The Secret to Professional Longevity
My barber was a prisoner in Germany during World War II. Known simply as EB, he still cuts hair six days a week — as he has since being discharged from the Army in 1946.
My barber was a prisoner in Germany during World War II. Known simply as EB, he still cuts hair six days a week — as he has since being discharged from the Army in 1946. I have never asked, but he must be over 90. What does this have to do with dentistry? Many dentists are deciding to practice longer than they may have anticipated, so I will use EB as an example of professional longevity.
For starters, EB takes care of himself. He is on his feet from 6:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday every week. Standing on your feet for 60 hours a week is no small task — but then, neither is bending over patients for long periods. Individuals in both professions suffer from multiple stress-related problems, including sore necks and backs.
I asked EB how he keeps going. He replied that he likes his job and is proud of his profession. He also follows a diet. One cup of coffee in the morning, no more, no less. He has egg whites, fruit and sugar-free yogurt for breakfast, and a small piece of turkey or fish with veggies for lunch. Dinner is usually fish and more vegetables. Then to bed at 8 p.m. and up at 5 a.m. so he can open the shop. In addition, EB has always been a walker; he claims to do at least three miles per day, rain or shine. On weekends, he and his wife go for longer treks.
I always knew when it was thursday, because by then the insults to the tissues between my shoulder blades were talking to me and suggesting a massage
How does EB’s situation apply to dentists? Our profession requires hard work and intense concentration. We must often hold uncomfortable positions for long periods. As a result, a number of dentists suffer from chronic pain, a loss of sensation in the hands, and various other ailments.
I have eaten sticks and twigs for years, so, for me, diet is not a big issue — rather, it has always been my back. I always knew when it was Thursday, because by then the insults to the tissues between my shoulder blades were talking to me and suggesting a massage. I tried various approaches to ameliorate the problem — from trying to ignore it to acupuncture. None kept the pain away.
Although I have always exercised, for many years I only concentrated on my cardiovascular system. This yields a great heart, but no upper body fitness. Bad idea. Only recently have I discovered a workout that addresses both systems. I exercise 60 minutes two or three times per week with a workout that combines cardio with upper body and core fitness. My back problem is now under control. It only took 42 years of practice for me to figure this out. I also love to come to work, and continue to find periodontics exciting and challenging. One of the advantages of my specialty is that you get to see the patients for years. They have become an extended family.
The point is, if you enjoy what you do, you are likely to do it for longer. And for those of us who see patients daily, the right combination of diet and exercise will allow us to keep going longer and in better health.