The possibility of an illness interrupting your dental practice is nearly 10 times more likely than an accident. Your risk of encountering a disabling illness during your dental career is one in four or higher. Many will not be prepared for this situation and are not ready in any way to make good decisions.  We will outline the most common missteps that can lead to tragedy.

  1. Denial of a legitimate illness.   Because our immense personal association and devotion to our patients and staff,  common sense is often overlooked. Underlying financial obligations and personal commitments to success are also factors that can influence our denial. The competitive nature of dentistry today leads many to place their personal health in jeopardy.   Many will just say “I’m OK”and move on.
  2. Failure to active a practice continuity plan.  Having a well thought out plan to take care of your practice in case of an illness or injury is critical. Relying on your office manager or spouse to make crucial decisions on your future when you have not made detailed plans previously is fair to no one. This is more than just a mutual-aid agreement and addresses all aspects of your practice in detail.
  3. Continuing to work when you are really ill.  If you want to become a malpractice lawyer’s dream, continue to work when you are legitimately ill. Not only are you placing your patient’s at risk, you are jeopardizing your entire career/practice future. You cannot hide forever, and even the most dedicated staff will only “cover” for you for a time. There are always alternatives, and working through an illness may be the biggest mistake you will ever make.
  4. Failure to seek out appropriate care. It is difficult to be a patient when you are a healthcare provider. The worst thing you can do is say “I’ll take of it myself”. These are famous last words as a dentist and we are just as guilty as others for avoiding what we really know is best.  You don’t feel good when you are sick and the temptation to just try it on your own is often overpowering. Getting second opinions and care at the best facilities is critical to your survival.
  5. Avoiding taking the time to review our disability policies. Any decent disability policy will contain legal language that can provide financial support to you under many circumstances.  Of course, you need to really be ill.  Leave that decision to your medical provider. You should not make it on your own, ever. Many will think depression, anxiety, a sore back, or addiction are not legitimate illnesses and will not qualify.   So why even check it out?  This is a gigantic mistake, and getting a great policy earlier provides many with a lifesaving surprise of incredible financial support. File a claim now, the worst they can do is say no. You then have an incredibly effective and advantageous appeal system that with legal assistance usually prevails.
  6. Not asking for help from family and friends. No one gets through life totally alone. It is easy to withdraw and hide when you are ill and many suffer in silence. The strongest support for those who are sick is companionship. Seeking out others who have encountered tragic illness is extremely valuable in survival. Looking to our dental peers, ministers, spouses, and family is key to recovery.
  7. Not understanding that depression, anxiety, and fear are part of recovery.  Illnesses will likely lead to severe emotional distress. Many fail to understand that these feeling are inevitable and must be endured. By looking at them as just a phase of recovery, acceptance is an attainable goal. This is likely the most difficult part of an illness. Much worse than physical pain and loss. Failure to realize this, can lead to relapse and further health issues.
  8. Not taking an active role in recovery and rehabilitation. Many will not fully comply with their physicians instructions and detailed recovery plan. Sometimes even a slight deviation in the course of rehabilitation can have profound long-term consequences.  A significant number of patients may fail to comply with care, medications, and orders.  Those will helpful guidance will survive, the others have a less desirable outcome.
  9. Assuming you will return to work soon.  Recovery from any severe illness takes time. As a dentist, every day is filled with demands and a day can seem like a week. You are not recovering from the flu or a cold. You may be gone for weeks, months, or years.  It is great to be optimistic, but being realistic on your condition is just as important.
  10. Waiting too long to start serious consideration of transition. When you are really sick, time can seem to move quickly or slowly depending on the circumstances.  You do not need to shout the dreaded word “retirement” too soon.  It should be on your list, but should be under the topic of transition.  Failure to take smart, sound personal and legal decisions regarding your practice may have tragic financial consequences.  By transition, we mean moving on with your life in a timely fashion.  It may take months or even years, no two people are the same.  Only you will be able to establish a timeline that works for you.  Transition to a new career,  or reduce you hours,  or reduce your scope of practice, move to a new city, volunteer, teach or research consulting.  YOUR ALTERNATIVES ARE limitless. Look at our five steps to get back to work.FIVE STEPS TO GET BACK TO WORK.




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