Interview with Dr. Ivan Valcarenghi about clinical education programs

Aug. 1, 2010
DENTSPLY Caulk offers clinical education programs to help dentists maximize clinical outcomes through the use of the latest materials.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FICD

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: Dr. Ivan Valcarenghi, clinical education programs, teaching, public speaking, Dr. Jeff Dalin.

DENTSPLY Caulk offers clinical education programs to help dentists maximize clinical outcomes through the use of the latest materials. Recently, the company decided to recruit and train aspiring educators to conduct these programs. In this installment of The Dalin Exchange, Dr. Ivan Valcarenghi talks about the program.

Dr. Dalin: Ivan, how did you learn of this program, and why did you think this was something that would be of interest to you?

Dr. Valcarenghi: First, thank you for asking me to talk about this program. I am grateful for the opportunity afforded me by DENTSPLY International, and humbled by the outstanding people that I have encountered there, as well as the talented doctors who trained with me.

Doctors are normally "chosen" by their Caulk representatives because these representatives think the doctors would be good candidates for the program. Based on what I experienced, I believe that doctors who have demonstrated clinical excellence, good communication skills, have taught or spoken publicly, and have demonstrated leadership in dentistry are great candidates for the program.

Speaking in public is often high on the list of phobias, so not every great dentist wants to teach. I have met many outstanding dentists with capabilities much greater than my own. But they may not have the desire or training to effectively teach or speak in public.

At times, my friends rib me about the passion I have for sharing knowledge. But they know this has always been a driving force for me, and perhaps one of the reasons I operate a study club in the Chicago area for dentists who seek advanced clinical training programs.

Growing up as a "P.K." (preacher's kid), I have spoken, sung, and played the piano and trumpet for congregations. But still I lacked the refinement to communicate effectively as a great teacher. So I sought professional training and coaching in public speaking, as well as radio and television.

Even with some training, if you have never seen yourself on video, it can be interesting – or in my case, comical. I am still uncomfortable watching videos of myself on my Web site. I recommend coaching, or at a minimum, becoming a certified Toastmaster to gain confidence in this area. It has been a tremendous education for me to improve my communication skills. I love teaching, so this is why I am excited about this opportunity to grow and learn.

Dr. Dalin: Would you describe your training experience? How does this help you teach better dentistry to colleagues?

Dr. Valcarenghi: The training was incredibly valuable. Before attending, I thought I was accomplished in adhesive dentistry since I performed bonded restorations exclusively nearly 24 years ago when the materials were not their present high quality. Since then, I have completed much continuing education in this subject, including two extensive full-mouth rehabilitation programs that used all-bonded restorations. I was confident enough 10 years ago to create a "niche" practice for my services.

I must admit, though, that I gained much more clinical and speaking experience than I could ever imagine at the DENTSPLY manufacturing facility in Delaware. From the beginning, the program instructor – Dr. Dias, a talented Brazilian dentist who now lives in Germany – showed us how a true professional trainer speaks and conducts his presentations.

We spent extensive time reviewing the basics of bonding and adhesion, with extensive support from SE (scanning electron) micrographs to support why we do what we do in adhesion and why we use the materials we use, as well as what new materials are available to accomplish our goals. This reminded me that I can always learn, even in areas in which I am already confident.

We then performed some hands-on training just like we did back in school, under Dr. Dias' tutelage, in order to use the materials and see the results firsthand.

Finally, we were instructed to prepare presentations to deliver in front of an audience, including our fellow professionals. Some doctors were quite talented and were "naturals," while others needed improvement.

While DENTSPLY provides support and supportive materials, it is imperative that doctors have a mastery of clinical photography and a catalog of cases in their repertoire if they wish to be effective presenters and trainers. There's nothing better than real-life clinical failures and beautiful, successful cases to learn from.

I believe that you can "feel" my enthusiasm. But more than this, what I feel and what I have gained from this training is also what my patients want to see from me: confidence. If you were to ask patients what they want from their smiles, and what we dentists truly provide, especially cosmetically, it is priceless: confidence. We gained more confidence in ourselves and our work. Now we can share this knowledge with colleagues.

Dr. Dalin: Do you think teaching will add a new dimension to your career?

Dr. Valcarenghi: Absolutely! I love dentistry and I have pursued excellence by obtaining a huge amount of continuing education. I believe anyone who knows me understands that I have a passion to share what I have learned. Even if this opportunity and training only provide me with a distraction from daily practice, then I am still extremely pleased. For me, teaching is exhiliarating. I love the interaction. I think teaching helps me grow as a professional, no matter where it might lead me.

Dr. Dalin: Is this something you recommend or does it take certain abilities and temperament to become a great instructor?

Dr. Valcarenghi: I think anyone who has the desire has the inherent ability or can learn the ability. Each of us has something of value to offer others and everyone benefits when giving of themselves and their "pearls."

At one time, there was a television show called something like "Everyone Has a Story!" The host of this show would throw a dart on a map, then go to that city, randomly find someone, then spend 30 minutes to an hour speaking with this person. What we learned from this show was that everyone has something of interest to offer. I believe that, if you take the time to get to know someone – even for five minutes – you will find something of interest or something outstanding about that person.

All of us can point to the teacher we had growing up who had the most positive influence on us. The qualities that person had could be as individual as we are. But I believe there are some fundamentals we can learn and follow.This is similar to how we treat patients following a dental visit. No matter how uncomfortable the treatment, we want patients to have a great feeling about us when they leave. Patients should feel that they were truly cared for.

I believe this is no different with colleagues during professional instruction. We want to feel valued and cared for. Within this environment, learning is optimal.

Dr. Dalin: Some people enjoy hands-on instructing while others prefer lecturing. Some prefer doing things locally while others prefer the national stage. What does it take to find this comfort zone?

Dr. Valcarenghi: In a word: experience. I thought I would love "cavorting" around the country as an "in-demand" speaker. But I discovered that I am really a homebody who does not like to travel. I would prefer to watch my girls' lacrosse or cross country meets. Plus, I enjoy working with my hands. This is why I became a dentist in the first place.

Lecturing is okay, but I love to share my "eye" with doctors. I believe each of us has something unique, and I have the artistic "eye" to sometimes see things that are not always apparent. So I love to be hands-on. This is probably why I have done so many hands-on courses, especially live-patient courses. In my opinion, there's nothing better for learning. You may not know what you like to do at first, so I recommend keeping an open mind and experiencing many things, then focusing on what you like to do.

Dr. Dalin: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Dr. Valcarenghi: It is amazing what happens to you and how great you feel when you help others. This is essentially the essence of teaching and perhaps all of our work. It's the best therapy for just about all that ails us. I understand there is a percentage of dentists who may feel unfulfilled with practicing dentistry. I believe this could be boredom.

The best cure for dullness is helping others. Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the "Train the Trainer" program. I have benefited from it, and I am excited to share my experience.

Ivan Valcarenghi, DDS, WCMD, has practiced 24 years in Elmhurst, Ill., with an emphasis on cosmetic and rehabilitation dentistry. He writes and speaks on various clinical and management topics, consults with dentists and small business owners, and operates the ADSG dental study group. He and his wife, Kathy, offer reusable dental products to help provide savings to dentists and the environment via Visit Dr. Valcarenghi's Web site at

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He is a cofounder of the Give Kids A Smile program. Contact Dr. Dalin at [email protected].

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