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How dental practice owners and their teams can find security in a new year

Dec. 2, 2020
The year 2020 has left dentists and humanity at large looking for a sense of hope and security. Melissa Turner, BASDH, RDHEP, EFDA, reminds us that no matter how hard this year has been, a new year is on the horizon.

It’s the way my 4-year-old grabs my arm and holds on like she never wants to let go. After a bad dream, she’ll climb into bed beside me and throw her arms around mine in a secure and firm grasp—a hold that doesn’t waver until the sun rises in the morning, a new day.

It’s in that moment when I’m held in the precious embrace of which only an innocent child is capable that I realize the significance of this moment for her—in a time when she’s facing extreme fear and uncertainty, she turns to me to help her feel safe and secure. She chooses to hold on to me in the hope that I will assuage her fears and hasten the dawn of the coming day.

Aren’t we all collectively there, precisely in that looking-for-security moment right now? 

Isn’t the dental industry searching for a safe arm to embrace, searching to find security in a brand new day?

The ancient Stoic philosophers held that there are three components to any situation: things you can control, things you cannot control, and things you can influence.1 As dental practice owners and dental professionals in an era of uncertainty and unpredictability, why not choose to embrace the things we can change and influence and enter this new year proactively choosing to improve our lives both at home and at work. 

As we conclude the confusion and fear of the past year and look toward the dawn of the next, here are six simple things practice owners and dental professionals can choose to embrace as they enter the new year with a fresh perspective.

As a team:

Schedule a team reflection session. Prior to the close of 2020, and certainly before your annual holiday party, hold an extra team meeting with one single purpose: to acknowledge the shared experiences of this past year, address changes and their effects on the team and business, and identify two to three objectives for the coming year. During the session, allow space for each team member to provide personal reflection, leave all advice at the door, and simply listen to one another in solidarity.

Implement flex staffing. More than ever, flexible careers are in demand. Unfortunately, dentistry traditionally has not been very flexible. The good news is that the dental industry is actually already more flexible than we think, thanks to new innovations like teledentistry and real-time staffing apps. Utilizing onDiem, an innovative staffing platform, will relieve the pressure dental practices often face when planning for last-minute or unexpected staffing needs. Both practice owners and their teams win when the business becomes more adaptable.

Embrace company culture. Take a look at successful industries outside of dentistry and you will see a common theme: building great workplaces by focusing on enhancing company culture. As is evidenced in companies like Google, Netflix, and Twitter, a focus on employee wellness creates a positive work environment, helps with employee retention, and increases productivity. This is especially important in a clinical environment, as the healthier dental providers are, the healthier patients can be. Successful dental practices of the future will be the ones who work hard to create a great dental company culture.

As an individual:

Embrace one minute of controlled breathing and stretching. Breathing and airway is currently one of the trendiest topics both inside and outside of the dental industry. Some of the latest information even suggests that sleep disorders may be a result of poor breathing habits while awake. A simple solution is to take one minute each day and practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique: breathe in through the nose for four seconds, hold the breath for seven seconds, and breathe out through the mouth for eight seconds.2 While you're at it, why not add some leg, arm, or back stretches? Adding just one minute of deep breathing can take the edge off of a stressful day and help you thrive.

Re-create your workspace. Out with the old and in with the new! Take this time to revamp your workspace, whether it’s a clinical op or work-at-home station. Chances are, you’ve changed over these last 12 months, so why not change your workspace to adapt to the new you? Bring in fresh plants, a new rug, or buy a fancy pen or new coffee mug. If you work in the dental op and find yourself having a hard time connecting with your patients because of additional PPE, why not cover your walls with photos of your staff, sunny vacation spots, or have a wall covered with pictures of your patients’ pets? Connecting with your workspace and finding new ways to connect with your patients is a great way to begin a new year.

Set objective, attainable goals. Let’s face it, though some people thrive under the pressure of creating amazing new year’s resolutions, you may not be one of those people. Instead of stressing over losing the 10 pounds you recently gained, why not reward yourself by accomplishing smaller, easier goals? For instance, set a goal to go outside for fresh air and a walk every Wednesday. Or, instead of completely nixing your wine habit, why not simply cut it in half? The psychological satisfaction of accomplishing a single resolution—no matter how simple—can help take the next step toward a larger goal.

As the dental industry collectively faces the unknown, it’s time to take action and find security in the newness of another year, doing so with as much positivity as we can muster. It’s time to create an empowering workplace culture, implement flexibility into what we do, and focus on improving the well-being of dental providers everywhere. After all, a healthy provider leads to a healthy patient. 

How do you stay healthy? Share your tips and tricks on social media and tag #healthyproviderhealthypatient.


  1. Definition of “stoicism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Published April 15, 1996. Updated April 10, 2018. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/stoicism/
  2. Fletcher J. How to use 4-7-8 breathing for anxiety. Medical News Today. February 12, 2019. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324417#how-to-do-it
Melissa Turner, BASDH, RDHEP, EFDA, is an award-winning thought leader, influencer, dental advisor, and cocreator of Care for a Better Tomorrow—an alliance of leading dental brands and industry experts committed to reimagining a better tomorrow. She is chief hygiene officer for Cellerant Consulting and is a nationally published author and speaker. Cofounder of the National Mobile & Teledentistry Conference and the American Mobile & Teledentistry Alliance, Turner is creator of the I Heart Mobile DentistryFacebook community and is affectionately known on Instagram as @thetoothgirl. She can be reached at [email protected].