Citizenship in Dentistry
When introduced to someone, how many times have you heard the response “Oh, so you are a dentist?” The fact is that the general public has preconceived impressions about dentists. This is not necessarily unfavorable, but is a social stigma that we, as dentists, must appreciate. While living in New York City during dental school years, occasionally I would compete in regional karate tournaments for trophies and money. I will always remember paying my entry fee at the registration table, completing the waiver forms, and intentionally leaving the “Occupation” line blank. When asked about my occupation I would passively look them in the eye and say “dental student” which would usually produce a chuckle or outright laugh (that sometimes helped in my favor). The point here is we, as dentists, represent all dentists and the public observes us.
We extol our citizenship every day…at home, in our local communities, nationally, and wherever we go throughout the world. Collectively and individually as dentists we give our skills, time and money to numerous people, events, and charities. Most importantly, however, citizenship emanates from our hearts as kindness, cheerfulness, and service. We are trustworthy. These are attributes that we share with our friends and teach to our children.
As dentists we are also human and make mistakes. The media, and particularly social media, can be very harsh to dentists that make mistakes, whether perceived or actual. Do you recall the headlines about “death in the dental office” that was related to an anesthesia incident by an anesthesiologist, not the dentist? Or the dentist that legally shot a lion on safari that resulted in such extreme social backlash that the practice was decimated? How about the dentist that gave AIDS to his patients? Like it or not as dentists we are individuals and grouped together in the public’s image of us.
Dental citizenship is the core of organized dentistry. Our dentist leaders and our dental organizations and societies represent as well as work for us to preserve and advance the recognition and status of dentistry. Likewise, through participating in dental events and paying our dues we enhance dentistry as well as ourselves.
Citizenship begins at home. Let us all begin every day with the theme of cheerful service to others.
By Dale M. Gallagher, DDS, PA
CADS President, 2018-2019