“Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” and Dentistry

My personal alarm went off during my 15th year in dentistry. I had just walked into a one-hour photo store. Remember those places? (You probably don’t if you are under thirty). I was excited about picking up photos of my daughter’s play. The salesperson told me that the pictures weren’t ready yet. So, I yelled at her. Within 5 minutes, I knew something was wrong… with me. How could I let loose on another human being I did not know for such a minor issue? It was time for me to evaluate myself, not her.

And so, I did. I realized that I was miserably unhappy in my line of work: dentistry, and I was taking that misery home with me every day. My way of turning my dental world around was to spend years going to the Dawson Academy and then 12+ years involved with the AACD until I genuinely became proud and even thrilled with my dental world.

I invite you to look at your dental world. Do you come home happy or devastated every day? It is hard to be a human, much less a dentist, in 2022. We live in a dental world still destabilized by Covid but also confronted by dental inflation, terrible political wars, staffing issues, and insurance companies who constantly look for reasons NOT to pay dental claims. Add to that “dental imposter syndrome“ the feeling many dentists have that we are not worthy of doing what we do – that others are confidently prepared, and we are not.

For many of you, like my past self, who come to the office unhappy and come home just as unhappy, it is time to seek “the bright side of life” in dentistry.

In reality, most of us are VERY lucky. We either own a practice or work in one and have a 6-figure income. We are dutifully employed, and most of us weathered the pandemic pretty well. We get to use our hands and play with “cool stuff” every day. A wise soul (my wife) once told me that dentists have it better than people in most professions: we can see how we have helped patients every day with our own eyes. Very few professions can say that.



1) Support and SHOW that you treasure your best employees – they need to know you feel that way. You would be surprised how far a positive note goes to both of you feeling great.

2) If you have employees who make you or others feel worse about coming to work, do not wait. Get rid of them – WHO we spend our days with can make or break our week.

3) Hire employees because of their kindness. Other skills can be learned.

4) If you dread doing a procedure, either find ways to get better at it or STOP DOING IT! You can find other procedures you enjoy more (i.e., sleep, esthetics, placing implants, digital dentistry).

5) Find a practice management company to help you (I did this far too late in my career). It’s expensive but money WELL spent.

6) Get better at what you do! Your staff appreciates you more, and you appreciate yourself more when you do new and better procedures. Consider the AACD, the ASDA, the AAID, Dawson, Pankey, and Seattle Study Clubs – they want you to get better, and you will!

7) Is insurance getting you down? It is still possible to drop out of plans that are making you miserable. Ask those of us who have, even during a recession.

8) Think about what we have that so many others do not: work to go to; little chance of losing our jobs; patients who are loyal to us; the ability to work hours that correspond with our life needs; decent to excellent incomes.


In conclusion: It’s time to look on the bright side of life and dentistryOur happiness is under OUR control. Look back at the GOOD things that happened today. Try focusing on those for a change… it will change your life.

About the author

Dr. Peter Auster

Dr. Peter Auster continues thirty-five years of cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry in his private practice in Pomona, NY. He has written dozens of articles for major dental publications. He is a Fellow of the International College of Dentists and the American College of Dentists.

Dr. Auster is proud to be a speaker and product reviewer for Catapult Education. He completed two terms on the board of directors of the AACD, was chair of their leadership committee and is currently, the 2022 chairman of their Professional Education Committee. He is a “Dawson Scholar” and received a “Concept of Complete Dentistry Award” from the Dawson Academy. Dr. Auster is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.

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