By Ted Morgan, DDS
This Opinion piece originally appeared in the DenVantage September 2020 issue. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DOCS Education or any of its employees. 

By now I’m pretty well convinced the world has gone absolutely irretrievably insane.

We already knew we were divided politically, but now we find we are divided also on whether this virus is a worldwide health crisis or an overrated media-hyped flu season; divided on whether it started naturally or by design; on whether a cloth mask prevents or causes disease; on whose lives matter, on which presidential candidate is a fascist, on which way the toilet paper should go on the TP holder.

The combined effect is even more insanity on a daily basis. Here is a tiny example from our own ADA that sent me down this road today:

Face Masks Worn During Pandemic May Make Recognizing Faces More Difficult, Scientists Suggest

The New York Times (8/31, Preston) reports, “Your brain’s powers of facial recognition are going to need some time to get used to the coverings we’re wearing to keep each other healthy.” Various “scientists have some ideas about why masks make recognizing others’ faces difficult, based on studying the brains of average people, as well as people who struggle to recognize anyone at all.”

If that does not trigger your absurdity receptors, better check your pulse. I had to read it twice to make sure that is what it said. I’m hoping somebody at ADA is at least having a good laugh about this post behind the scenes.

Besides being completely ludicrous, this article illustrates a phenomenon of the pandemic era: we listen even less to each other than before; we mostly try to prove ourselves right. This writer figured she needed "scientists" to explain a statement so obvious it’s literally laughable, before she goes to her real message, which is: "don’t worry, after a few more years of wearing masks, you’ll go back to recognizing each other." Who knows, maybe we’ll even talk to each other as well, without fear of being lectured about social distancing or another rule.

So, what is my point? I’ve noticed that since April, customer service has turned into customer control. The first words you hear on entering a business is “We ask that you… stand here; wear a mask; wait to enter; follow the one-way signs; etc.”

Listening to people has turned into trying to figure out which side they are on. Sharing ideas has turned into fear of offending someone or starting a debate nobody can win. Suddenly people whose prior exposure to infection control was watching General Hospital, are now epidemiological authorities militating against “unsafe” practices and are only too happy to help enforce ignorance-based decrees of politicians.

Many of our freedoms fell victim to this atmosphere of near-martial law. And it accentuates the value of the freedoms lost and those that remain. For dentists, freedom from a third-party second-guessing treatment plans, dictating acceptable procedures and fees, contradicting the dentist’s judgment and sucking profit and enjoyment out of practice, has become even more cherished.

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In this time of re-set, we have greater opportunities to direct our practices away from insurance dependence and toward more direct-pay patients. It is not a quick transition, but it coincides with a trend that is gaining momentum. Dental membership plans are the way to ride that wave.

Here is another silver lining to this new toxic environment: We have a greater opportunity to shine by making our dental practices an oasis of great customer service, listening without an agenda, and trust-building.

My observation is that by now the vast majority of patients are feeling pretty safe again. They are glad to see the infection control measures we are taking but are even more appreciative of being treated like an honored guest in our office, especially now that it has become so rare. In that way, we can be the old normal and focus on being a positive place for our patients.

Especially now, we all need a place to go that is familiar and makes us feel good about ourselves again.

Be that place.


Ted Morgan, DDS

Ted Morgan, DDS attended the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry. He is the owner of Morgan-Hill Dental Care in Gorham, ME, and a Partner at DenVantage, a dental membership plan that serves as an alternative to dental insurance. When he’s not working, you can often find him spending time with his grandkids or kayaking, biking, skiing, and sailing.

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