Special Forces Dentistry?



When it’s easy, complacency can set in. When success is everywhere, we often just celebrate. But what about those challenging days, weeks and months? When reimbursements decline, patients cancel or a key team member leaves for seemingly no reason at all what should we do? Call in the Special Forces!

Recently I have been helping a friend of mine who is a Navy Seal. He wanted to transition from his ‘regular’ job to coaching, consulting and public speaking. I am pretty sure I have learned at least as much as I taught him.  His perseverance and unwavering focus on a goal is a trademark of the Seals. Never Quit, there is always a way to get it done, improvise, innovate, plan B, C or whatever it takes. Here are a few Navy Sealisms I have taken away from being around him. When the going gets tough in practice, think like a Seal. Persevere.

“The Only Easy Day was Yesterday”

This is the motto of the US Navy Seals, it means don’t sit around too long complaining or celebrating about whatever just happened. Instead, get ready for what’s next to come. Dentistry is tough. Patients, procedures, striving for excellence and our own OCD personalities make this profession tough. Each day, take a moment to find what went right yesterday, celebrate and get ready for today. There will be new challenges and obstacles to overcome. The preparation that got us here is unlikely to be enough to get us to the next level. 

“Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable”

The selection training for Navy Seals eliminates over 75% of the well qualified candidates because they cannot endure the discomfort of the training. Not physically, rather the mental discomfort can be so great that they just quit. In practice, our challenges can pile up in such a way to create unbelievable discomfort. How well we endure often depends on whether we quit mentally.  I have coached so many dentists who have given up on their dreams in dentistry because it got so tough. Some people quit just before they would have experienced success. Edison failed dozens of times to create a commercially successful light bulb. Lincoln lost elections for Congress, Senate and the Vice Presidency before becoming one of our greatest presidents.

“In the Absence of Clear Orders, I will Take Charge and Lead my Team “

The structure of dentistry and the current milieu is far from ideal as a platform that supports comprehensive care.  Declining reimbursements, maintenance benefits that masquerade as insurance, patient perceptions, and more are the “orders” of the day.  If your practice vision is on a tangent from your vision, you must innovate, find a way and improvise. In the absence of a clear path, make one! Practices that are thriving today have figured out a different path to take their team on to a promised land. Creating a value proposition that resonates with the right patients and collecting a fair fee is a worthy goal. Like a sailboat, set your sails and go where you will. The journey may be longer and slower, but also, far more rewarding.


Mark T. Murphy, DDS, FAGD Mark is the Principal of funktionaltracker.com and Lead Faculty for Clinical Education at MicroDental Laboratories and ProSomnus Sleep Technologies. He also serves on the Adjunct Faculty at the University of Detroit Mercy and oversees the Practice and Financial Management Curriculum at the Pankey Institute. He lectures internationally on Leadership, Practice Management, Communication, Case Acceptance, Planning, Occlusion, TMD and Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Mark has been involved in Sleep Dentistry for over 25 years, is an AADSM member, and has trained with several of the leading sleep dentists and training institutes. He is an informative and entertaining speaker, blending a stand-up style of humor and anecdotes with current evidence based research that you can take home and use in your practice right away.

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