7 free (or almost free) things you can do that will make you a better dentist (and person)

7 free (or almost free) thing you can do that will make you a better dentist (and person)

7 free (or almost free) thing you can do that will make you a better dentist (and person)As dentists we’re constantly looking to make ourselves better. Whether it’s that new piece of equipment or a new procedure, we’re looking for constant improvement. Onward and upward!

These things usually cost a bunch, though. My ability to diagnose increases significantly with a cone beam CT in the office. For a mere $100k, I will be a diagnostic super hero. I get it. Getting better has a price, right? Well…not always. There are some really inexpensive things you can do to become a significantly better dentist.

  • read: Our ability to communicate is really important. As dentists. As parents. As humans. Much of our communication depends on language and our ability to use and understand language. With this in mind…when was the last time you took any kind of course in language arts? I know you’ve taken treatment planning courses, implant placement courses, veneer courses, business management courses and on. And on. I get it. Dentists don’t take courses in language. We’re just automatically great at it, right? Ummmm. No. This is why you should read. I personally have a hard time sitting down and reading books with my eyes. I’m more of a blog post reader or the occasional newspaper reader. Books are fantastic, though. I’m actually OK with comic books. Regular reading is kind of like a quick refresher course in using the language and it helps you use part of your brain that doesn’t necessarily get engaged with other kinds of media.
  • learn to meditate: I know what you’re thinking. “Meditating is for hippies. I’m not sitting cross legged and saying “om” to the universe. I’ve got things to do.” I thought this, too. For me, meditation has been a really healthy habit. I’m not perfect about making time for it, but I find my days get better when I do. All human beings are emotional creatures. You may not think of yourself as emotional, but remember being angry or stressed…that’s your emotions. Much of my stress and anxiety is linked to not recognizing my feelings. It sounds silly, but just recognizing that you’re feeling a certain way is enough to help move through it. Much of the time we’re too busy to think about the actual emotions we experience. Meditation and mindfulness is ALL about this. I’ve learned a lot from my friend Dr. Dawn Kulongowski and her private Facebook group for dentists. You should check it out.
  • listen to podcasts: Yes, this is self serving. But it isn’t wrong. I am a podcaster. I have two dental podcasts that you should be listening to. The Dental Hacks podcast is the show I’ve been doing with my friend Dr. Jason Lipscomb for 3 years. It’s fun, it’s informative and it’s free. The Alan Mead Experience is a new show that I started last month. It focuses on conversation and storytelling. I love them both. But if you don’t like those, there are 50+ podcasts about dentistry available on iTunes or most other podcast listening software. There’s something for everyone. Podcasts are great because they make time that’s often not productive (working out, driving to work, mowing the lawn) into a chance to learn and hear some different perspectives. Podcasts are awesome.
  • write: Many people that communicate very well through speech struggle with similar communication through writing. The spoken word is more comfortable for most people because the ear is more forgiving and so much of spoken communication is nonverbal through tone, expression and even hand gestures. Writing is harder. But it’s still really important. The good news…the writing muscle gets stronger with exercise. The more you write, the easier it will get and the better you’ll be at it. So spend some time writing. Write a letter to someone you haven’t talked with in awhile. When was the last time you got a letter from someone? It’s guaranteed to make someone’s day. Start a blog. Write a novel. Again…it doesn’t matter so much what you write as much as you give those muscles a little workout.
  • take photos: You’re thinking “that’s not free. You said the stuff was free!” True. You can spend a bunch of money on clinical photography set ups. But you don’t have to. If the Kois Center is recommending that you use a smartphone or tablet to take your intake images, that should be good enough for you! If you take photos (or even video) of your work, you will get better. End of story. There is nothing more frustrating (or educational) than taking photos of the perfect resin you just placed only to see some flash you missed or some anatomy that looks less than ideal that you just didn’t see clinically. Taking photos makes you better. Period.
  • take time off: I’m terrible at this. Seriously. Most of the time I take off from work involves dental CE. That’s pathetic. There’s something magical about having time away from the office and NOT doing dental stuff. I’m in the middle of a week off from work that has been incredibly energizing. I’m essentially doing work around my house and single parenting my children. Knowing that there is life outside of your dental office and that the whole world doesn’t end when you’re not in the office is valuable. It makes you better when you’re there and it helps make you realize that you’re human before you’re a dentist.
  • have lunch with local colleagues: I have a ton of dental colleagues. Many of them are from “away.” I interact with dentists across the country and across the world on a daily basis because of podcasting, blogging and social media. I’ve learned much of what I do in my office from people I’ve actually never met in person. However…there is something to having regular interaction with your local colleagues, too. I generally don’t think of local dentists as competition. It doesn’t serve me well and frankly, we compete against other things patients can spend money on (smartphones, lawn tractors) much more than other dentists. It’s really great to be able to communicate or commiserate with a real live person. Having local colleagues that you can lean on for second opinions and referrals is really important. Plus, it helps you realize that you’re doing OK, even though you aren’t posting all of your cases on Style Italiano or Tomorrow Tooth.

So there you have it. You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to improve yourself or your dentistry. And a lot of these suggestions can help you be a better human being, too. Which is a pretty good side benefit, right?

If I missed any please email me or leave some suggestions in the comments section. If you found this helpful, please share it!


I started a podcast

Mead podcastingI don’t know if I ever had “regular” readers of The Blogging Dentist. But if I did, I probably made them think that I’m not writing any more. I’ve fallen down on the job. I’ve published inconsistently. I’ve been lame. What can I say?

Well…I started a podcast. I used to think that writing a blog took a lot of time. And it does. Kind of. But podcasting takes even more time. So the time I might have spent writing here has been spent getting a podcast up and running.

I’ve been listening to podcasts for a long time. For those who’ve never listened, a podcast is a radio show that can be downloaded from the internet. They’re usually free downloads and the best place to find them would probably be the iTunes store.

I like podcasts because they’re often done by regular folks in their spare time and this gives them a really nice authenticity. The typical podcaster is someone who’s an enthusiast on a subject (think Harry Potter, triathlons or Thai food. Or at least they used to be. A lot of radio stations and professional entertainers have come to realize the power of being able to syndicate your own show for next to nothing and have begun to use the format as well.

It’s actually a blast. I’m enjoying the interviews and discussions with my friends and colleagues. I’m enjoying the fact that I’m spreading ideas. In fact, that’s the same reason I like to write a blog here and at meadfamilydental.com.

There are a lot of similarities between blogging and podcasting. The similarities are all about being a “content creator.” So much of what dentists post on the canned “our blog” part of their websites is written by whoever it is that manages their office’s social media. When I read those blog posts they usually don’t seem authentic. I’d much rather read something a little less polished that I can tell was written by the dentist who is connected to that website.

That’s the spirit we’ve tried to bring to the podcast. The format is half interview and half group discussion. We’re interviewing people that my co-host (Jason Lipscomb) and I find interesting on topics that we find interesting. We call the group discussion “the Brain Trust.” It’s informal. Kind of like the discussion you’d have with colleagues at dinner when you’re taking some CE.

The DentalHacks PodcastThere are a lot of laughs and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Which some may consider a fault. I think it’s our biggest strength.

So, go check out our podcast. I think you’ll enjoy it.

And I’ll try to start posting more here, too.



I’d like to think I’m a pretty good dentist. I’ve developed my skills with practice and a constant drive to learn. I’ve hired and retained an office team that really goes the extra mile for patients. But above all, my goal has been to be reasonable person with an equally reasonable team. I think patients like dealing with an office full of reasonable people.

What do I mean by this? Well, if I put a filling in last year and a piece of it breaks off…I’m going to fix it for you and not charge you for it.

Could we charge for a new filling? Sure. Probably some would. Frankly, if a filling of mine comes out in a year, I can’t help but think that something went wrong with the placement of it. In most mouths, a filling should last awhile. How long? Well, that’s a complicated question. But let’s just say a year is usually too short of a lifespan for a filling.

Another example of reasonable. It’s the holidays and you’ve got a day off. This is your one day to knock out all the Christmas shopping. You remembered that you had an appointment with us when you woke up, but time just slipped away from you. You check your cell phone and realize that your appointment was an hour and a half ago and you completely missed it. You call in a panic and Kathy teases you and sets up a new appointment. Can we charge you a late fee? Absolutely. Will we? Probably not. Why not? Because we’re reasonable.

Being reasonable is one of the things that makes me enjoy being human. Sometimes all it takes to make someone’s day better is being a little flexible about expectations. Everyone has a occasional bad day. Sincere apologies are worth their weight in gold.

Of course this totally goes both ways. I like to brag about how my office runs on time. Often we run ahead of time. I only see one patient at a time, so the time that we reserve is actually reserved especially for you. Every once in awhile…I get behind. Usually it’s a procedure that went much longer than I expected or a dental emergency that just couldn’t wait. Every time this happens, it throws me off my game. I hate being behind. I almost always walk out into the waiting room to apologize and let the patient know what’s happening. I can’t remember a time when the patient gave me a hard time. It’s because most people are reasonable.

Very occasionally we run into patients who aren’t kind and understanding. In fact, they’re just unreasonable. I have quite a few stories of patients who’s expectations were unrealistic and they were happy to tell me about how I had failed them.

I’m not going to tell you those stories, though. Why? Because I’m a reasonable person and it doesn’t help to dwell on them.

Instead, I’m just going to ask myself a question. When I’m in a situation where I’m unhappy with the service I’m receiving…am I being reasonable?