Back when I was in dental school, I was pretty sure I knew how to do everything. I had no issues finding patients, diagnosing and treatment planning by the book, and making sure my clinical requirements and production goals were completed on time. If I ever ran into a problem treating a patient, I would hunt down whatever specialty or general faculty I needed at the time, and they would calmly and patiently assist me. Toward the end of fourth year, with my requirements behind me and little left to do, I spent my clinical hours finishing my remaining cases, chatting it up with fellow students, and basically doing as little dentistry as possible. I was done.
Fast forward to several years later. The majority of the dental work that I perform in private practice I NEVER did in dental school. Invisalign, bonding all ceramic restorations, digital impressions, anterior composite layering techniques are all things I learned after I graduated. I know everyone is different in terms of the scope of their practice, but I shudder to think about all the time I spent learning how to wax denture set-ups when my hands have not come in contact with a denture in more than a year. More importantly, I learned how to do all these things through attending live CE courses and national meetings, reading dental journals, and watching videos on the Internet. Let’s also keep in mind that this was all done with my money and my time (which technically is more valuable than it ever was now that I have this expensive degree). This is time that I COULDN’T wait to have back in dental school to sleep, exercise, bake, watch TV, travel, and do whatever it is you daydream about doing when your are stuck in a marathon study session at the library.
So yes, you are reading correctly, I actually enjoy spending my free time learning about dentistry, well after graduation. When I first found myself in private practice, I realized just how little I knew. I hated not feeling confident when I discussed treatments with patients, and I hated the anxiety of performing new procedures for the first time without anyone being there to hold my hand. I tried to contact some local dentists through the AGD and other organizations to see if they could help me out with my many questions. Some were extremely welcoming, responding to all of my emails and inviting me to their offices to watch them in action. Some simply ignored me. I was part of a great study club for about a year, but they were unable to get enough members to maintain it. This all helped, but I needed a more structured, foundational approach.
It is funny how I was never as excited to learn about dentistry in school as I am now. There are so many different reasons, but I think the main one is that I can see direct results of my knowledge the week after I take a new course or study a new technique. I am approaching my second anniversary at my job and am feeling a sense of stability. I am slowly starting to become comfortable with more challenging dentistry and patients. But, I understand that I need some kind of foundation, some kind of support system in order, to confidently and predictably treat patients that may need more comprehensive work. That’s where the cults come in.
When I say “cults,” I do not mean to confer a negative connotation. I have a great amount of respect and admiration for many of these organizations, but I cannot help to draw certain parallels. They both have well-known leaders with significant influence. The dental cults have large scale education centers located throughout the country, along with a group of devoted followers. In addition, you can find many of their well-known speakers at various meetings across the country, giving inspirational speeches about having the practice you always wanted and offering you paths to reach your goals. Unfortunately, these paths come with quite a hefty price tag.
I recognize the value of spending money on these courses. The ones that I have attended have proven to be extremely valuable in increasing my clinical skills. My dilemma lies in making a choice as to which organization I want to spend my time and money on. From what I understand, most of them actually have more similarities than differences, and no methods that any of them teach will work for you 100 percent of the time. What is apparent is that each one has a specific track they want you to follow and tools they want you to use, making it pretty unrealistic spend time at more than place. What are the pros and cons, and what made you decide to stick with one, if any at all? In a recent The Daily Grind post, Dr. Lavigne wrote about her great experience at the Spear Center. Have any of you had similar experiences there or elsewhere that have won your allegiance? I would love to hear from you in the comments.
Have great week and enjoy the holiday season!
Lilya Horowitz, DDS