25 Years in Dentistry – It’s Just the Beginning

First week of dental school (1984)

First week of dental school (1984)

Yesterday minus twenty-five years was the day I graduated dental school.  What a relief that was!  In some ways, it seems like yesterday.  In other ways, it still seems like yesterday!

Going into dentistry, I had no idea I would like it as much as I do.  Certainly, my experience in dental school would not have given me such an idea.

On the USS Independence, in the Persian Gulf... dressed for the occasion.

On the USS Independence, in the Persian Gulf… dressed for the occasion.

After dental school, I spent 3 years in the Navy, which had its ups and downs, but I’d say about 99% ups.  It was a great professional, cultural, and social experience.  I learned a lot more in the Navy than I did in dental school.  It was in the Navy where my love for dentistry really began.

Out here in the civilian world, I learned even more through extensive C.E. and a desire to learn and perform at my best.  I worked as an associate in two different offices for about 3 years before starting my practice from scratch.  I decided against participation in managed care plans.  To this day, I have steadfastly refused to get involved with it.  It has NOT been an easy road.

But, I still love dentistry!  If I won the lotto, I’d still be doing it… with a few more vacations!

PBS-op-4-3It’s a good thing I still love it.  In this economy, we’ve all taken a hit.  It’s been tough!  I’m hearing about dental offices going out of business across the country.  Some days I really wonder what I’m doing and why.

There are days I envy those with a “regular” job… the kind where you invest nothing, borrow nothing, have no vested interest, walk away from at 5:00 pm and never think about again until the next day…  AND get a predictable salary, benefits, insurance, and even a pension.

I’m a GOOD dentist.  I do GOOD work.  I actually do treat my patients like my own family.  I’m HONEST.  And, still it’s been tough.

But, I’m hanging in there.  The economy WILL get better.  I just don’t know WHEN.

It seems more and more people are looking for “bargains.”  Honesty and good work sometimes feel like an exercise in futility.  Yet, I must continue to have faith in those character traits.  I must believe that it WILL pay off.  Some day.  To give up on that would mean giving up on what I love to do and who I am.

After 25 years, I am in a comfortable place, professionally.  I feel competent.  I know what I’m doing.  I can handle just about any complex restorative case.  I’ve been published.  I’ve been on the lecture circuit.  On the other hand, I feel like I’m just getting started!  I feel like I have a long career ahead of me.  And, it will be good.  I have a wonderful family.  I have a wonderful staff.  I’m ready to ride the next wave.

Stay true to yourself.  Find your passion and follow it!  And, don’t take shit from anyone.

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4 Responses to 25 Years in Dentistry – It’s Just the Beginning

  1. Mitch Foster says:

    Great post ! Especially the last line. I’m sure there are parts of the country that have it worse than Florida and my state, Texas.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks, Mitch! You’re right. There are those who have it worse. When I see someone standing on the corner with a sign begging for money, I count my blessings.

      “Just keep swimming.” – Dory (Finding Nemo)

  2. Shane Francis says:

    Mike, thanks for sharing with us!

    It is refreshing to hear how passionate you are about our profession after 25 years of practice. I believe you have touched on a number of foundations that set the stage for a passionate, enjoyable career as a dentist and these things are very important for the younger generation of this profession (me) to hear as they start out.



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