6 Books New Dentists Should Read

My last article, 5 Things Dental Students and Noobs Should Do, generated a lot of emails from noobs asking what books, other than “Profit First”, I would recommend to jump start their dental career. Some were asking for help with interpersonal communication and some were interested in anything that would help with managing life in general. I am quite impressed by the hunger for more information. Here is a short list of books that had impact on my journey.

Now, it may not make sense why I’m recommending these particular books. But someday, you’ll realize how the skills outlined in them are relevant to practicing dentistry and having a shot at a good life. It’s like in the movie Karate Kid (the original, not the Jaden Smith version). Mr. Miyagi teaches “Daniel-san” karate by having him remodel his yard. Without realizing it, Daniel-san was learning key principles of karate through specific yard projects. Likewise, reading the books below may not make sense initially but before you know it, you’ll be ready to crane kick the heck out of life. (Watch the movie, it will make more sense.)

The following are in no particular order and there are many others that I would recommend. Start with these and I’ll give you more when it’s time. Like Mr. Miyagi says, “First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule Daniel-san, not mine”.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
In my last post, I mentioned growing a thick skin. This book by Mark Manson can help with that. Consider it a practical guidebook to choosing what’s important and what’s not important in your life. This will save you many sleepless nights common to new dentists who are terrified at the thought of having their license revoked. For what it’s worth, you have to be pretty negligent to lose your license. A light contact on an MOD isn’t going to do it, so you can relax. This book will help put things into perspective. Plus, you’ll understand what “GNF” means when you see it mentioned on Facebook dental groups. Don’t read this book if you’re sensitive to the “F word”.

The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
Author Hal Elrod, after an incredible personal journey involving a near death experience, studied which habits highly successful people incorporate into their daily lives. He outlined them in this program to help you systematically seize the day. Elrod explains how most people settle for less than what they want in life simply out of lack of direction. If you want to rise above global mediocrity, this book will help you. It may also shed light on some limiting beliefs you may not be aware of. Personally, I felt much more focused and empowered after implementing the steps. Had I started this program when I first got out of dental school, I could have reached a “Level 10” life much sooner.

How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships
While noobs may not remember what it was like to go to the bathroom without an iPhone, I do. I also remember a time when lunch with a friend meant actually talking to them. Interpersonal communication in the cell phone era has become a challenge. If you look around restaurant tables nowadays, more often than not, people are staring at their phones, not engaging the person across from them. We’ve forgotten how to actually talk to people. Frankly, I would rather text people than chat with them face to face. Unfortunately for us introverts, dentistry requires live human interaction. The emails I received expressed the struggle with this very important component of our profession. This book offers tips on how to talk to anybody, even when you don’t like to talk. It’s practical and will give you tools to better develop your doctor-patient relationships.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Once you’ve broken the ice with the tips you learned from the aforementioned book, you’ll want to learn how to ethically communicate your treatment plan so your patients can see the value and commit to their dental health. “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” has become the new “classic”. (Sort of like How to Win Friends and Influence People – which I also recommend. Even though the stories are somewhat dated, the principles outlined still apply.)

In “Influence,” author Robert Cialdini explains that influence is based on six key psychological principles: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, scarcity. By understanding these six principles, you will understand how the mind works. Understanding how the mind works allows us to speak with our patients in a way that gets them to participate in their oral health goals. After all, it would be nice if patients cared about their teeth as much as we do.

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
This book is an easy-to-read introduction to Stoicism, an ancient Greek philosophy which teaches the development of self-control and fortitude in overcoming modern trials. Trust me, between insurance companies, staff issues, and patient complaints, there will be many obstacles to overcome in dentistry.

You’ll learn principles like: “You don’t convince people by challenging their longest and most firmly held opinions. You find common ground and work from there.” I’m in Southern California and we have a lot of holistically minded patients who are hell bent on refusing two things: fluoride and x-rays. I know I’m not going to change their minds. So instead, I find common ground (I’m a little granola myself so I make sure they know that). Then I share with them that it’s true that “we don’t know what we don’t know. But what I DO know is ….” and I list the benefits and why they should seriously consider [insert whatever they’re refusing here]. I end the discussion with: “But it’s your body, you can choose to not do x-rays but then you also have to assume the responsibility for the risk of [list all the risks].” Most people will reconsider. They hadn’t considered actually being responsible for the risks of their refusal. Many patients, who adamantly refused initially, will decide to do x-rays because I didn’t directly challenge their opinion but instead, found common ground, simply stated the facts and let them decide. It’s amazing how purposeful, ethical communication can lead people to make better decisions for their own health.

There are many other books I’d recommend, especially on the topics of personal development, leadership and business management. That article will follow. But for now, as Mr. Miyagi would say, “Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off.” You’ve got a lot of reading to do. Get to it.

Josie Dovidio, DDS, a Southern California dentist since 1997, is a lover of all things health and wellness. A gluten-free, keto enthusiast, she is an Amazon social media influencer and her favorite items for healthy living can be found by clicking this link.
Drop her a line at josiedental109@gmail.com.
To read more from her, click here.

Dr. Alan Mead and Dr. Josie Dovidio talk about being mid-career dentists on Episode 055 of The Alan Mead Experience. Click here to listen.