The word ‘ideology’ is commonly used in the context of religion or politics. It refers to a set of operational beliefs. In other words, an ideology represents the way in which a person or group of people perceive and attempt to function in the world.

Consequently, we dentists and others in the profession have ideologies as well. This can be seen most obviously in the various occlusal camps…centric relation vs. neuromuscular for instance.

Our patients have ideologies as well. They may have a belief system which tells them that all dentists will likely hurt them…that their family has “bad teeth” …that dentists are rip-off artists…that insurance companies are helping them to successfully manage their dental health…that no dentist should charge more than an insurance carrier wants to pay …that dental health and total health are generally unrelated…that they should be able to get whatever they want done and not have to personally pay for any of it.

This lays bare the obvious truth that an ideology is not the facts, it is a perspective, and a lens through which the world is viewed and information is interpreted.

Is centric relation always the best place a person should be restored? What if there can’t be a centric relation position? What if the disc is displaced, gone, or the condyles degenerated? Where then? Why then?

Such questions are where the habitual or dogmatic use of an ideology becomes unhelpful, even destructive or harmful. Wars are fought over this…people slaughtered…occlusions successfully or unsuccessfully changed… confusion…. disgruntlement.

This is the nature of life… disagreements… sometimes harmony… sometimes common ground found…sometimes not. People coming and going. Sometimes happy interactions – occasionally not.

And the best way to reduce conflicts, disagreements, confrontations – and worse, is to become more aware of our ideology… to become more self-aware of what beliefs and biases we bring into each relationship which are either helpful or not…constructive or not…advancing our goals or not… revealing our true intentions – or not.

Bob Barkley, when asked by Avrom King, that if he had one wish which could be granted to all dentists going forward, responded immediately by saying, “I wish every dentist would take the time to develop a personal philosophy toward practice.”**

Notice here, Bob did not say ‘ideology,’ and quite intentionally so. Because a philosophy is not an ideology. A philosophy is about a mindset which is committed to the pursuit of the truth. It is not dogmatic, hence it is not fixed. It is not rigid, rather it is flexible and adaptive. And it is all about learning and moving forward, while casting off that which we have discovered to be wrong or unhelpful.

On that topic, Bob said that the most important thing that a dentist should be doing is related to what they commit themselves to STOP doing… that through new realizations and learning they commit to abandoning old way of thinking, behaviors… and yes – ideologies.

So too must many of our patients abandon old beliefs and behaviors if they sincerely want to become more successful. And that is our responsibility as well… to lead others toward better decision-making and therefore higher levels of health.

Hence when Bob Barkley started to focus on what his patients were thinking, feeling, assuming, and expecting, everything else in his practice improved. In other words, when Bob focused initially on understanding each person’s ideology, he could then start to transform it through the use of HIS philosophy.

And the rest became history.

Paul A. Henny, DDS

**Bob Barkley learned this from L.D. Pankey