Imagine a person standing on the shore of an immense lake using a teaspoon to transfer water from the lake to their vegetable garden. When asked why they are using a teaspoon instead of something more efficient and effective to move water the person responds, “A teaspoon is the ONLY way to transfer water. To use anything else is bad. My peers say so, the gardening literature says so and this is the way we have ALWAYS done it.”

Perplexed, you ask the person clutching the teaspoon if they have enough water to make their garden grow. The response is predictable to you but the person with the teaspoon sees no irony when they reply,

“No! The amount of water that actually makes it to my garden is the most serious issue I face. Honestly there just isn’t enough water available and I struggle daily to get the amount of water I need to grow my garden.”

This thought experiment sounds silly until you realize that this is not the end of it. When you ask the person why they can’t get all the water they need to grow their garden they will tell you some interesting “reasons”:

  • “There is a great deal of low quality water out there. Most water just isn’t wet enough for me and not worth messing with because my time is valuable and I don’t want low quality water in my garden.”
  • “Often the water falls out of my spoon. It’s very annoying when I have to put forth more effort or scoop it twice to get it from the lake to my garden. The water should want to be in my awesome garden and I cannot understand why it would dare fall out of my spoon. Water is so annoying.”
  • “A great solution I’ve found to avoid dealing with unreliable water is to put up barriers to the water getting to my garden. I will screen and filter it ahead of time, make judgements as to the probability of the water staying in the spoon and actually making it to the garden and sometimes, if I don’t like the look or feel of the water in my teaspoon, I’ll just dump it back in the lake. I can’t have low quality water entering my garden and running off the good stuff. I’m actually considering charging the water for access to my garden to make sure it’s serious.”
  • “I’m very careful about where I dip my spoon as everyone knows some water is better than other water.”

You might ask this person, “If getting enough water for your garden is your primary problem in life, why do you use a tiny teaspoon and restrict your water flow in all these crazy ways?”

“You just don’t understand. You must be a bad person. The way I do it is the only way and anyone who does it differently is lying, cheating, stealing, mixing good water with bad, not taking care of their garden and ruining the environment,” the person would reply.

So what do you think happens when someone invents a water wheel? An electric pump? An irrigation system? What does the person using a teaspoon do when they see others treating all water the same, removing barriers to the water and successfully pumping a great deal of water into their gardens? Will the teaspooner realize that others using different techniques are utilizing water that they rejected? Will they see that the level of the lake is virtually unchanged even with all the new innovations? Will they realize what is possible and change their ways in order to access a virtual sea of untapped opportunity for themselves and their garden? I think we all know the answer to these questions based on watching the orthodontic community over the last couple years.

I’ve never understood scarcity thinking or self-imposed hardship.

The problems we face as a profession ARE self-imposed but we just can’t seem to grasp the fact. I wonder how long this will continue? Though frustrating at times, I have to admit having a front row seat to this show is always entertaining!

2 thoughts on “Tempest in a Teapot

  1. The child said,
    “There are so many colors in a rainbow,
    So many colors in the rising sun,
    So many colors in a 🌺 flower,
    And I see every one.”
    But the teacher said,
    “Flowers are red, young man
    Green leaves are green.
    There’s no need to see flowers
    Any other way, than the way they
    Always have been seen!”
    –Harry Chapin (song released 1978)

  2. Our profession is so focued on the nitty gritty of daily paitient care that usually overlooks the big picture. Point in fact, the arguably two most significant contemporary inventions in dentistry have come from people outside of the profession, i.e., endosseous implants and Invisalign.

    Artificial Intelligence will bring another significant blow to Orthodontics. Have you noticed how initial clinchecks have improved overtime to the point of almost perfection? Every time an orthodontist corrects a clincheck manually, it creates course of treatment being recorded in large database sets. Neural network algorithms are capable of analyzing big data, selecting and applying corrections efficiently and almost to perfection.

    Other threats to the specialty include:

    1) Monetary devaluation of the US dollar.
    2) Increased number of programs (University affiliated and not) graduating an ever increasing number of Orthodontics.
    3) As mentioned before, technological advancements making it easier for GPs to offer orthodontic services.
    4) Commoditization of orthodontics, leading practices to compete mainly on a pricing basis and eroding profit margins.
    5) Insurance companies limiting coverage.
    6) Corporations offering DIY products.
    7) Competition from Corporate Dentistry.

    My two cents.

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