Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Three Ways Continuing Education is Invaluable

When I graduated dental school and began in private practice, I spent the first six months or so getting used to “real world” dentistry and improving my speed. I spent the next two years doing the dentistry that the majority of dental offices are doing. When a tooth is broken down and needs a crown, you schedule the patient for one. When someone comes in needing an extraction, you appoint them after presenting options for single-tooth replacement. My schedule was slammed and my production was great, but I was burning out in the infancy of my career. Worst of all, dentistry had started to feel like a chore.

I decided to make a change.

Fast forward to my third year in private practice. I signed up for Spear’s “Facially Generated Treatment Planning” workshop, and flew to Arizona for the three-day course. Suffice it to say, I returned two months later for the occlusion workshop. It was that good. The Spear workshops have completely changed my practice of dentistry, from how I do it to how I feel when I go to bed at night.

Here are three ways things have changed for the better:

1) My production is up, and the number of patients I see is down. Why? Because I’m not doing spot treatment anymore; I’m doing comprehensive dentistry. You can’t diagnose and treatment plan what you don’t see, and you can only see what you know to look for. The Spear workshops gave me a new set of skills, and a new set of eyes. As a result, I have the ability to offer better treatment options to my patients.

2) I caught the bug. I’m addicted to continuing education. I’ve always been a CE junkie, but now I can’t seem to get enough. In addition to taking courses as often as possible, I’m reading journals and textbooks whenever I can get my hands on them. I learned and grew so much as a dentist in two workshops that I can’t wait for the growth and knowledge yet to come. I don’t want to wait until the middle or end of my career to do the kind of dentistry that CE can allow me to do today. It’s hard to invest the $5K in courses of Spear caliber, especially graduating from dental school with prohibitive debt, but the sooner you’re using the knowledge you gain, the more valuable the investment becomes.

3) I’ve met other dentists like me. When you take courses like the ones offered by Spear, Dawson or the like, the other dentists you meet are investing substantial time and resources into CE, too. You meet great people to bounce ideas off of, and you can learn as much from those peer interactions over lunch as you can in the classroom. Surrounding yourself with dentists who continue to raise the bar (and whose last time using a rubber dam or facebow wasn’t in dental school) will push you to do the same.

I didn’t learn everything there is to know from two Spear workshops. Not even close. But I did reroute my career and gain a vision for the path I want to be on as I progress and grow as a dentist.

Courtney Lavigne, DMD

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