THE FUTURE OF THE DENTAL PROFESSION

Hello to all,

Over recent months I’ve been speaking and listening to many people within a variety of fields inside the dental profession around Australia, and now around the world. I went to ADX14 (an exhibition for dental supply companies and other dental parties held in Sydney) and spent two days speaking with and listening to many people – and without exception everybody (exhibitor or attendee) was very generous with their time for me.

I went to ADX14 for a few reasons, one being to see ‘old’ friends and new technology at the same time – and I saw a lot of both. The other was to hear peoples’ thoughts and views about the profession as it is today, and to find if there is any commonality and agreement in our general views of and about the direction of the profession irrespective of the role we play in it.

And there are numerous common thoughts and feelings.

Without doubt there is a very strong groundswell of agreement that there are big problems amongst us (the dental profession) and those ‘problems’ are destroying us and the profession from within. And it is not disputed that those ‘problems’ are the real reasons as to why the profession is so badly fragmented, and that this fragmentation is playing a pivotal role in preventing a collaborative and cooperative profession from bringing into the general public awareness the true value and worth of quality team dentistry.

Also, I heard overwhelming agreement about the terrible widespread impact there has been on the entire profession brought about by the very real and strongly negative public perception of the profession. I suppose I could say ‘of dentists’ because they are the first and only ones that ever come into the public mind when speaking about teeth – after all, no one ever asks you ‘are you a technician?’….it’s always ‘Oh, you’re a dentist’. Of course you know that this is not about ‘dentist bashing’….it’s about the public’s best interest, and, by association, the best interests of the encompassing dental profession in which dentists equally belong.

This negative public perception is clearly evidenced by the widespread and often stated public feeling that dentistry is ‘an expensive rip off’ and this has lead to the avalanche of private dental travel to off shore destinations; to the many pre-organised off-shore dental tours arranged via travel agents and so-called dento/medical ‘trip planners’; and now also from (Australian) NIB health insurer who has embarked on a cost saving program by sponsoring and promoting off shore dental services to their policy holders ahead of and in preference to home-based dentistry. Should this be successful (from NIB’s perspective) then the bigger health insurers are sure to jump on the bandwagon too. The irrefutable reality in the public’s mind is that the lure of perceived ‘cheap’ dentistry combined with a ‘free’ overseas holiday is overwhelmingly strong and too good to miss. And the fact is that once our patients are gone from home-based dentistry it will be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for us to win them back.

And this is a global problem. North American patients travel to Mexico and destinations further south – Australian and New Zealand patients travel to numerous Asian destinations – and British & European patients travel to numerous Central & Eastern European destinations as well as to the Balkans, Turkey and the Middle East. And this is happening in huge and ever increasing numbers. Sadly, dentistry in many countries is considered a ‘non-essential elective’ rather than an essential health imperative – and therefore people will overlook dental care.

All of these things combined with the unceasing barrage of misleading and incorrect ‘information’ coming from years and even decades of terrible dental advertising (designed only for commercial profit), and you can understand how and why the widespread public are so vastly misinformed and/or ill-informed about virtually everything dental – and from that it’s easy to understand why so many people ‘fear’ dentists and why they are deserting the dental profession in droves.

Unfortunately the public do not know or understand anything about the hidden reality of the profession, and the national media and national politicians do not care. They have ignored us virtually completely, and those amongst us who struggle hard to reach out and have a voice outside of the profession certainly know all about being ignored. And that’s because we got it wrong.

The now obvious fact is the national media and the politicians will never listen to us until we, as a cohesive and collaborative encompassing profession, show them why they should. And, as an encompassing profession, we have failed in every meaningful way to do that. Hence the profession now finds itself being ignored by the powers-that-be, and derided and avoided like ‘the plague’ by the public.

Sadly, nothing positive will change until we realise that no one out there in the public, national media or national politics will change their perceptions and thus respect the profession differently until we, the people inside the profession, respect and treat each other differently.

To start that process we must communicate with others in the profession…. but no one does that because no one thinks that anyone is listening. And that’s the way it used to be – but not any more. Now we are writing and talking amongst ourselves globally….and importantly, we are listening to what others are saying.

My current emails are now going to many hundreds of people around the world. They are individual dentists as well as dental societies and dental associations, dental Artists & Engineers (the modernised name for the very jaded ‘technician’) and their associations, prosthetists (known internationally denturists) and their associations, supply companies and their associations, hygienists and their associations, therapists and their associations, and dental assistants and their associations…. all of whom represent a combined workforce of many tens of thousands of people globally. Every one of those people are an integral part of the profession and they all have their own thoughts and feelings and deserve to have their voices heard.

Frustration and uncertainty is a very clear message expressed to me by everybody I now speak with – and so, in the profession’s best interests, everybody must be told by you, their fellow workers and/or employers, that this forum exists and that they see it, be asked for their thoughts about it, and encouraged to be a part of it.

Everyone should know that there now is a forum where all dental professionals can voice their thoughts and feelings about the profession (and about the future) to a wide sphere of other dental professionals equally, in a respectful manner, and without fear of derision from others. That voice may be via their respective associations (executive committees are legally obliged to disseminate important information to members) or via their employers (who should do the same if they want a happy and loyal workforce), or it can be done to me personally. Or both.

I don’t mind as long as they, you and everybody knows others are listening and everyone can have their voice and/or voices heard.

It is important you realise and properly understand that this truly is the clichéd ‘I am not alone’. I am proud to inform you that countries currently involved are Australia, USA, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, UK, Andorra, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand, France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ukraine, Austria, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, South Africa, Israel, Dubai, Iran, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.

Everybody has feelings and desires that positive change in the profession must be brought about – and everyone has finally and clearly expressed that they are prepared to ‘do’ something…….that is irrefutable. Of course we all know that wanting something done is very different to actually ‘doing’ anything themselves – people are busy and expect others to ‘do’ it. But we can all now change that in a very easy way.

The four things anyone wanting to participate in a better dental future need ‘do’ is:

Press ‘reply all’ to emails they receive.
Write ‘thanks’ or ‘OK’ (or something similar)…….or make a comment and/or suggestions if desired. That way the writer knows their thoughts have been read by a huge number of others and we are indeed all communicating together.
Sign your name (or simply let your email signature do that for you)…and……
Press ‘send’.

One short reply taking maybe 15 seconds sent by one person IS DOING SOMETHING and that ‘something’ can and will have an enormous positive impact when received by so many others.

The point is, whether we like or accept it or not – we have reached a time where if the encompassing profession won’t act for the better act now, then later will be too late. All the statistics, surveys and figures prove it….. and everyone knows it.

So please WANT to participate and take 15 seconds to make a difference. Is that too difficult, or have we become too lazy even to ‘do’ that? I hope not!

I thank you for your time.