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Tuesday Tip from Pride Institute: Can dentists be replaced by robots?

Jan. 19, 2016
Robots are replacing a lot of things in life and in dentistry. So what's the point of having a dental staff? What can your dental team offer that robots cannot?

I read an alarming article in "Fortune" magazine, titled “Humans are Underrated,” that suggested many of us can be replaced by technology. Think about it. How often do you actually see a bank teller anymore? When was the last time a live human being answered your call at the phone company? Soon, we won’t even have to drive our own cars.

Medicine is not immune to this progress. Surgeons are not only using robots to assist in surgery, the robots are actually doing the surgery. I wonder how many lab technicians have been replaced by CEREC?

Houston, we have a problem. If technology can be more accurate, consistent, reliable, and less costly than humans, then what do we need our dental employees for? In the "Fortune" article, author Geoff Colvin asks, “What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature or by the realities of daily life, will simply insist be performed by other humans, even if computers could do them?”

It turns out that we want humans to make decisions. We want to work with other humans to set collective goals and meet our interpersonal needs. “We want to follow human leaders even if a computer says all the right words, which is not an implausible prospect,” Colvin wrote. We want to hear our diagnosis from a doctor, not WebMD.

So what’s the key skill to keep the dental team employed? As it turns out, it’s empathy. Transaction jobs have decreased while jobs of human interaction (such as teachers and doctors) have increased. The key competency to these jobs is empathy. Here is a somewhat controversial statement by the author, which can be good news (or not) for the typical dental office: “Women score higher on tests of empathy and social sensitivity than men do. In fact, some research shows that groups consisting entirely of women are more effective than groups that include even one man.” Yikes!

So by all means, continue going to CE classes that teach better clinical skills, but if you really want job security, learn and improve your emotional intelligence skills. Focus on the skills we teach at Pride Institute, including active listening and asking open-ended questions. Otherwise, you too could be replaced by a robot.

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Tuesday Tips from Pride Institute are provided weekly on their Facebook page as well as in this column in DentistryIQ. To ensure you don’t miss any of Pride Institute’s proven methods to take your practice to the next level, visit, and like them on Facebook.