The best way to damage your career as a dentist

Here’s my really easy method for damaging your career. Forget any dreams and aspirations you had for your life in dentistry. Forget that bright future. If you’re keen on harming the prosperity of you and your family, look no further. I’ll make it really easy for you. All you have to do is follow my guide. But before I talk you through it, I’m just going to explain why my method of self harm works so well. Enjoy.

We all like a story so I’m going to tell you the story of human beings. Why did humans come to dominate the planet when so many other species had such a head start on us, evolving millions of years before we did? (I promise this is relevant to dentists, bear with me.) Our societies developed and function because humans believe in stories. Humans have imaginations and therefore have the ability to believe in common myths. We often don’t need to see much evidence to start believing that something is true, we can just imagine it. These common stories allow us to cooperate with people we have never met. For example, most people believe in the value of money. This means that you can walk into Tesco and hand over a ten pound note in exchange for something that they have. Even though the piece of paper has no actual value, we all believe in the value of money and will cooperate with others to get it. So because of our ability to cooperate with people that we have never met, humans have been able to build a global society; billions of people working together in a way that no other species on this planet has been able to do.

Our imaginations are so powerful. The world is so complex that we need our imaginations to try and make sense of it. We build up a web of stories in our mind, a mixture of fact and fiction that give us our view of the world. These stories can be so entrenched in our minds that they guide and influence all of our actions. They shape our personal narrative and become self fulfilling. Our stories start to come true.

My guide to damaging your career

When you think to yourself every day that being a dentist is awful, that is just a story that you are telling yourself. Of course there are elements of truth to most stories. It’s not all rosy being a dentist. However, when you tell yourself this story, you start to seek out evidence to support that story. You stop noticing the positive aspects of being a dentist and trawl the world for confirmation that you’re right; dentistry was an awful choice. You build your myth until it controls you, swaying your feelings and dominating your actions.

I wouldn’t mind so much. It’s just that when someone has a strongly held belief, they are compelled to share this belief with the world. You look for ways to spread the word that being a dentist is awful. “Everyone must know the truth as it is written in my imagination,” you cry as you head out into the world as the missionary of your new faith. Unfortunately, if you can find other people who agree with your myth, you are completely buggered. Your myth has now been confirmed by others and you’ll never get away from it.

And, hey presto, you have destroyed your career. You will go to work every day, safe in the miserable belief that it’s all a waste of time and you’re going to get struck off anyway. You stop improving and you stop seeing opportunities. You feel negatively about your patients because, after all, they are the source of all your woes. Patients sense it, patients lose faith. They don’t ask you about the cosmetic concerns they have because they don’t think you would be interested in treating them. They may decide to see another dentist or, worse still, they might make a complaint. Your story has just come true. You believed things were awful and now they are. Your imagination has created a myth that is now reality.

Reality Check

Yes, there are plenty of problems within the profession at the moment. I don’t believe that any of us are immune from these issues. I could well be sued this year. I could receive a serious complaint or have to answer to the regulator. I know the horrible feeling of getting a complaint or simply not being able to meet a patient’s expectations. But for most dentists, these negative experiences are isolated incidents. It is vital that we do not let these moments dominate the way we view ourselves and our careers. Stop the self harm.

There is so much to be positive about as a dentist. We all have the chance to earn a fair and comfortable income. We can develop and learn new skills that make our days exciting. We have the opportunity to do meaningful work and build meaningful relationships with our patients.

If you see a problem within your life, find a solution. It might be a problem that affects you as an individual or it might affect the whole profession. No one ever gained anything by moaning. Look for a solution. You will be amazed at what you can do. If you cannot be bothered to solve the problems that you see, you just need to shut up. If you want to keep telling yourself these negative stories, be my guest, but please stop spreading these myths to colleagues. You are harming them and their careers which is not fair.


I hope that bit about the power of our imaginations made sense. Once you understand that your view of the world is based on the stories you tell yourself, you can start to change those stories. Consider some of your opinions. They might have been based in fact originally but has reality got lost in a myth of your own imagining? Is dentistry a positive or negative aspect of your life? You have control over what you believe. What story are you going to tell yourself today?

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