Dentist pointing to a molded set of teeth with a chairside patient.

Do we as dentists constantly strive to do the very best (and be the very best) for our patients every time and every day?

If our goal is to be the best Spear dentist we can be, we need to self-monitor and evaluate our work, our relationships and ourselves to achieve success. Maintaining commitment and focus on this unwavering course is challenging, given the varied hats we wear in our practices. We sometimes need to fortify ourselves to meet this demand.

I routinely read books and articles that aid in my pursuit of performing the best clinically and behaviorally for my patients and team. Brian Johnson, who maintains an online philosophical resource called Optimize, is a source for helpful information and thought-provoking ideas.

Johnson regularly posts ideas, notes and concepts related to personal growth, business organization and self-improvement. Recently, he posted about a concept he calls “pilot, co-pilot and autopilot.” This concept fits in perfectly with the messaging that Spear consistently promotes: Do your very best dentistry each time, each patient and each day.

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Johnson discusses the idea that each of us operates with a pilot, co-pilot and autopilot. Your pilot is your individual will, purpose or belief that guides you to do the right thing. It is our personal integrity. Each of us attempts to be our best self each day, with specific thoughts and actions programmed into our being. We know what is right and we do what is right.

In dental terms, this means consistently providing optimum treatment for each patient, to the best of our ability. Our systems, teams and processes have been designed to promote and provide great care for our patients. These systems and processes are ingrained in our thoughts and actions.

The co-pilot is our everyday self. We juggle many responsibilities throughout our day. The tremendous input of the day may cause us to veer from the charted course of providing the best treatment. In the “heat of the daily battle” we may decide to skip a procedural step or fail to acknowledge a patient concern.

Our co-pilot is our learning self. It is the part of our being that is always learning and adjusting to improve our services, relationships and outcomes. Our co-pilot takes in information or circumstances, evaluates possible alternatives and chooses to operate in a particular fashion or direction.

Our pilot whispers in our co-pilot’s ear when we waiver off course. Our pilot directs and guides our behaviors consistently toward good. The pilot engages our thoughts and encourages us to do the right thing. We must listen to that voice!

Our autopilot is our internal programming system that converts our co-pilot actions of good care into consistent behaviors. The autopilot reminds us to be consistent in our actions toward ideal dentistry and improved patient relationships. Our autopilot is the “behavioral software” that makes us a better person, better dentist and navigates us to do the right thing every time.

Our autopilot operates under the radar of our awareness. Our pilot knowledge and actions instruct our co-pilot learning self to develop consistent behaviors that will subsequently run on autopilot. This awareness system of pilot, co-pilot and autopilot is fundamental to providing consistently great care and service to our patients, teams and those around us.

I hope this insight is a helpful reference tool for maintaining a pattern of ideal actions and performance with all our patient and team interactions.

Roger that!

Jeffrey Bonk, D.D.S., is a member of Spear Resident Faculty.