Focus on receiving the gratitude

Dr. Brett E. Gilbert writes about how learning to accept the gratitude of others can bring a sense of satisfaction that creates a positive impact on your practices.

Dr. Brett E. Gilbert

As endodontists, we love to give! We freely give so much of ourselves — our skills, our compassion, our effort, our energy, and our care to others. We give to our families, teams, friends, communities, and profession readily and without hesitation. As empathic humans, we find this giving to be true to our nature and training. Endodontists are givers!

However, the skill we all should endeavor to master is receiving! Givers often have a harder time learning to receive the love, gratitude, and expressions of thanks that come back to us. The impact of endodontic treatment on our patients is often lifesaving. We not only save a patient’s natural tooth, but also often “save the day” as orofacial pain can stop someone’s life in its tracks, rendering the person unable to move forward until the pain is alleviated.  This life-changing gift of root canal therapy that we provide often stokes a visceral feeling of gratitude and thanks within our patients. They, as humans, desire to express that to us in a variety of ways. As givers, we often don’t quite know how to fully accept and process the praise and sentiments that are sent back to us.

However, the truest form of giving is to receive what others are sending YOU! We all feel great when we give to others, so we must also realize that for others to feel great giving, we must receive the gifts they are giving back to us. For me, receiving has been not only one of the most difficult skills to strengthen, but also one of the most rewarding and uplifting tools I have in my life. Receiving from others lifts me up, fills my cup, and allows me to appreciate the positive impact I can have as an endodontist and human being.

As we close this year and look forward to a new start, let’s focus on receiving the gratitude and love that those around us (family, teams, and patients) so graciously want to extend to us! Burnout shows up without much warning as it is so easy to get caught up in the procedural aspects of root canal treatment and the self-judgment and stress that come with being skilled dental specialists who hold themselves to near perfectionist standards. If we broaden our focus to the entire patient experience, we can start to see the magnitude of the impact our practices and our skills as clinicians have on our patients’ (and teams’) lives. Our cups are much fuller when we can look beyond the clinical cases and recognize and receive how much our patients appreciate us and all that we have done to help them (despite how much we like the final radiograph of the case).

In this ever-expanding battle to maintain our mental and emotional health as clinicians, business owners, partners, and respected members of our communities in such stressful and uncertain times, the true antidote to burnout may just be the awareness and allowance of us to RECEIVE all of the gratitude that so many others are trying to send back to us.

I once had a coach ask me to visualize a huge balloon full of all of the gratitude that others had felt and extended to me over the years since I have been in practice. As I added up the years, the procedures, the patients, the situations, and the effort behind it all, I realized that the balloon was gigantic and overflowing. This brought a great sense of pride and grace as I started to realize that by receiving all of that gratitude and love — I have so much more to give!


Dr. Brett E. Gilbert

Read more about Dr. Gilbert, and how his gratitude for his specialty leads to clinical excellence and compassion:

Brett E. Gilbert, DDS, graduated from the University of Maryland Dental School in 2001 and completed his postgraduate training in endodontics from the University of Maryland Dental School in 2003. He is currently a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Endodontics at the University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Dentistry and on staff at Presence Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago. He is a past president of the Illinois Association of Endodontists. Dr. Gilbert is Board-certified, a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics. He was named a top ten young dental educator in America by the Seattle Study Club in 2017. In 2019, he was named to Academic Keys Who’s Who in Dentistry Higher Education (WWDHE). Dr. Gilbert lectures nationally and internationally on clinical endodontics. He has a full-time private practice limited to Endodontics in Niles, Illinois. Dr. Gilbert is a partner in U.S. Endo Partners. He can be contacted online at

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