Feeling Isolated? Dentists Get Together Online

Maggie Augustyn, DDS


I am what Dr. Paul Goodman would call a MAD. For those of you who aren’t sipping the nacho Kool-Aid, MAD stands for Middle Aged Dentist. This also means I’ve been around the block, and if you’re a BAD (Baby Aged Dentist), you may think I’ve been around too many blocks. In the 15 years I’ve practiced dentistry, a lot has changed. Or maybe it hasn’t. It simply depends on where you’re standing and if you partake in the nacho group mentality. 

What Hasn’t Changed

Physical isolation between general dentists hasn’t changed much. I don’t think I’m the only one when I say I’ve always felt alone in dentistry. In the town where I practice, with a population of 45,000-plus and about 30 dentists, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting a single general practitioner.

Very truly and quite sincerely, I know almost nothing about my colleagues. I have never actually had a face to face conversation, nor have I ever talked to one on the phone. Though we practice several hundred feet apart, or a couple minutes’ worth of a drive, for my entire career, I’ve always felt like I’ve been practicing in my own little dental town of 3,500 square feet on Addison Avenue in Elmhurst, Illinois.

The innate fear we have about being judged when speaking or asking a question also hasn’t changed. I have been to many conferences, and I have been part of a fantastic study club. And just like too many before me (not exclusive to dentistry), at group gatherings, I have been afraid to ask a relevant question for the fear that it would make me look like I didn’t quite understand the concept. 

I have been petrified of being being ostracized and getting rubbernecked in a crowd. Before today, I’ve never felt like I deserved to be a part of the conversation (though like many of you I eat and breathe dentistry), and perhaps I’m not the only one.

Many of us dentists continue to hold ourselves to impossible standards of producing superior clinical results in each one of our procedures. Our personalities and education hold us hostage to absolute, and quite frankly unattainable, perfection each and every time.

And with clinically acceptable procedures, some of us may, in some way, feel inadequate or shamed at the result. The correlation between perfectionism and clinical practice is an impossible to reach standard and can drive some of us to self doubt and disdain.  

What Has Changed

Our social interactions, whether good, bad, or ugly, have been transformed with the rise and use of social media. Though the probability of physical interaction between dentists still hasn’t increased, there are now many different ways we can interact with our colleagues in the virtual world. 

If you’re on social media, you may have come across a number of Facebook groups solely dedicated to dentistry. There are clinical groups, business groups, wellness groups, and even social groups. 

One group, in my opinion, marries all of those other groups’ goals quite well—Dental Nachos. The very peculiar name comes from a very colorful and highly energetic MAD dentist (here, use mad however it may suit you, as he may indeed be a mad genius) by the name of Paul “Dr. Nacho” Goodman.

Please be aware that there are other awesomely wonderful Facebook dental groups. Dental Nachos just happens to be one I resonated with. In this decade as we depend on our phones and the virtual world for information, all of these groups hold significant value to us both as practitioners and participants in the vast dental world. I highly recommend you find one that speaks to you.

Also, keep in mind that the Dental Nachos Facebook group is completely free, or what Paul calls a “free park.” Dental Nachos LLC, however, is a for-profit corporation. Sponsors include LocalMed, Bank of America, Care Credit, DentalStores, Dental Intelligence, and PPO Profits. It has a team of six, and revenue goes to operating expenses. 

In person and online, Paul is the kind of person who will not allow for a moment of silence. He’s probably too afraid the moment of silence will be lost as an opportunity for learning. As many people have said, a day without laughter is a day wasted. Paul would say that a moment without teaching is a moment wasted.

Paul came up with the name Dental Nachos for his group. First, it’s catchy enough to stick and be memorable. But also, nachos have multiple toppings, and Dental Nachos is a platform welcoming all involved in the practice and patient care that is dentistry.

Since its inception in 2017, Dental Nachos has gained more than 20,000 members and is adding hundreds more every week. It may be one of the most rapidly expanding Facebook groups in dentistry. With its multiple toppings, it welcomes all dental professionals, including assistants, associates, coaches, marketing experts, financial advisors, fee negotiators, and, of course, dentists and dental students! 

The community sees 800 to 1,000 comments per day, with 30,000 comments per month, in addition to about 70,000 reactions per month. If annualized, that equals 840,000 reactions per year, and that, folks, is quite interactive.

My Life As a Nacho

My relationship with Dental Nachos began as I lurked on the Facebook page. I inserted myself at first by reading posts and resonating with them. I was amazed at how much new information I was able to bring back to my practice from just reading. 

Each morning huddle began with “Hey guys. I read this on Facebook. Let’s check on that.” As I began to relate to the posts, I became comfortable with sharing my opinion or support within the group. Pretty quickly, I got the “Rising Star” badge next to my name, which simply meant that I had too much screen time in a given day, and yet it felt like a reward. 

What is unique about Dental Nachos is that Paul posts the top 100 nachotastic sharers every Sunday night. And this sucked me in. It was addicting to rise from the top 30 to the top three. Eventually, at one point, I actually was the top poster of the week. Talk about self esteem points!

My husband had the eyeroll on cue for every Sunday night as I proudly rehashed my weekly posting status. Eyerolling aside, for the first time in more than 15 years, I finally felt like I found a place where I belonged. I found a place where I could be myself, where I could ask questions or make comments, and where I was made to feel like I was relevant.

Nacho followers post as many as 50 times per day with questions ranging from “How’s your day going?” to “What went wrong with this case?” in addition to messages like “Rant. Vent over.”

What Paul has created, which is uniquely his, is something he calls JBN, which stands for Just Be Nice. His message of “We can disagree but don’t need to be disagreeable” has probably been posted hundreds of times. Paul is very involved in the group, monitoring it endlessly. He protects the JBN message vigorously, immediately contacting any nacho who disrespects that intention. This has created a safe space for people exchanging ideas or seeking advice.

As I have been on the receiving end of non-JBN types of messages multiple times, I’ve not only had Paul himself come to my defense, but also have had other nachos stand up for me in teasing out any posting with a bully-like sentiment. I’ve personally opened myself up many times in the group, discussing my own weaknesses, my practice’s shortcomings, and my life’s experiences, and I have many, many times been met with unending support from nachos I’d never met.

The friendly comments following my posts have been an important drive in how I manage my office and how I practice dentistry. In posting messages about practice improvement or seeking advice on team management, all nachos are able to relate and come to realize that our neighbor practices may have their own weaknesses.

We as dentists and practice owners have similar shortcomings and struggles. Grass is not greener on the other side. Rather, it’s greener where you water it. Though the perfectionism still prevails in many of our minds as the standard of practice, by sharing our questions, comments, and support, we all come to realize that we are human beings first and dentists second.

Beyond Posts and Comments 

But the rose-collored glasses of JBN don’t get to come off just yet. Paul has taken a special interest in educating BADs about dental school graduation, debt, loan repayment, and associateships. In Paul’s words, “Dental students are oftentimes unaware of the reality of dentisting,” (yep, another one of his words) and he wants “to help students thrive in a positive way with real-world tips.”

He has endless advice to those in school, those graduating, and those newly practicing. Many BADs post on Dental Nachosasking for advice about debt management or practice acquisition. And unlike 15 years ago, when I had fewer than five people to ask for advice, these new dentists get hundreds of comments ranging from advice and humor to overall support.

I can’t imagine where my career might have gone had I been able to ask 20,000 people for advice or gain emotional support for a difficult decision back then. My feeling of isolation probably would have been very minimal. 

Sometime last year, Paul started what he called the Nachopedia. It’s an encyclopedia of continuing education for BADs, MADs, TADs (Toddler Aged Dentists), SADs (Seasoned Aged Dentists), and RADs (Retired Aged Dentists). 

He also has many lectures teaching new dentists to not get stuck in their own TSD (That’s So Dentist) attitudes. He walks them through associateships, treatment planning, treatment presentation, clinical education, and even testimonial videos. I’ve been a proud subscriber of the Nachopedia since day one, often listening to video CE while completing random home projects.

As if that wasn’t enough, in 2020, Paul has taken his Nacho brand a step further. He now streams live CE into our physical living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms, where in the comfort of our own homes, with perhaps even a glass of wine in hand, we can settle down and learn a few more things about dentistry. Occlusion, second mesiobuccal canal, and implant placement, anyone? We may not have physical contact with one another during these presentations, but the program allows for live question and answer sessions and very true virtual interaction. 

So how is this a revolution? Nachos has created a network of highly valued professionals, many of whom can become good virtual friends, who looking forward to meeting and hugging each other one day. That sentiment of camaraderie, in my previously lonely dentisting life, has been what’s been missing. And that’s what is life-changing.

Dr. Augustyn is a practicing general dentist. She earned a DDS from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also has completed the course sequence with the Dawson Academy’s continuum in oral equilibration and cosmetic dentistry. She completes a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education each year as well, including orthodontics, implantology, periodontics, prosthodontics, and cosmetics. Additionally, she is a moderator on the Dental Nachos and I Love Dentistry Facebook group forums. She can be reached at maggie.augustyn@gmail.com.

Related Articles

As Dental Offices Close, Try Not to Panic

Dentistry Made Me Hate People—For a Moment

Become a Fee-For-Service Office? Not Me