Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Tendency to Gamble

A long, long time ago I went to a dental meeting and came back with what I thought was a novel idea. The speaker suggested that we as dentists had lost the feeling of responsibility for our services. He lamented that, since we no longer did our own laboratory work, the casting, waxing, firing, etc. that went into our restorations, we found it too easy to blame shortcomings on the work of other, nameless people.

We were only a part of the problem.

He asked that we look at the plastic utensil that we were stirring our coffee with, or cutting our fruit. Asked that we check out what was printed on the handle and then check with our neighbor as to what was on theirs. Sure enough, on each handle there was a number. And it was different on each plastic utensil.

Those numbers are put there so some Quality Control person will know who is responsible if a piece is incorrect or flawed.

“Would you put your number on your crown?” he asked. It was a sobering moment.

When I got home I could hardly wait to share my story with my family, and indeed I did. My younger son, aged seven or eight at the time, said, “I knew that. That’s the game we play at (elementary) school. The guy who has the highest total on his knives, spoons and forks, wins the quarters.”.

Competition, not quality control.

At the time I remember two conclusions: first, gambling starts pretty early, and second, competition will find a game where size and skill do not always dictate the conclusion and winner.

I am amazed at the popularity of the reality shows, in particular those like Idol and Voices, where virtual unknowns can compete (and win) against huge odds. Not that the winners have no talent. But it seems that they also might have more popularity, more personality, more blind luck, which allows them an edge on the competition.

In researching for this post, I checked some plastic utensils to see if they still have numbers. The brand I checked (Solo) does in fact have identifying numbers, but in my limited sample it seemed that they had the same number on each fork in the package (037) or knife in the package (8). Perhaps the QC factor has been forgotten for a simple identifier (country of origin?).

That same gambling child now carries the nickname, “Mr. QC”, given him by his fellow teachers because he is the one who always notices the picture, crooked on the wall, or the clock, two minutes slow. Perhaps he learned attention to detail checking to see if he had strong numbers on his knife and fork. He went on from second grade to be very competitive, in tennis, wrestling, soccer, gymnastics, and almost any other sport he tried. And he still gambles, with Blackjack being both his favorite and his nemesis.

I don’t know if his early sojourn into comparing knives and forks had any effect on either of those traits, but I like to think it might have affected both.

For my part, I have taken responsibility for my own dentistry through the decades of practice and, I like to think, have taken responsibility for many things I have affected in the fields of dentistry, public health, and the insurance industry. My latest effort, and one I might conclude I have become the “First Follower” for is developing “reason codes” for dental procedures so we can tell why we do what we do, and if what we do makes a positive difference.

The group I am following is called COHRI , a Consortium for Oral Health Related Informatics, which is rapidly gaining momentum to establish standard codes for why dental services are performed.

I invite any of you who have interest in this topic to come on board as what my friend Sonia Marsh calls “Second and Third Followers”, making a crowd that gets attention. You can get more information on this at my website:

This weekend’s post is likely to dwell on recent antics in one of my favorite cities, San Francisco.

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