I recently attended the 2021 Greater New York Dental Meeting in November/December. It featured six whole days of CE courses and four days of a sprawling exhibit hall. The time you spend at a conference, especially such a major one, is truly a choose-your-own-adventure dental experience. Dabble in continuing education or spend an afternoon speaking to different dental companies and what they offer. Now, the question in my mind is: Why were there so few young dentists at this conference?
The CE being offered is vetted for quality and curated for any practitioner’s curiosities. Not only that, the price for the credits is far below what one would pay elsewhere. Am I saying that you can attend any of these courses and instantly become an expert in the subject? Absolutely not. But the resources to continue to explore and funnel a clinical curiosity are there and easily accessible.
Opportunities to dabble and sample
Additionally, several courses being offered had a hands-on component. Many of us who are dentists learn best through experience, so why not try that new procedure without using our patients as test subjects? Again, dental meetings are a cheap(er) way to dabble in new procedures to gauge our clinical or business interests and help reduce day-to-day clinical monotony.
Beyond the availability of CE, there is a wide range of companies with an enormous selection of dental products. I believe that dentists are creatures of habit. We find an instrument or product that we learn how to use and we don’t stray from it. Even if there are certain things we don’t like about those products, we tend to keep using them because they’re familiar.
Who hasn’t had to use that glass ionomer mixed on a paper pad to do an indirect pulp cap? Who hasn’t accidentally gotten that glass ionomer smeared everywhere on the tooth instead of where it’s actually needed? There are plenty of new(ish) products out there that can be just as cost effective and come with a much easier application method.
Advertisements in print, email, or other forms of media will show you the product, but the easiest way to learn about the products is to speak with the company reps themselves. Additionally, if you ask very, very nicely, many of those company reps will send you a sample or two of various products.
Broaden your horizons
All in all, dental meetings are a great avenue to broaden our horizons both with new products and continuing education. The internet has made many things accessible, but it has simultaneously limited us by the lack of a hands-on component. As dentists, we work with our hands every day. Let us not make the mistake of convincing ourselves that the convenience of instantaneous information of CE or dental products is as good as a hands-on workshop or utilizing new products in the clinical setting.
So if you see that dental meeting coming to a town near (or far) from you, you should consider going. Take advantage of all the different avenues and adventures that dental meetings offer and grow as a clinician for the benefit of yourself and your patients.
I went … and I think you should have too.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the March 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.