Being A Confident Dentist in Uncertain Situations

Uncategorized Mar 19, 2019

Being A Confident Dentist in Uncertain Situations

As dentists, we are often looked towards for leadership roles within the dental practice.

And how you lead your team will have a significant impact on success.


What makes a good leader as a dentist?

Of course, there is no single simple answer to this question…

Allow me to share what I feel as some of the most influential characteristics are.

Being confident and practicing the right habits.

Key to this is liking and respecting yourself.

The more you respect what you do, the more confidence you gain.

The more you believe in yourself and the impact you make, the higher levels of effectiveness you will achieve.

Dentistry is, at times, becoming much more risk-averse.

Perhaps that is no surprise with complaints and litigation ever on the rise.

If you engage in a treatment where the outcome is by no means certain, there is, of course, an associated risk.

You and I know, we can’t fix every tooth.

Complications can arise.

Things don’t always go to plan.

However, a complication is not the same as negligence.

Possibilities vs probabilities are not the same thing – and we must be careful how we discuss these with patients. 

We can’t always account for such uncertainty.

It’s just the nature of what we do.

So, the issue is not whether you take risks.

The real question is this:

How skillful are you in taking risks?

Having the courage and confidence to undertake the ‘right’ risks for the ‘right’ reasons are key.

I was recently speaking with a dentist, who asked me: 

“How can I be a confident dentist in uncertain situations? Does it come from your personality or is it learned?”

My answer is ‘yes’ – to both.

Of course, there are some personality traits that are more aligned with self-confidence.

But I do believe that self-confidence can be developed and learned.

Being able to maintain your self-confidence in challenging situations does not necessarily have to be difficult.

Here’s my take on some habits that can improve your self-confidence as a dentist:

Recognise Shortcomings

It’s not about always being right.

Things don’t always go to plan.

We need to remain open-minded to the idea of being wrong.

We see examples of leaders in society that ultimately fail through ignorance and refusing to question their own assumptions.

Ego can play a huge part in this.

And I get it, nobody wants to look or feel stupid.

But it takes real courage to admit to a shortcoming.

If you feel you have made a bad decision or have changed your mind – there’s nothing wrong with that.

You’re allowed to change your mind.

Being open to new ideas or a new thought process or what has worked well for someone else is much more endearing.

And also demonstrates much more insight as a leader.

Achieving Consistency

You can only live a life that is consistent with your values once you are clear about what you truly believe in.

This is essential for increasing self-esteem.

Never compromise on your values.

Respect yourself and the difference you can make to someone’s life as their dentist.

Dentists who are unclear about what is really important to them have a much harder time.

Consider the “Law of Reversibility.” 

It explains how feelings and behaviors interact with each other.

So, if you feel a certain way, you will behave in a manner consistent with that feeling.


The reverse of this is also true.

So, if you behave in a particular way, your actions will dictate the feelings consistent to them.


If you behave as though your time is extremely valuable, you will feel much more valuable and self-respected.

Being Courageous

There are always elements of risk associated with various aspects of life.

Driving to work.

Investing your money.

Carrying out an extraction or a root canal.

Any time you engage in an action, where the outcome is uncertain (perhaps for a variety of reasons) you are taking a risk.

Whenever you venture into an unknown, there will be a risk of some sort.

Possibilities and probabilities are not always specific or easy to define.

For example...

What defines a successful root canal?  Imagine a lower first molar, curved root, sclerosed canals, you can only access 2 canals, your final obturation is short… but the pain has settled.

In some eyes, a pain-free outcome in a challenging case could be defined as a success.

But this needs carefully discussed with patients and documented in their records.

So, the issue is not necessarily whether or not you take risks.

They are inevitable in dentistry.

The issue is – how skillful are you at taking risks?

Increasing Self Esteem

Having high self-esteem is the most effective way to improve your self-confidence.

Many definitions of self-esteem exist.

Here’s one of my favourites:

How much you like yourself.

When you respect and like yourself – you will always perform at a higher level.

The more you like and believe in yourself… the more confidence you gain.

Self-esteem is key to handling yourself in the best way possible as a dentist.

Reasonable Risk-Taking

Taking risks in inevitable.

Taking the right risks is easier said than done.

Hindsight is always 20:20.

So, here’s the aim – to become better at quickly analysing risk.

The more efficient you become at assessing risk, the more confident you will be handling those challenging situations.

Consider a fear you may have experienced or still experience.

Now consider it a challenge or indeed an opportunity instead.

Face up to the fear.

Control and master it.

Then move on from it.

Every Success, 


Dr Leonard J Maguire


General Dental Surgeon

Co-Founder of The Dentists Academy

- “The Complete Business Toolkit for Dentists in General Practice” 

P.S. Warren Buffet once famously said: 

“In the business world, the rear-view mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”

I don’t really think dentistry is any different really, do you?



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