Every Dentist Has an Accent
People comment on my accent all the time. Personally, I don’t hear it myself, although I have noticed that many people who remark on it seem to have quite exotic accents themselves. But of course, that’s the thing with accents: you don’t hear your own. I grew up in Kenya, continued my education in England, lived in Canada for much of my adult life, and now I live in Arizona. My accent is mostly Kenyan, but I also use some distinctly British words and Canadian idioms—all mixed in with what I have picked up from hearing various regional American dialects over the years. It may sound funny to you, but it’s who I am.
I think this phenomenon of not hearing your own accent is an interesting metaphor. I think each of us has not only a language accent, but also a business accent, and a life accent – an ingrained way that we approach things, or do things, or think about things, that seems perfectly unremarkable (or even unnoticeable) to us, but is in fact part of our unique signature of life.
In many ways, that’s great. Your personal way of seeing things is part of what makes you unique, as a clinician and as a person. In fact, whenever you see someone achieve remarkable success in any field, you often see evidence of their distinctive “accent.”
But it’s also useful to try to step outside yourself and see (and hear) yourself as others do. When patients listen to you, are they hearing more “Dentalese” than English? Are things getting lost in translation? And are you spending enough time outside of your practice (where your own special dialect and worldview are deeply entrenched), and giving yourself the opportunity to listen to the strange and wonderful “accents” of others in your profession?