1.  STOP, take a deep breathe. You have time to work with. Dental practices can easily tolerate a two week unscheduled break in services. Moderate vacations will last 7-14 days. Use this time to your advantage. DON’T MAKE DECISIONS IN HASTE. Get started on healing.
  2. Face the fact that you are injured or ill.  You need to be prepared for the emotions that come with unexpected accidents or illnesses. Denial,anxiety, depression, fear, and anger will be your constant companion. By acknowledging this, you will gain the strength to fight back. You can’t go back in time and alter the past. Make a list of what you can do, not what you can’t do. You will usually not know if you are disabled. It will take time to determine if you cannot do some or all tasks involved in your profession. Of importance is timing. Whether you are out for 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years the consequences to your practice can be significant.
  3. Make the decision not to be broken by your situation. Concentrate on your recovery and rehabilitation. Follow your physicians orders and treatment plan to the letter. You are THE patient now.  Take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to research your condition and seek second opinions.
  4. Put your practice continuity contingency plan into effect. This will include any mutual-aid agreements that you have in place. They will include who will run your practice, who will pay the bills, and who will make the day to day business decisions. Keep your staff informed. They are one of your most critical assets. They will keep your practice viable, alleviate patient anxiety over your condition, and add value to the practice. Staff continuity will greatly ease your transition back to work.
  5. Ask for help. No one get through a severe injury or medical crisis alone. Reach out to your family, friends, and peers. We have found that peer support is a great source of real help when faced with a disability. TALK. It doesn’t matter if your discussing the weather or gardening tips. Just open up and let it go. Your faith will be a rock to lean on in the darkness.
  6. Maintain all your licenses and certifications. There is a cost for these documents but the the risk of them expiring is real. It is often much harder to reinstate an expired permit or licenses than just pay your dues or licensing fee. In addition, you may have problems in billing through insurance with an expired license. You may have to continue earning CE credits if you are well enough to meet your state’s legal requirements. Some states may allow you to temporarily suspend your licenses. Check with your individual state. Keep your CPR up to date if you can. Monitor your billing process at your office and avoid having a large accounts receivable balance that may prove uncollectible if you delay in billing.
  7. Start making good decisions. Get a good perspective of your situation. Determine how injured or sick you are.  Contact your attorney and ensure you are protected if you begin entering in any transition negotiations.  Contact your financial advisor and make appropriate changes to your portfolio.Notify your malpractice company and consider temporary suspension of coverage, – you may be eligible for a refund and can easily reactivate your policy later. Contact the ADA and check for sources of support and apply for temporary disabled status. You may be eligible for a refund in dues.
  8. Contact your disability insurance company. You can file a claim as soon as you determine your tentative medical status. You most likely have a 90 day waiting period before benefits will be paid and should file a claim early to start your benefits on time. You may use an attorney to file your claim at your discretion. Be prepared to forward your office scheduling records prior to your event, your income tax returns, and all medical records. Discussion of your medical status with your physician is critical. You will need medical documentation of your disability. Understand your policy will likely still pay you benefits if you work at a decreased capability. These residual benefits are valuable; you paid for them, so don’t avoid applying for them
  9. Develop a recovery plan. Start setting realistic recovery goals and formulate a timeline based on an estimated return to work date. Involve your physicians and family in developing this plan. Understand you may be able to function at a decreased capability and this may be temporary or permanent. Once you have a date, you can start scheduling a light load of patients at first.  Involve your staff in these decisions. Base your plan on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
  10. No one promised you a happy ending. Understand that you may be disabled for a long period of time. Be prepared for that possibility. If that means selling your current practice, accept the gift that you are alive. You started a dental practice once, you can do it again if you fully recover. Understand that 10% of dentists practice in non-clinical settings. There are many non-traditional positions and careers available too you. Give back to the profession and utilize the skills and experience that you have earned to benefit others. Your spouse and family will appreciate your dedication to not only survive, but thrive. YOU ARE A VALUABLE RESOURCE AND CAN HELP OTHERS.


  1. […] Learn from your apparent misfortune, and you will never lose. Transition can mean many things. To some dentists it may mean retirement, to others it may mean moving to a new city and starting over again. Whatever it means, it is a bridge you will have to cross if you cannot return to work at your prior level of skill in a timely fashion.  Realizing that you will need to make some important decisions regarding your future is the first step. Once you make this decision, the next step is to develop a list of options. SEE OUR PRIOR POSTING ON STEPS TO TAKE WHEN DISABILITY STRIKES.FEAR MAKES THE WOLF BIGGER THAN HE IS-TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY […]


  2. […] Nearly 50% of practicing dentists suffer at least on symptom of a musculoskeletal disorder. The number one killer of dentists is cardiovascular disease. Dentists suffer neurologic disorders at twice the rate of physicians. Emotional illness is a frequent cause of disability. Approximately 90% of dental disabilities are due to medical illnesses, only 10% are due to accidents! See our posting on the steps to survive.FEAR MAKES THE WOLF BIGGER THAN HE IS-TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY […]


  3. […] Cancer doesn’t mean you aren’t a dentist. You are a skilled professional who has encountered an illness, that is all. Fight back and use your knowledge and acquired background to seek out the best care. You are in a better position than the lay public to know what you are up against and use that gift to survive. Take advantage of your medical colleagues and peers to get the best care. Your goal of returning swiftly to practice is reasonable and while you may seem out of control;  the decisions you make are ultimately yours. Check out our tens steps to survive.FEAR MAKES THE WOLF BIGGER THAN HE IS-TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY […]


  4. […] AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE.  Best to head your neck or back problems off at the pass.  Ergonomics is now key component of dental education. Years ago dentists just suffered through the pain. Now we know best practice policies and positioning can extend the functional life of practitioners indefinitely with sound effort and dedication.  There IS A MOUNTAIN OF DATA AVAILABLE on orthopedic dental injuries. In the end does it really matter whether you have lymphoma or fused neck?  You will still be out of work for some time, and very important decisions regarding your practice need to be made.   See our posting on the ten steps to survive disability.FEAR MAKES THE WOLF BIGGER THAN HE IS-TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY […]


  5. […] Winston Churchill had it right. He was a hero not because he was smarter than everyone else, but because he didn’t freeze. He kept moving in the face of adversity.  Use this simple idea to your advantage.  Keep active and involved.  You are only relevant if you are moving in some direction. ANY DIRECTION. Make the conscious decision to survive and continue to be the valuable skilled professional you are. Look again at our ten steps to survival for a plan, it may work for you.FEAR MAKES THE WOLF BIGGER THAN HE IS-TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY […]


  6. […] Disability can strike at any time. when you hear the honest, true story of another dentist’s challenges it begins to put the problem in perspective. Review the video and think about what you would have happened to you in similar circumstances.   In the meantime see our posting on the ten steps to take when disability strikes.   TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY . […]


  7. […] The next step is reassurance of your family regarding your future. Younger practitioners in debt with young children may be facing years of hardship and stress. Look at your situation honestly and keep your family involved in your financial decisions. Let them know that you are ready to transition and move on with your life. If you can return to work, involve your family in the process. If you need to explore other fields let your family provide input and encouragement. By doing so, you are allowing them to control their future as well as yours. Look to our posting on the ten steps to survive disability for guidance.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY […]


  8. […] Your economic situation will be a major factor in your decision making process.   Most dentists will not have to be told that practice sales are going to be difficult in these times. Just finding buyer is going to be hard.  What about those who are disabled and don’t even own a practice?  We have spent a considerable amount of time over the past years developing plans to help those facing a catastrophic injury or illness.    See our post for help.  TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY […]


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