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There are multiple benefits to demonstrating altruism at the dental practice—and some of them might surprise you.
Doing things for others without regard for yourself is altruism. However, being altruistic often gives you as much as the others receive.
Harvard Business School research suggests that giving to others makes people happier, which isn't surprising. However, the researchers also say that happiness is cyclical. In other words, happier people give more and then get happier, which leads to them giving more—and getting even happier.1
So, happiness and more altruism are benefits you can count on, which is excellent news. However, the even better news is that many dental professionals experience multiple benefits when demonstrating altruism at the dental practice—and some of them might surprise you.
The Benefits of Cause Marketing
Speaker and author Daniel Bobrow, MBA, president of AIM Dental Marketing, a healthcare consulting firm in the Chicago area, is also a Certified Dental Practice Consultant. He encourages dentists to remember the definition of altruism when committing to a charitable act, which is the practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others.
"I agree with and believe that concern for one's fellow human being should be and must be the overriding motivation behind the charitable act. I lean toward the adage ascribed to Ben Franklin to inform one's action in this regard, and that is, 'Do well by doing good,'" Bobrow says. "The more successful one is, the more charitable one can afford to be."
Bobrow and the team at AIM champion the concept of Cause Marketing. Cause Marketing refers to a partnership between a nonprofit and a business for the benefit of both. The idea behind Cause Marketing, Bobrow explains, is that it's a way to grow the practice that is both cost-effective and image conscious. The "cause" is the focus, but the "marketing" is the side benefit. In other words, when dental practices help others, their practice will benefit. Moreover, Bobrow says the power of Cause Marketing is limited only by the energy and creativity of the practices that choose to try it.
Bobrow has 2 charitable endeavors, Climb for a Cause and Smile Tree, in which these ideas of altruism and Cause Marketing serve as guiding principles. Supporting charitable causes is one way to grow the business through good acts.
"It comes back to you in many unexpected ways," Bobrow says.
Jonathan B. Levine, DMD, Associate Professor at the NYU School of Dentistry and Founder and President of GLO Science, Inc., gives a lot of his time to charitable causes. He is on the board of Foundation Rwanda, the advisory board of Health Corps, and donates his professional services to Operation Smile. Along with his wife and business partner, Stacey Levine, the GLO Good Foundation provides free dentistry to people without access to care. Dr Levine commits time to charity because he believes in the concept of servant leadership.
"Servant leadership is all about how we make people the best versions of themselves so that you become the best version of yourself," Dr Levine says, adding that it drives his work with the foundation, his company, and also his private practice in New York City.
“At Dentsply Sirona, we believe altruism is part of being a sustainable dental practice,” Erania Brackett, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer at Dentsply Sirona. “This includes giving to others, providing access to underserved populations, and contributing to the community you serve.It’s about making a positive impact on society and the environment.”
Altruism makes the world a better place and creates positive change – not only for communities but for us as individuals, Brackett explains.
“In genuinely giving to others, we form new meaningful relationships that lead to a greater good. Studies have shown that altruism boosts well-being and resilience—both important in our hectic times,” Brackett says.
“Dental professionals do not just perform a needed service for their patients,” Brackett continues. “They have a huge impact on human lives, enhancing the overall well-being and health of patients across their lifetime, and increasing their self-confidence. Dentists have the power to extend their positive influence even further with sustainable, altruistic engagement.”
Doing Good Builds Teams That Do Good Together
Behind Dr Levine's desk is a large mission statement on the wall: "Everyone deserves to have a healthy, beautiful smile. And it all starts here." He says that drives his actions to provide his expertise wherever there is an access to care problem. For example, his efforts connected him to entertainer Lenny Kravitz, who asked Dr Levine if he could help his community on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. Before COVID, Dr Levine and his team would travel there to help the people who live there. The last 2 trips before the pandemic brought more than 100 volunteers to the island to provide free dentistry and education.
"It's an amazing feeling to be able to help people," Dr Levine says. "And what happens when you help people? You find other people who want to help people, and like-minded people like to hang together, and you get filled up by each other. So, these missions are extraordinary because everybody is in it for everyone else. Everyone has that mindset."
Dr Levine recognizes that it can be daunting to think about taking time away from the practice to serve others who don't have access to care. However, in his experience, the rewards for doing so are excellent for the team's productivity. In addition, these super-charged good feelings from doing good are great for team morale.
"We have this amazing culture in our practice. We have each other's back, and it's very much like a family, but a very functional family," Dr Levine says. "I run an organization that is about learning and growing. But the fact that we have this higher purpose elevates what we do when we're practicing on our patients in New York City. The positive reinforcement that comes back to the culture of my team is nothing short of extraordinary."
Reinvigorating Your Love of Dentistry
Another benefit of altruism in the dental practice is your peace of mind. Giving to others is an antidote to burnout, Dr Levine says. If you are always going full throttle and working all the time, it's not good for the longevity of your career or your enthusiasm about it, he explains.
"Here I am in my sixth decade, and I'm more excited about dentistry than ever before," he says.
Dr Levine thinks the connection between dentistry with the medical community is a chance to elevate dentistry. As dental professionals join forces with their medical counterparts through salivary diagnostics and airway and sleep medicine, they innovate dentistry. However, dentists can't do it alone, so a happy and motivated team is essential to this future. The charitable work his practice engages in facilitates this atmosphere.
"You wake up in the morning, and everyone is excited to get to work, and you're building people's careers at the same time," Dr Levine says.
Dr Levine and his team are returning to Eleuthera for the first time since the pandemic in early December 2022. With the cooperation of Henry Schein CARES, they are building a freestanding clinic there. The foundation will host a fundraising event in early November for it, too. As a longtime lecturer worldwide, Dr Levine's connections from all over the world join in the projects with the same goal to help others.
"Nothing makes me happier than going down there, helping these people, and having my family, friends, and colleagues near me," he says. "It fills you up."
Can Your Practice Do Well By Doing Good?
Research shows that helping people is what most people want. Moreover, consumers want the companies they buy from and work for to help people. In June 2014, Nielsen published a report, "Doing Well By Doing Good," stating:2
Moreover, these concerns took on a generational trend. Many of the respondents that emphasized these social responsibility goals were Millennials, whose responses in the positive for social responsibility were double that of Generation X and more than triple Baby Boomers.2
Bobrow sees this as a positive change. For generations, businesses focused on maximizing stockholder value. He envisions a broader definition of shareholder value for the future.
"I'd rather take a little bit less capital gain in exchange for living in a healthy environment or knowing that the businesses we are funding aren't supporting undesirable activities worldwide," Bobrow says.
Small Acts of Giving Can Go a Long Way
It can worry practice stakeholders to take time away from the business to perform altruistic service. Brackett says that altruism can feel like a big word, but small acts of giving can go a long way.
“If you bring your team and colleagues together, the culmination of small acts can make a very big impact,” Brackett says. “Altruistic engagement is extremely rewarding, as we hear again and again from the dental professionals who partner with us on the initiatives we support as part of our sustainability program called BEYOND.”
For example, in September 2021, thousands of dental professionals who participated with Dentsply Sirona World had the opportunity to support Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft organization, with their personal donations, which were then matched by Dentsply Sirona to increase their impact.
“In doing so,” Brackett explains, “They provided free access to cleft treatment to hundreds of children around the world, offering them the gift of a healthier, more fulfilled life. One that we at Dentsply Sirona support through a recently announced $5 Million donation and a true commitment to advance the future of cleft care. Because every 5 minutes a Smile Train cleft surgery helps a child in need.”
A life-changing action dental professionals took together with Dentsply Sirona, Smile Train and FDI World Dental Federation was to join the project task team and work on developing the first-ever set of standard cleft treatment protocols that integrate digital workflows, Brackett says, to genuinely advance the quality of and access to cleft care for countless patients.
“The rewards you reap extend further than yourself. You inspire others with your actions—colleagues and patients alike—and become an ambassador for sustainable dentistry, making your practice more attractive to many patients,” Brackett says.
We believe dentists who choose to integrate sustainability into their practice and do good will ultimately prosper—at a human level but also in their own practices,” Brackett continues. “Aside from personal gains these dentists reap, there is a business aspect to this as well—people are increasingly choosing services and employment based on their sustainability practices.”
How to Get Started Helping Others
Bobrow says Cause Marketing can take many forms. For example, you could offer a free dentistry day for veterans or have an event for a charity. Then, you promote the project to your current patients. The promotion increases awareness for the charity or event and lets your patients know that you do the right thing.
For example, AIM Dental Marketing has a health partner (client) who, as part of the new patient protocol, gives patients the option to pay for the initial consultation and X-rays or to match the practice's donation to the "Make-A-Wish" Foundation of $100 and the practice will comp the visit. Since the first-visit bill is more than $100, new patients save money and feel good about donating to such a worthy cause at the same time.
"Cause Marketing is one of the most effective ways to earn trust in a prospective patient's mind quickly. It's highly powerful," Bobrow explains. "It leverages your reputation."
“Each and every one of us can take action for a brighter world,” Brackett explains. “When choosing a project to support it’s very important that it’s an area that you truly connect with. At Dentsply Sirona, we offer you the possibility to take action for the environment, for communities, and even for your team.”
Brackett encourages dental professionals to contact Corporate.Communications@dentsplysirona.com if they would like to go beyond together with Dentsply Sirona. For example, Brackett says that dentists could:
“At Dentsply Sirona we have also supported a number of short-term projects, such as care missions in Uganda and Jamaica, where dentists treated a large number of patients during a set amount of time. To make your contribution truly count, choose a project where your unique expertise can make a real difference.”
Dr Levine encourages dental professionals wanting to start something altruistic for their practice to avoid "paralysis by analysis." First, determine what they want to do and where they want to do it. Then, using that as your motivation, talk to established foundations doing similar things in the area. Collaboration maximizes the amount of funding raised that goes to helping people.
"Finding a local organization or joining forces with a foundation that wants to help and has done this before will help you move in the right direction," Dr Levine says.
Bobrow agrees, adding that the team and patients should have input, too. He also recommends vetting the charity you want to support to prevent any bad public relations surprises. Also, determine how the charity will support your efforts.
"Any successful charity recognizes they can't take their donors for granted. So, if you're going to do something, they should provide you with in-office displays or a website that will enable you to reach out and market to your public to get them to make donations," Bobrow says.
For example, practices that support Climb for a Cause get free public relations support from AIM Dental Marketing, event organization and promotion, and in-office display materials. Participants in the climbs also get preferential consideration to go on a volunteer overseas oral health education and treatment project. Bobrow's organization has had assignments in Mexico, Guatemala, India, and Nepal. Smile Tree has a similar support program for practices, including social media content.
"The more we can encourage the dental public to recognize the power and value of doing this, the better we will do. Everyone will benefit from this," Bobrow says. "This tide will raise all boats."
Dr Levine agrees that altruism in the dental practice is an excellent way to empower the dental profession. Plus, dental professionals want to help people. He wants more dentists to embrace that part of their motivation and not get caught up in the details of how to get started.
"The how to do it is easy," Dr Levine says. "The important thing is why you do it. The answer for helping people falls right into place because that's what we do."