The Bell curve

By 1 February, 2019Members

Dentists are an odd bunch.  Come on, admit it.  We complain a lot and yet tend not to take the necessary action to deal with our troubles.  We continue to put up with the machinations and manipulations enforced on us by ever-changing NHS rules.  We are divided and sometimes even at each other’s throats which makes us an almost willing victim for what parliament, our regulators and the lawyers want to throw at us.  We do not act in our own, unified best interests so we become an easy target for the population to milk through litigation and for the press as one of their ever-present whipping boys.

Some people like Dhruh over at Dentinal Tubules (as a random example) do their best to help, but so few of us seem to want to accept that help.  I don’t know why, it certainly isn’t the money despite what people often say.

What I have noticed in my 22 years as a dentist is that dentists are split into a bell curve distribution:

10-20% will work miracles.  They will create fantastic practices, work wonders with composite or ceramic.  They will build businesses that people want to work in and bring change to the profession through the example they set.  They produce raving fans rather than patients and become an example of what dentistry should be.

10-20% will cause damage to the profession.  They will engage in illegal and unethical practice.  They will play fast and loose with GDC standards and hoodwink patients into buying suboptimal treatment that they don’t need.

The rest struggle to do the best they can.  They will run businesses that are constantly firefighting.  They will struggle to get that tax payment in on time and have staff that cause them more problems than should be expected.  They will treat patients they don’t get on with, and will often drift into defensive dentistry out of fear for their own hides.  They can still be good dentists, clinically, ethically etc.  But they often find themselves pushing at the edges of the regulations or their own sanity.  And they might get all the dentistry and the business right, only to have their health fail because they don’t look after themselves.


That’s my biased opinion.  Most of those in that middle section will never make it into the top 10-20%, but it is very easy for them to fall into the bottom.  Society even makes it easy for you.  It provides a system of socialised dentistry that encourages supervised neglect and discourages courageous, adventurous business ideas due to the threat of clawback from not getting those damned udders.  It parades the “dentists are rich” message across social media enticing you to perhaps push your own moral boundaries if just a little bit.  But once pushed, it becomes easier to push a little more…and that’s a dark road to go down.  Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money?  See, I told you I was biased.

The way I go about life is to try and do something every day that makes me that little bit better.  Go to the gym, read a book, do some CPD, have a conversation that matters, write a blog or get that marginal ridge on that MI composite just right.  And every day I try and avoid things that will make my life worse.  I do what I can to limit the alcohol, to avoid the random 30 second mouth pleasure from something completely unhealthy.  I avoid wasting money on things I don’t need to impress people I don’t know and do what I can to stop the negative chatter that rattles around in my head.

One of the things I do to make my life a little better is to try and help others (even the horror fiction I write comes under that because, so I tell myself,  it gives people an escape from their troubles).  I was never in the top 10-20% for anything with my dentistry, but I got as close as I could.  I was an average dentist clinically, could build rapport with most people and learnt who NOT to treat.  I developed loyal staff, probably more through luck than anything.  I bought and sold my practice at exactly the right time in the market cycle and there was some luck there as well…although sometimes I wonder if it was simply because I took the opportunities when offered.

So now I write books.  I won’t be retiring off the proceeds, that’s not how publishing works.  There aren’t enough dentists in the country to make that happen, and most dentists tend not to read books from my experience (I don’t know how valid that experience is).  What I hope though is that somebody will find something in one of them to make the difference that makes their life and/or their career better.  The books and the website that this blog is on aren’t for everyone.  My thoughts on ethics don’t gel with some in the profession because I find much of the advertising and social media use questionable.  That’s just my opinion, it’s not a reflection on what anyone else is doing.

So if you are struggling with ethics, regulation, legislation or how to run a business, you might find some useful nuggets in one of the books I’ve written.  Will they change your life?   Don’t be silly, I’m not Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra.  They might just help, however.

My Amazon authors page can be found here –

And if you have already read the books and liked them, why not drop me a review on Amazon.  Just as patient testimonials help your business, so Amazon reviews help push a book to the head of the algorithm that promotes it.

By the way, if you want to ask me anything, just drop me an email –