your insides to their outsides. It’s not fair. But I mean, like, it’s so ubiquitous and it happens without any thought that you can think less of yourself and what you’re doing because of what other people are putting out there. And I mean, like, it’s, everyone hears about that all the time, but that’s real.

That’s so real. And I think people forget that or they never learn it in the first place. I think it’s really important. Again, it’s, these are all pretty generic. They’re not very dental specific, the things I’ve come up with, but I think because honestly, life-

Needs to be said that it needs repeating, this is an important message that needs repeating. I totally agree. And like we said, on your podcast, when I came on, it’s like comparing someone else’s highlight reel to your uncut daily life, basically, and that’s bad and comparison is the thief of joy. Do you have any, a clinical one, by the way, in your five?

I do, I do. I mean, I actually didn’t, but I thought to myself, we got to have talk about that.

Understand people better, just emotional intelligence and the psychology of people and the psychology of body language. I forget the name of the book, but one of the first books I read after qualifying was about understanding body language and how I look at people differently.

And the most recent book I’m listening to now, Alan, is just completely, wow, just bamboozled me and how much I love it and how I look at the world differently now. It’s called Surrounded by Idiots. Have you heard of it?

I guess I haven’t.

It’s amazing. I totally recommend it. But you might have heard of the disc analysis or the Disa.

So it kind of profiles people into what kind of personality type they are, what kind of behaviors they have. So D is for dominant, I is for influential. And so it gives you an understanding of why people behave the way they do. So, you always think that why is this person doing this? Why the bit?

Everyone’s an idiot. The whole world’s an idiot kind of thing. And actually, when you understand people’s colors, you understand why they behave in that way and why, when things go wrong, how they behave in a crisis. And it’s just giving me so much better understanding about even just my own family. My wife, I look at her.

She’s very green and this is why she does this. And I need to behave in this way. And it’s just been amazing. So understanding people better will help you with your patients will help you with your relationship with your home and even like something with your dental assistant, which I think a few times in my career, I’ve had a toxic dental assistant and it makes your work environment extremely toxic.

Now you as an employer, a practice owner, I’ve heard that staffing is the biggest headache. Is that something that you echo as well?

It is. Lately the hiring has been a real problem. Just, it’s hard to come. There’s a lot, there’s a lot to that. That’s a whole podcast. But yeah, as an employer, I have not been, it’s been tough to hire.

We’re pretty good right now. We, thank goodness. But we’ve struggled to find the right people in a way that we probably didn’t before 2020.

Okay, great. Let’s hear your clinical one.

Well, it basically has you need to dive into magnification and light just as fast as you can. Like, I’ve heard people talk about, like I’ve been using six power loupes since, what’s really funny, I bought six power loupes from Design for Vision probably in 2005 or something like that. And they said, I tried to use them. Couldn’t get used to them. They sat on my desk and they lapsed past the time I could return them.

So they just sat on my desk and stared at me going, Ah, you paid for us and you’re not using them. So I finally, I finally pushed through. I finally put them on one day and I was able to use them. And I’ve been using high powered loupes with a headlamp for a long time. And then I’ve moved into, literally, I have microscopes in every operatory now too. So, I mean-

Yes, I’m going to be saying, yeah.

I’m heavy into magnification and I gotta tell you, like it’s a superpower that a lot of people don’t even realize, like, your patients don’t realize how close up you can see stuff. They don’t realize what you’re seeing. And even when you have a conversation with colleagues.

And they’re not using magnification or they’re using not very much magnification. The reality is you’re seeing more than they are. You are able to make decisions differently than someone who’s not using magnification.

I mean, this may be rude, Alan, but any of our dentists who’s listening to this, and if you don’t use loupes, I don’t trust you. I would never let you go.

No, I wouldn’t let you use loupes. I wouldn’t let you work on me. All of my hygienists will have loupes. I mean, like, like everyone has loupes, but I don’t, and I’ve heard people say, well, you really don’t, if you’re a restorative dentist, you only need to go up to X because if you go up higher, you’re missing something.

I mean, they’re wrong about that. They don’t understand. They’ve never used high magnification and the higher up you go with magnification, the more light you need. So you kind of need to get, like, that is an investment that I would, I’m not a flamboyant guy. I don’t buy very expensive stuff, but that’s an investment I wouldn’t even think twice about.

A tax deductible essential assessment.


That hopefully one day they’ll make it a legal requirement for dentists to work with magnification.

Yeah, yeah.

I heard in the States that you have to have loupes as a dental student. Is that true or is that a myth?

I don’t know if you have to, but everyone gets them in dental school now. I mean, I was actually selling loupes, interestingly, in dental school. I was a terrible salesman. I’m not sure I ever actually sold a pair. But they had students that had loupes that you could try and stuff like that. This was way back in the day. And I didn’t really, I didn’t use them really in dental school, but like I said, once I started using them, I was using them early.

I was using them probably in the late nineties and I was, I had a headlamp on there just as early as I could back when you used to have to plug him into a box on the counter behind you. I don’t know if you ever used anything like that, but it was a fiber optic.

You would literally, it was a cable. You’d like, you’d like, here’s cable and you’d plug it in. And I decided I didn’t want to work without it at all. So I had this box on the countertop. In a reapertory that you’d plug into. Of course, you’d always forget to unplug and you’d yank your head and stuff like that, but magnification and a headlamp are vital and the sooner you do this, the sooner you, if you’re not using it, you think, oh yeah, whatever, I don’t believe that, and then you use it and you’ll go, oh yeah, he was right. I mean, it’s simple as that. You just don’t know until you know.

A hundred percent, and I didn’t put that on my list, because actually, I was very good early on in my career, and I knew the importance of it, but, my clinical one is well, what’s the most stressful procedure for me, and a lot of young dentists, like first few years out, is the dreaded extraction that you struggle with and you fail and then you need to call a colleague and it’s an embarrassing moment that you need rescuing, right?

And so, that stopped happening when I learned and I fully appreciated the power of sectioning teeth to allow you to make your extraction easier. So the sooner, the sooner, I mean, it took me three years, three, maybe four years to do it.

And now, extractions, anxiety about extractions is a thing of a past for me. And I think the sooner a colleague can learn the power of sectioning and elevating. The more successful they’ll have in extractions and less anxiety in that, it’s a scary procedure. And especially nowadays, dentists are qualifying with less and less teeth extracted. And so therefore the sooner you learn this skill, I think it’s going to serve you really well.

I’d section teeth is, is a superpower. There’s a couple of things about that. First, I always tell myself and sometimes fail at it, I’m not even going to put an instrument on this tooth until I’ve sectioned it.

Like there’s a lot of teeth I can look at and go I’m not even going to, I’m just going to section it. And sometimes I, I still want to see, well, is there any wiggle to it? I don’t know. Find out if there’s wiggle to it after you section. The other thing is if there’s a tooth that’s got, I like to flat top teeth.

I like to take the crown off before I section too, because you can see deeper in. But the thing about it is, is a lot of times you think, yeah, but there’s so much good tooth structure up here, I can grab ahold of it. I’m like, yeah, except it’s too high. So it’s, you’re more likely to break in a bad spot if you leave that there.

So you could argue with me to leave a millimeter or two of tooth structure above the gingiva, but not much more than that. If you’re sectioning, you’ll see better. The tooth is coming out one way or the other. It doesn’t matter if it comes out in pieces or a whole piece. So, like, the more you can see, which is to say, take that crown off and then section, the better.

And I have I still fight with myself about that sometimes, because it seems like a waste when you’ve got good two structure above the gum line, but it’s not doing you any favors. You can’t, it’s just going to break off. So yeah, you’re exactly right.

The bone belongs to the patient, the tooth belongs to the surgeon.

I love that, that’s really good.

Yeah, an oral surgeon told me that, so I love that. Well, we’ve gone through your five. My final one, basically, is, the parallel I’d probably draw in U. S. dentist is you have this whole thing about, which I don’t understand insurance, PPO, that kind of stuff. Basically here, the battle we have in the UK is a public funding system, NHS versus private, that kind of stuff.

And I had such anxiety about growing private. I had imposter syndrome, had huge worries. It’s the best thing I did, and I’m not saying that, you’re everyone’s principal will be the same, but to practice the kind of dentistry that I want to practice in my own terms as the way I was taught at dental school and on my courses and to get fairly remunerated for me was liberating for me in my career and really helped me to, I guess, reinforce my portfolio and make me the dentist I am today in terms of being comfortable enough to do so many procedures and enjoyment, fulfillment from dentistry is huge.

And I speak to my colleagues who, are not ready to make that move. They’ll never be ready. They’ll never ever be ready. They’ll always feel anxiety within themselves. But I want to say that this, I mean, I move fairly soon into private, but if I could do it sooner, I would, if I can go back in my career now, anything that you can, so perhaps American audience, this thing about the, the sort of insurance stuff. What’s the advice you give regarding that?

Okay, so I’ve got a couple thoughts about this. We only participate with one. And I was laughing with a friend, like, we participate with one insurance in my office so I’ve pretty much gotten rid of all insurance except it’s one massive insurance that everyone takes.

So the story is it’s still, we’re still participating with insurance. It’s great to say, I’m fee for service except I only take one insurance except everyone freaking has that insurance and it’s a huge, you’re still taking a huge right now so whatever. For me, demographically, I work in an area that was a big General Motors town.

It is a big General Motors town. Everyone, one of the benefits that General Motors people got is just cherry dental insurance. Really, dental benefits that they thought it was great. The problem with it is, is that over the years it’s changed everyone’s mindset about it. Like, your dental insurance does not care what your dental condition is.

You get this much to spend. And when I first started it seemed like a lot. And now it seems like nothing because it hasn’t changed in 25 years. The amount these people got, they used to be able to do multiple crowns and pay 10 percent and all this stuff. Well, it’s not like that really anymore.

It’s different now and it hasn’t really changed much. So, these are golden handcuffs on some level, like it was what was great for me when I started is not so great now, but it’s an awful lot harder, because my mindset’s kind of set too. So, the earlier, if you think that’s where you want to go, I don’t know, I think everyone probably thinks that’s where they want to go, go early, go early, and because there is going to be some pain.

It’s not if you are, there’s going to be some pain in it. And you might as well get through it if you’re going to do it. It seems to be demographically, like if you’re in an area where there’s not a lot of dentists and people don’t have a lot of choices, it’s much easier to do that than an area that’s real competitive.

[inaudible] Yeah. Yeah. But so, I mean, if you’re going to do it, do it early and understand that insurance and benefits have broken the brains of consumers, medical insurance. People think dental insurance, dental benefits are like medical insurance, and it’s not.

It’s nothing like it. I don’t know if it is there, but it’s definitely not here. They limit the amount that you are able to do, and, and so thus, if you have, even moderately complex needs, your insurance for dental benefits don’t mean anything. It’s like a coupon, it’s at best.

But, patients think that, well, I have dental benefits. I shouldn’t have to, this should cover my dental needs. Well, I mean, yeah, if you have pristine teeth with nothing wrong, maybe. So I think part of the mindset of the consumer is a tough deal. So in any case, yeah, if you’re going to get away from insurance, do it early.

And understand insurance, because I have to say, insurance is not easy to understand because every policy is different, and I don’t take the time to be perfectly honest. I’m uninterested in that stuff. So, but if you’re smart, you would do better than I do.

And just a little caveat and disclaimer that, not to take away anything from the hardworking dentists in the UK who have a contract, I used to say NHS dentist, but then, one of my dentist colleagues and listeners podcast said, messaged me and called me out and said, listen, you can’t call someone an NHS dentist.

We’re a dentist. It doesn’t matter. You can’t say insurance dentist or the dentist at the end of the day. It’s just a dentist who chooses to have this contract with this insurance or insurance. I respect that. And so if you do have a contract and your happiness working for you and you’re serving your patients amazingly, I think the compass should be happiness.

If you are unhappy. Where you are and you try to change things and not working and you think it is just like you said, I love it. The golden handcuffs. The other one I’ve heard is the poison chalice, you know, that kind of stuff. And if you are, if you think this is the thing that needs to change, then now the best time to change was yesterday.

The second best time is today. Alan, it’s been absolutely amazing to have you on. Honestly, you definitely met my expectations of all the different five. I love the variation. They’re so real and I appreciate you revealing some things about your past. past, which I really, really respect and admire.

You’re very straight talking and this is why I would recommend everyone to check out the very end of the podcast. If, if, if no reason at all, then just listen to his voice is amazing. Right. And your commute, trust me, he’s got the best voice in dentistry. And now he’ll be on video as well on YouTube and stuff.

And I’ve been encouraging him in his podcast. Like you need to record some more footage on your scope and stuff and put that on. How’s that going?

It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s really funny because, okay, so one of the scopes I have, they all have cameras. One of them has a real built in video camera, which is really cool. And the one thing they didn’t put on it is, okay, when you pull the trigger for a long pull to start the video, but there’s no indicator that the video is on. So unless you have it up on the monitor where it says recording, you don’t know if it’s recording or not. So, so many times, like. Or I’m getting great footage and I look back and it’s not freaking recording.

I didn’t, I’m like, so I wish that I could get the folks over at Zoomax to put a little indicator light on that, so it’s my technical incompetence that’s holding me up, mostly. Let me just say that.

Well, there’s a lot we can learn from you. And if you want to learn more from Alan, then check out The Very Dental Podcast. I’ll put the links in the show notes. Alan, thanks so much for your time. I really, I’m not saying, I really enjoyed our chat. Honestly, it was a nice 10 things that we combined together. I appreciate your reflections on mine as well. Thank you.

Thank you for having me.

Jaz’s Outro:
Well, there we have it, guys. Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end. I told you it’d be relatable, right? Lots of life stuff in there. You mentioned a few books, a few clinical practice scenarios. I think it’s a very relatable episode, so I hope you enjoyed it. You can get some CPD if you’re a premium subscriber on the app. That’s www.protrusive.app and once you make your login, you can use an iOS and Android.

And of course, if you want to learn more about this and have some questions, do Instagram us at @protrusivedental. This is a managed Instagram, so my team take care of that. So if you have any clinical questions and I always try and help out, they’re probably going to direct you to email me instead.

But if you’ve got any generic queries about subscriptions and content, then please do reach out to us. We’re always happy to help. If you did find this episode useful, please share it with a colleague. That would really mean a lot. And that’s how this podcast grows. Thank you so much. Once again, Protruserati and I’ll catch you same time, same place next week.

Hosted by
Jaz Gulati

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