Dentists, it's OK to 'just be' during these uncertain times

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Check your colleagues' Facebook and Instagram posts, and you can see what they are doing while waiting to get patients back in their offices. Some are creating entire new programs for their offices, some are building skills, and some are just being.

Is one way better than another? We are in uncharted territory now. Many of us have been out of our practices for more than four weeks. Aside from a maternity leave, I have never been out of my practice this long. Because we are all dependent on our states to tell us when it is safe to return to practice, we are essentially all in a surreal waiting room.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

So, what is everyone doing to keep busy? Some of our colleagues are recreating their offices, adding content to their websites or social media accounts, updating protocols, or ordering necessary or new supplies to be ready for our grand reopening. Others are homeschooling their kids, landscaping their gardens, or training for a marathon.

I have taken a multitude of interesting continuing education courses from some of the best clinicians and infection control specialists in the country. Their work is amazing. The science is incredible. Picking up tidbits of information to tweak my own technique or add something to my repertoire is always a great way to spend a few hours.

As we do whatever we are doing, don't you feel it may be harder to get things done now, especially while reading about colleagues who appear to be recreating their worlds?

Even though we have so much time to devote to new projects or old ones, we may not be able to get them completed. I find I am a little scattered. Aside from decluttering the house (my husband is ready for me to go back to work), cooking (yes, I cook six nights a week), and checking up on the office, I find that I am not focusing as easily as I did just a few short weeks ago.

As dental practitioners, amidst our time being productive during the day, there are always worries in the backs of our minds: Will we ever get the funding we have all applied for, who will be returning, who will have a job, and who will be able pay for our services?

Everyone is coping differently. That's fine. We must do what is right for us.

I am still working on cleaning up rooms in my house. I can't think about a painting project at the office or learning how to dismantle my compressor. I have found that practicing acceptance helps. We cannot change the situation we are in right now, but we are able to accept the stillness it has to offer.

A greater appreciation

I am more grateful for many things, including having a profession to go back to when this is over, my children, and our medical colleagues who are battling on the front lines. I am also grateful for other essential workers such as police, firefighters, grocery store personnel, postal workers, restaurant owners, and local governments.

I am grateful for our ability to connect with others via social media platforms. We can't be physically together, but we can take solace in seeing each other on screens or hearing friendly voices over the phone.

Give yourself a break

We are going through a lot right now. There are many uncertainties. What others are doing doesn't have to be what you're doing. Think about it like other choices you have made in life. Marriage works for some but not others. Some own their own practices and others don't. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to getting through the pandemic. So, take it easy on yourself.

Don't be upset if you are not revamping your practice. That colleague you are watching may not have the same responsibilities you do at home.

We don't always have to be productive or creative or learn new things. Sometimes, old is new. I may not go back to learning conversational French, but I am certainly happy to be less stressed. Thinking back, even during perfect days at the office that included everyone showing up, getting paid, satisfied customers, and no benefit issues, there was always stress.

I miss my practice, but I don't miss the stress. There is no need to create stress now because we feel we aren't doing enough. We are doing exactly what we need to do for ourselves at this moment in time. For that, I am grateful, and for right now, just being is OK.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. Her book, Practical Practice Solutions in Dentistry, is available on You can reach her at [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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