A reading list for the evolving dental team

June 12, 2012
dentalproductsreport.com-2012-04-01, Issue 4

DPR editors have compiled a list of must-read books with your dental practice's management goals in mind. The concepts and ideas conveyed through each book can easily translate into your dental practice, among your staff and even your patients. #2 New York Times Best Seller: The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business

DPR editors have compiled a list of must-read books with your dental practice's management goals in mind. The concepts and ideas conveyed through each book can easily translate into your dental practice, among your staff and even your patients.

#2 New York Times Best Seller: The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business

by Charles Duhigg

Reviewed by Linda Steeves, RDH, BS

The choices and decisions we make on a daily basis are based in part of habits that we have developed. Challenging our awareness of these habits and formulating new habits to replace old habits is one objective of this book. The hypothesis presented can be referenced to any individual, organization or society.

"The Power of Habit" can easily be put into a dental office format. Imagine another day in the dental office with the usual daunting task of utilizing exceptional communication skills and trying to successfully alter the patterned behaviors of our patients. These patterns have hindered them from completing treatment, following home care regimens and overall improving their oral and systemic health. Visualize the dental team on that usual and familiar day trying to deliver optimal clinical care. Now see the patient in your office who has formulated so many old habits those changes for them seems difficult and unwanted. The staff and entire dental office organization have also developed bad habits. If we could tap into the ability of instituting habit change, your day would appear different.

Charles Duhigg has positioned that changing one “keystone habit” will ultimately override old habits and be replaced by new ones. The unthinking choices and decisions that encompass us every day are habits. They can be ignored, changed or replaced by recognizing the three steps in the habit loop:” The Cue, The Routine, and The Reward”. Over time this loop becomes more and more automatic and familiar, and thus a habit. To change a habit you must keep the old cue (what triggers the thought of the reward) and have the old reward, but insert a new routine.

Masterfully, this author breaks the book into three segments. First, how habits emerge within individual lives, the neurology of habit formation, how to build new habits and change old ones and the methods.

Second, he examines the habits of successful companies and organizations. Third, habits of societies are explored. With great conviction he states that transforming a habit isn’t necessarily easy or quick. It isn’t always simple, but it is possible. Habits are so powerful that they create neurological cravings. Our brains need to expect a reward to trigger cravings for it. These cravings are essential in creating new habits.

Clearly this book lays out a suggestive course of action that we can encourage our patients to believe that their oral health habits and decisions can be changed. The author states he wanted to deliver in this book a framework for understanding how habits work and a guide to experimenting with how they might change. The framework:” Identify the routine, experiment with rewards, isolate the cue and have a plan”.

Imagine again, once we begin to practice these skills on our patients and become successful, the powerful impact this will have on utilizing these skills to change the organizational structure of the dental office and individual staff members.

Dentistry, for the most part, is a relationship business that encompasses habits. As we challenge ourselves to employ different tactics, such as this, we will be able to increase our patient’s health, treatment completion and follow up regimens. We will be surrounded by a self-confident dental team. This in turn will lead to a dental office day that is professional, respectful, fun and profitable.

I would recommend this book as a thought provoking application. It certainly is not a “how-to cookbook” on changing habits, but rather a format for delivering your own development of habits and their change.