Why?

Why do we do what we do? How does a 17-year-old boy or girl, thinking about applying for a degree at university, without knowing what they want to do for the next 45 years? How does a brand-new luxury car (most of the time on credit) improve the quality of our lives? Why do we continue with relationships that drain our energy and make us feel miserable, but we never create boundaries? Sounds insane.

But this is where our little friend, Mr. subconscious comes in. Mr. subconscious makes a lot of decisions for us, without us knowing about it. We buy things; we say things, we physically do things, we even think of certain things, thanks to Mr. Subconscious. Mr. Subconscious is actually there to help us survive; but he makes decisions we do not always understand.

Why does one become a Urologist? or why do you pay a thousand Rand to kill yourself for nine days riding in the Epic Mountain biking race. Why drive a Gelandewagen when you can barely afford your children’s school fees? The one question I get asked regularly is, “what in the world made you decide to become a dentist?” (That’s something I think about after seeing a patient who does not believe in a toothbrush).

This is where Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, gave me so much clarity. It is not about what we do. It is about why we do what we do. Apple Inc believes in thinking differently and challenging the status quo. They do this by making their products beautifully designed and simple to use; and they happen to make computers and phones. They did not start out believing that they would be making computers and phones. They started out by asking themselves why it is that they are doing what they want to do. In their case, they started out by thinking differently.

We at the practice believe in healthy long-term relationships. How we do this is by being transparent, professional, honest, nice and trying to give more than we receive to our patients but also to our suppliers and co-workers. We create this trust by being consistent in the quality of our service. What we do is cleaning, fixing, whitening and straightening your teeth. That is why we do what we do. We do it to enjoy healthy long-term relationships.

Restart

Now and then, a restart is all that is needed. This advice is not from a life coach or a psychologist as you might expect (not that I am the type for that sort of thing. A surfboard and some proper waves will do the trick for me), but it is from Rikkie, yip, my IT guy.

But his eleven words of worldly wisdom stuck with me. Not only does it help with our computers, Wi-Fi, routers and printers, all the IT things, but many other aspects of our lives. Sometimes, you cannot kick or shake a device to start working correctly. This is no different to how it works with the most important machine; ourselves.

From being mentally healthy and strong to being fit and flexible, we are neglecting the device that will either make our lives easier or a lot like hell. We constantly repeat the story of sacrifice to justify not looking after ourselves. But the irony is that once we have realised that we should have prioritised ourselves more, it is almost always too late, contributing to possible depression and despair that already exists.

We should change the story to more self-care and less self-negligence. I can only take care of my family, friends, co-workers and colleagues after I have taken care of myself. It’s like the safety instructions before taking off on a flight. Put your oxygen mask on first and then help other people.

Let us use the end-of-the-year holidays to shut down – to recover, to rest, to reflect and to restart.

We will be closed from 23rd Dec until 9th Jan. Safe travels and enjoy the festive season.

What I am about to tell you, as simple as it may seem

This will save you money
What I am about to tell you, as simple as it may seem, will save you money. The only responsibility you have is to follow my instructions and develop a habit.

Visit the dental hygienist every four months. That is it. Get your teeth cleaned and have fluoride put on three times a year. Sound ironic? paying money to save money, but let me explain.

Dentistry is expensive and it will get worse; especially quality dentistry you can trust. A good dentist invests a lot of time in continued education, and a lot of money into technology to make the patient more comfortable and the cost of business keeps on rising, due to the Russia/Ukranian war, global economic inflation, and poor economic policies by our government; not to mention the shortage of highly trained dentists in South Africa. Thus, it is fair to say that whatever dentistry is being done, it needs to last; and the only thing you need to do is to give your dental hygienist a visit every four months; not once a year, not just before your wedding or photoshoot and certainly not only when you notice your gums are bleeding (Because then it is too late).

So, what does a dental hygienist do? She cleans your teeth very, very well; especially around the margins of your fillings, crowns, and implants. It is at these margins where plaque creeps in and causes big problems. Yes, your dentist might pick this up during your check-up (or so I hope) and then schedule you accordingly to remove and replace it, which will cost you quite a bit. The point is that this could have been prevented by visiting the hygienist more often. The hygienist will also apply fluoride, a naturally occurring element that strengthens the enamel. This too prevents decay and sensitivity. Your hygiene session will then be finished off with some instructions to follow at home to make it easier for you to maintain your new shiny teeth.

Lastly (and this is our little secret), if your hygienist has been professionally trained by your dentist, she can notice things that look worrisome and either call the dentist for a second opinion or schedule a consultation with your dentist.

Every 4 months. You will thank me.

Simplicity done right

It is so much easier to make anything complex. We always find reasons for making it more complex, because it lets us feel more important as we understand the complexity – especially if it is so complex that you might be the only one to understand it, like dentistry.

There are words we do not understand, procedures that are difficult to comprehend and complications we do not know how to accept. We receive a cost estimate for the procedure to be done but reading and recognising all the different codes makes us dizzy. The receptionist tells you one thing, the practice manager tells you a different story and then the doctor feels too important to even talk to you.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We need to strive to make things easier. Simplicity should be a virtue we all need to try to achieve, in all aspects of life. But this is where if gets tricky because it takes less energy to make things complex than to simplify them. Steve Jobs said it best; “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You must work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Our team at the practice have initiated a WhatsApp business number for patients to ask questions, for appointments to be made or to inquire about the cost of certain procedures. This may sound simple, but it has made a tremendous positive impact on our patients, making it easier, but also better for everyone.

We use computerised equipment to provide same-day dentistry. You have a broken tooth that cannot be repaired with a filling, so we fix it in one visit with ceramic: no messy impression, no second visit, and no temporary crowns. We have simplified the process (after big capital investment and many hours of brainstorming), saving our patients time and costs without compromising quality.

The best surgeons have a checklist of all instruments needed, steps to be taken during a procedure and signs to monitor during aftercare. The best pilots follow a checklist before, during and after their flight. The best parents create a checklist to prepare for their children’s next school day – yes, a piece of paper with steps to tick off; simple, but highly effective. Simplicity done right makes things easier and better – and is that not worth aiming for?

Thank you for your support

At the age when every young adult needs to start thinking about what they want to do, my father nudged me to do something where I could be my own boss. That’s something I am incredibly grateful for, even though being my own boss has its ups and downs (as I think most small businesses in South Africa do), but being able to start, grow and maintain my own business, gives a kind of satisfaction that is difficult to explain. Maybe it’s the slight flexibility of taking an afternoon off to take the girls to their swimming class or maybe it’s the freedom to practice my profession differently than the rest to satisfy my patients and change their lives for the better.

However, this would not have been possible without your support. For that I am eternally grateful, so Thank you.

Thank you for providing me and my family the opportunity to live and work and play in the best region in the Western Cape. The Winelands have been our home forever and we wish to keep it that way. Our family is close by, and our friends are not too far and wide. The community of Somerset West has shown us what it is to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and we can only extend the love we received to the rest of society.

Thank you for making it possible for me and our team to do quality dentistry. As you know, our philosophy of treating patients might differ from the norm. How? We try to keep dentistry simple, safe, and slow. Long-term relationships, word of mouth and quality dental care is how we build trust.

Thank you for greeting me when I run into you at the gym or paddling over to me and starting a chat when we are surfing, or waving as you speed past me on your mountain bike. I have the best patients, and that makes everything else so much easier.

Thank you for supporting the local community by making it possible for me to employ a staff of six. We believe in diversity, female empowerment, and fair remuneration for demanding work. This is only made possible by the support and repeat visits to our practice.

It has been ten years since I started in Somerset West, and I look forward to another 30 years (although by then you might see me more behind the waves than behind a mask). Thank you once again.