Lessons from My Favorite Dentist

Dr. David Morris died a few weeks ago at the age of 83. Fortunately, his family was with him, and it was peaceful. He was my dentist when I was a teenager and the father of one of my best friends.

People don’t often have fond memories of their dentists, but I do, and I learned a lot from his example. Here are four things I learned from Dr. Morris.

You Can Teach Without Lecturing

As my dentist (and as every dentist since), he told me I needed to floss more often. But he didn’t do it in a way that made me cringe and feel like a total failure. He was always kind about it–a gentle reminder that maybe I wouldn’t need to spend so much time in his chair if I spent more time with some dental floss.

So often, people feel like they need to be harsh to correct. And I’ve certainly had a fair share of stern lectures in my life. But it’s not necessary.

You may point out that I’m still not a diligent flosser, so he failed. But he didn’t. I did. He did his part and did it nicely.

Customer Service Is a Part of Every Job

Dr. Morris pulled my wisdom teeth–all four in one day. Now, this is a pretty standard thing for a dentist to do. What wasn’t standard was his phone call to me later that evening to ask how the bleeding was doing. When I said it was still oozing some, he advised me to put tea bags on my wounds. I said I don’t have any teabags. Ten minutes later, one of his kids showed up at my door with tea bags.

Now, I’m not saying that he sent his children over to every patient’s house–our families were close. But, I’m sure he did call and check up on every patient, and I suspect I’m not the only person who got personalized tea bag delivery.

A Well-Balanced Life is a Good Life

Dr. Morris had seven children, all of whom grew up to be awesome people. All of them spoke at his funeral, which I got to see via Zoom. (I’m thankful for technology and even a little bit grateful for the pandemic. I wouldn’t have been able to fly to the US in normal times for a funeral, but the pandemic made it a priority for the family to let people come without physically being there.)

I learned about his organ playing, world travel, devotion wife and children and God, and the sacrifices he made for his family. There is more to life than work.

You Can Do Good Deeds in Private

Another thing I learned about Dr. Morris from his funeral and his children was how many people he treated for free. This wasn’t something he proclaimed from the rooftops. He just did it. No fanfare, and no demand for recognition and praise.

Do the right thing for the right reason, not to gain praise from others.

While I haven’t seen Dr. Morris as a patient for 23 years (when I left my home state for good), I’m grateful for the things he taught me and the example he set of how to run a business and be a dentist.

This post made possible by Cloud Dentistry.

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4 thoughts on “Lessons from My Favorite Dentist

  1. Sweet post. Whenever the dentist tells me I need to floss more, I just say, it ain’t gonna happen! Not that I don’t want it to, it just never does…. And yes, I have horror stories from my younger life at the dentist. If I could get my hands on any, I would go doped up on valium every. single. time. It’s basically PTSD level anxiety. I had 13 baby teeth pulled before I was 10, and that’s nothing compared to what I went through until my mid-20’s….

    Hope you are well Suzanne!

    1. BTW, we had a neighborhood pediatrician who lived down the street. He prescribed my mom thyroid meds in the 70’s when no one else would and once stitched up my head in his kitchen. If only docs were still like that…..

  2. This was a sweet article and good points.

    My dentist changed my life. He told me to keep floss by the couch and to floss in the evenings when watching TV. While I don’t floss everyday, I now floss several times a week from practically none.

    1. Your story reminds me of my father, who said that it was boring to shred his unwanted documents. I suggested that he place the shredder next to his reclining chair and shred a few documents during the commercial breaks on television.

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