One of the best things about our chosen profession is the ability (and necessity!) to continuously learn, grow, and improve. We call it “the practice of dentistry,” after all. We practiced in wax during our first two years of dental school. We practiced giving injections to one another as a rite of passage into clinics our third year, and we practiced dentistry on patients our fourth year. If you did a postgraduate residency year like I did, you continued to practice and expand your skill set there, by taking on more challenging cases and working on a team with your coresidents and attending faculty members. What happens after training and school, though?
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The dental world is forever evolving. New technology seems to appear all over the place, almost overnight at times. I’ve left every trade show I’ve been to recently (and I attend a lot of trade shows all over the country) having learned a new technique and visited with vendors offering new tools and methods to take better care of my patients. I admit, it can be overwhelming.
So, where do we start? For you, new dentists, I would tell you to pick procedures or cases that you want to learn more about and start doing research via continuing education from that point. Remember, there are still many states that allow you to do to a significant portion (if not all) of your continuing education online, and they will count this toward your licensure renewal requirements. This allowance might not be around forever, so take advantage of the fact that you can do a large amount of didactic training from the comfort of your own home or office. Use time away from work at meetings wisely, and schedule hands-on training here. Some dental schools offer hands-on courses, and these are often taught by postgraduate resident faculty affiliated with the school. Check to see if your school offers this; I have seen alumni discounts available to make the process more affordable. Most of the other well-known, hands-on programs offer new graduate concessions or payment plan options as well.
Throughout my travels and numerous interactions with students, residents, and new dentists, the closing statement I find myself repeating most often is this: Be teachable. What does this mean? There’s a lot you know, but there’s also a wealth of knowledge out there that you don’t. The world we live in allows you to access so much data with more efficiency now than ever before. Take the opportunity to better yourself, not just for your patients, but for your own practice and peace.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the April 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.