A perpetual student

As I'm sure you've noticed, dentistry is not quite what it used to be - even compared to just a few decades ago. Technology has advanced tremendously, giving dentists the opportunity to continuously provide higher standards of care. With this evolution, patient expectations have also increased. Patients expect effective results without having to visit two or three different specialists. To meet these ongoing expectations and demands, dentists today need to stay educated.

Rick Workman, DMD

As I'm sure you've noticed, dentistry is not quite what it used to be - even compared to just a few decades ago. Technology has advanced tremendously, giving dentists the opportunity to continuously provide higher standards of care. With this evolution, patient expectations have also increased. Patients expect effective results without having to visit two or three different specialists. To meet these ongoing expectations and demands, dentists today need to stay educated.

When Heartland Dental was founded, I knew continuing education would be a core fundamental of the organization. Our leadership team asked, "What can we do to help dentists achieve a higher level of care?" It has remained a fundamental part of the business to this day. From the start, our organization designed a system to support the nonclinical needs of dentists so they can focus on patient care. But we wanted to take that support even further. We wanted to offer supported dentists opportunities to hone their clinical knowledge, gain new knowledge about cutting-edge techniques and technology, and learn new communication and leadership skills. For the past 17 years, Heartland Dental has continually offered these opportunities, which have positively impacted the clinical and leadership abilities of supported dentists.

These educational offerings include the Dr. Leadership series, which is for supported dentists with five or fewer years of experience. Offered each year and focusing on leadership, team partnership, and clinical training, the series features the dental industry's top speakers. In addition, Heartland Dental's clinical directors and lead doctor mentors educate attendees on topics such as doctor/hygiene partnership, the eight laws of leadership, scheduling for efficiency, oral pathology, and more. Another educational opportunity for supported dentists is the Heartland Dental Aesthetic Continuum. In this program, new doctors learn the principles of cosmetic case preparation and restoration, including occlusion, esthetics, ceramic restorations, multiple-tooth preparation, and bonding, from experienced mentor doctors.

In contrast to previous years, many of these offerings are now decentralized instead of in one location. Both the Dr. Leadership and Aesthetic Continuum offerings will be broken into multiple events nationwide. This means smaller groups of supported doctors, which will create more one-on-one, personalized training opportunities. As we say at Heartland, "As our organization grows, we will get smaller." By decentralizing educational opportunities, we can ensure all supported doctors have access to these advantages and learn as effectively as possible. In addition, Heartland Dental supports dentists in reaching other educational achievements, such as FAGD or MAGD through the Academy of General Dentistry. When supported dentists complete Heartland Dental accredited continuing education courses, their hours are sent to the AGD by the Heartland education support team.

Why does Heartland Dental support these continuing education opportunities so actively? For the reasons discussed here. Staying up-to-date is no longer an option; it is a necessity because there are advancements in the dental industry every single day. Modern dentists need the skills and knowledge to meet the ongoing demands of a modern industry. You may have noticed that mentorship is a common theme in Heartland Dental's supported educational opportunities, and for good reason. Having an experienced mentor who has been in your shoes is an invaluable way to become educated for success. If you're a new dentist, why wait years to learn from your own experiences when you can learn immediately from the successes and failures of those who have preceded you? If you're an experienced dentist, it's never too late to learn from other dentists. With so many colleagues wanting to accomplish the same goals, there's no reason we shouldn't be learning from each other.

As our industry advances, more educational opportunities are becoming available - online, such as the DentalXP educational forum, and live courses, from the AGD and other dental associations. Seek out these opportunities, learn from the experiences of others, and become a perpetual student. Your patients and career will benefit.


Rick Workman, DMD, is founder and chief executive officer of Heartland Dental. After practicing full-time, Dr. Workman created Heartland Dental, a world-class dental support organization offering affiliated dentists nonclinical, administrative support. Heartland Dental has over 625 supported dental offices in 28 states. Dr. Workman may be reached at rworkman@heartland.com.

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