As a young dentist, how do you see your career progressing?
My long-term goal is to become a “super GP.” I’d like to be that dentist who is able to help my patients no matter what their issue is. My more immediate goal is to earn my fellowship with the Academy of General Dentistry; I believe this will give me a framework in which I can hone my interests and increase my clinical offerings. By choosing smaller, more manageable goals, I hope to steadily grow toward my ultimate, albeit never-ending, goal.
What technology or product has had the most positive ROI for your practice?
One piece of technology that has given me the most immediate and best ROI is the Ortek Electronic Caries Detector (ECD). It’s absolutely amazing and takes the guesswork out of using an explorer to detect new pit and fissure decay. Old explorers are notoriously dull and often give false negatives. But the Ortek ECD is incredibly accurate in identifying pit and fissure caries and works similarly to how an apex locator does in endodontics. It costs only a few hundred dollars, and an office will have paid for it within a couple of weeks of use in standard hygiene checks.
What’s your favorite cementation system for veneers?
My current front-runner is Ivoclar’s Variolink Esthetic LC Cementation Kit. From start to finish, it has everything you need to cement ceramic veneers. It works great, cleans up easily, and is super strong. I also want to give a shout-out to OptraGate from Ivoclar. It’s an amazing intraprocedure lip and cheek retractor that makes all anterior work an absolute breeze, and patients find it very comfortable for longer procedures. I’ve even used OptraGate for implant placement to keep the patient open wide and soft tissues out of the way. Ivoclar’s OptraSculpt composite instrument is another fantastic product. I use it in conjunction with Variolink to cement veneers as a bracing pad against the ceramic as I go through my cementation protocol.
What Facebook groups do you enjoy participating in?
I especially enjoy Dental Clinical Pearls and Endodontics for Dentists. I find clinically relevant topics and tips that I’m able to use in my practice. Dentists with lots of experience offer their perspectives and advice, for free! It’s saved me from frustrating situations more than once and is such an awesome resource that we all should take advantage of.
What role do you see organized dentistry playing in your career?
Organized dentistry is difficult to see as having frequent and tangible outcomes in our careers. We see the cost of our membership dues and question the effectiveness of organized dentistry. However, I believe it can only be effective when the resources and participation of its members are large enough that it becomes a big influence that can affect policy governing our profession. This is otherwise known as advocacy. If you are not willing to spend the time and effort to be an active participant, I would argue that it behooves you to have the monetary contribution of your membership dues be the participant. Dentistry is only strong when we have enough individuals who can put their collective voices together to influence outcomes beneficial to ourselves and our patients. One of the more recent examples is in Massachusetts where, at the state level, the Massachusetts Dental Society and the American Dental Association supported the passing of Question 2 in 2022 via monetary contributions to educate the public on future dental insurance reform in the state. This grassroots effort, which began with an individual dentist, became a nation- and profession-wide precedent for other states to model their dental insurance reforms after. Without the help of organized dentistry, referenda such as Question 2 will struggle to pass, and our profession will continue to find it difficult to make meaningful positive changes.
Follow Dr. Hatfield on Instagram and other social media channels @the_zahn_doctor. You can contact him by email at [email protected].
Editor's note: This article appeared in the October 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.