Don't close your mind to new ideas

Throughout my career in dentistry, I have been open to new ideas that would change my practice for the better. Those new ideas might have been about a new material...

by Joe Blaes

Throughout my career in dentistry, I have been open to new ideas that would change my practice for the better. Those new ideas might have been about a new material, instrument, technique, or a way to ask for payment, file insurance forms, or decorate the office. Most of the things that I tried worked, and they became a part of my practice. The ones that didn't work fell by the wayside.

I would hope that all dentists are open to new ideas. During the past few months, I have found evidence that a number of practitioners have closed their minds to the so-called "occlusion controversy." A dentist that I met at a dental show told me that the January issue of Dental Economics totally turned him off because he neither agreed with nor respected three dentist-authors in that issue. He told me this while acknowledging he did not even read the articles!

Most of us have formed opinions about how are going to establish the occlusion for our patients. We also have taken a number of courses to help us do it in a consistent way for our patients. We know from experience how many problems we can create if we don't get the occlusion right.

I had been in practice for about five years when I began to notice that some of the finished orthodontic cases I was seeing lacked proper occlusion — particularly the ones that had lost four first-bicuspids. I began to investigate a little further and found this was a fairly general problem. Those investigations led me to study occlusion and to begin treating orthodontic patients in my own practice.

Suddenly, I found myself in the middle of a huge controversy! I would have lunch two or three times a week with an orthodontist friend down the street. When I began treating orthodontic patients, he called and said that he would be unable to have lunch with me anymore because he was afraid of potential repercussions with his specialty organization. We never had lunch again. How sad!

I found myself having to defend my choice to treat patients orthodontically, even though I was getting great results. This was especially true in terms of occlusion, since I was not removing bicuspids. Over the years, I have attended hundreds of hours of advanced continuing education to learn more about moving teeth and occlusion. I have to laugh when I see articles about general practitioners attending a weekend course to learn a new skill. My experience has been that it takes many weekends and nights at home to perfect that skill.

My point in telling you this story is only to suggest you might not have the full story about something. Don't judge a technique based on what others have told you about it. The only way to really know is to take a course on this technique yourself. There are no second-hand experiences in life. Keep an open mind. You just might learn something that will give you the answer to a treatment you need to provide one day.

No one person has all the right answers. The search for what works best for you — and for your patients — is never-ending. Frequently, I will be sitting in a CE course and the lecturer will be speaking about a new concept. Suddenly, a light will go on in my head, and I will think to myself, "Why didn't I think of that?"

That one idea can lead to all kinds of changes. Be open and ready for these great new ideas. You never know when you will hear them.

Joe Blaes, DDS, Editor — e-mail: joeb@pennwell.com
Toll-free phone number: (866) 274-4500

More in Op/Ed