What can dentists learn from Madonna?

Madonna Ciccone is a graduate of University of Michigan where she studied Dance. After graduation in 1978, she moved to New York City where a terrible thing happened – she was raped. This is a life changing experience that is hard to recover from. However, Madonna released her first album in 1981 – “Everybody.” It was a huge hit in dance clubs and Madonna became known as the Queen of the Dance Club.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 4.48.56 PM.pngSource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rdlu0-Y3Mg&list=RD7rdlu0-Y3Mg#t=2

With her new-found fame she was interviewed by a magazine who, jokingly, asked what she wanted to do when she grew up. She responded that she wanted to be the most recognized artist in the world. In late 1983 Madonna released “Holiday” which was her first big hit. However, she received some criticism for switching genre because this was a pop song – not a dance club beat. Nonetheless, it rocketed to #1 where it remained there for some time.

Next, Madonna appeared in a movie – “A Certain Sacrifice” – which was a huge flop. Madonna was heavily criticized because she was supposed to be a singer – not an actress. 1986 to 1990 was a golden era for Madonna as she produced six albums and had seven #1 hits. However, in the early 1990s she also released a risqué photographic booked entitled “Sex” – obviously, this was widely criticized. Next, Madonna appeared in Evita – a musical that involved a lot of classical singing and ballads. She was, again, criticized for changing genres.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 3.17.30 PM.pngSource: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/madonna/images/1419385/title/madonna-photo

However, Madonna’s vision was to be the most recognized artist in the world. She didn’t say she wanted to be the most recognized musician in the world. She didn’t say she wanted to be the best artist in the world. I didn’t need to tell you her last name for you to realize it was Madonna the artist. I would say that she achieved her vision.

What about dentists? How good are we at thinking about the bigger picture and how effectively do we stay true to our vision? Dentists tend to be very detail oriented and this may be in conflict with the bigger picture task of our profession – to eradicate oral disease and eradicate the need for dentists.

When a dentist treats a child who has caries do we think about the bigger picture? We may give dietary counseling to the child and, perhaps, to the parent. But do we give dietary advise to the siblings? Do we find out if there are other children (cousins, adopted children, others) who live in the house who may be subject to the same social determinants of health? Do we, for instance, think about the risk factors the child may face at school like cariogenic food? Do we think about whether the child lives in a fluoridated region? The anti-fluoridation groups are extremely well organized and active – should we advocate with those local governments in support of water fluoridation? When water fluoridation is up for discussion very few dentists attend these debates. What impact would it have if, for example, 3,000 dentists attended such a meeting? Society would learn that our profession truly values prevention. The organized few (anti-fluoride groups) are succeeding against the disorganized many (dental, public health and scientific professions) because we aren’t focused on the bigger picture like Madonna has been.

We control dental disease just enough to keep our profession going. What if we achieved ubiquitous fluoridation, regular check-ups and the pairing of dental insurance with medical insurance? Unfortunately, very little of the profession’s resources are utilized to target these matters and most of the resources (and skills) are targeting disease control. We have forgotten our vision and lost sight of the bigger picture – we need to learn from Madonna!