Some days in dentistry suck. They start off bad and get progressively worse. From spilling coffee on your shirt while driving to work, to having a walk-in emergency, impatiently waiting, at the same time as your high maintenance veneer patient, whose case requires your undivided attention. And for some reason, your compressor isn’t working.
Now that I’ve been in practice over 20 years, and retirement is visible on the horizon, it’s mornings like these that I find myself fantasizing about what other work I could be doing that involves less stress. While troubleshooting the compressor, I start taking a mental inventory of non-dental activities I enjoy and I wonder how to get paid for doing those instead. For example, is it possible to get paid for commenting on Facebook threads with GIFs and memes? Because I really enjoy doing that.
I also like drinking wine so I wonder if it would be too difficult to become a sommelier. How much schooling is involved? Would I have to relocate to Napa Valley? Living in wine country would be serene.
Yoga is my favorite form of exercise. What if I traded scrubs for yoga pants? Not too long ago, I inquired about becoming a yoga teacher. The reading list for the yoga teacher training course included highly detailed yogic philosophy as well as the intricacies of human anatomy in the various poses. It was way more involved than I was expecting. I decided I’d be better off taking yoga classes, not teaching them.
The UPS guy walks in during our morning huddle. Look at him – he’s happy, always smiling. And the tan accentuated by his brown shorts tells me he gets to spend more hours outside than I do in my 1500 square foot office with fluorescent lighting. I hear they have good benefits. Who am I kidding? I’m 5’2” on a good hair day. I wouldn’t have the strength nor the stamina, at my age, to work for UPS. Plus, I don’t look good in brown.
As my fantasy frustration mounts, I think to myself “What if I could do ANYTHING in the world that doesn’t involve dentistry, insurance or people who think their own saliva is toxic because they are in my chair? What would I want to do?” Honestly, at this point in my life, nothing else sounds appealing, other than mid-day margaritas with friends. Can I get paid to do that?
Being mid-career, having to learn something new and start from scratch? No thank you. After 20 years, I’m finally getting good at dentistry! I now know to keep an extra set of scrubs at the office for the days I spill coffee on the drive in. I know which oral surgeon will be delighted to see the walk-in whose face has doubled in size after ignoring that bombed out molar for months. And I know that high maintenance patients can usually be won over with some extra TLC… usually.
Maybe I don’t need a new career. Maybe I just need some rest. Maybe a weekend away or some focused attention on something other than dentistry, like having an outdoor adventure with my sons.
The reality is, as dentists, we have it pretty good. We make a good living and have flexibility with our schedules that other industries don’t. Dentistry is hard work but it’s rewarding. People trust us to get them out of pain and we can give them a new lease on life with an enhanced smile. We help keep their mouths healthy so they can enjoy a nice steak (paired with a full-bodied merlot) or smile genuinely while dropping off our deliveries. The truth is, our work impacts people in a special way, every day. Not everyone can say that about their profession.
Since I’m already behind schedule, I decide to channel my inner yogi and close my eyes. I look inward to find stillness and…. breathe.
Well, those veneers aren’t going to seat themselves. Let’s do this!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.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.