Continuing educaton = continued success!

July 1, 2004
I'm always impressed by the changes dentists make in their practices after taking continuing education courses. Dentists are known as CE junkies ...

by Joe Blaes

I'm always impressed by the changes dentists make in their practices after taking continuing education courses. Dentists are known as CE junkies because we probably take more CE courses than any other group. I think this is because most dentists are constantly trying to improve their skills to better serve their patients. They also want to learn new techniques so they can offer more services and increase practice production.

One growth area for continuing education is aesthetic dentistry. I see fewer dentists retiring because they have discovered a way to help their patients look good and feel good. And they have put the fun back in dentistry! I really believe that we are in the business of changing lives by changing smiles. Self-confidence and enthusiasm help people make tremendous changes in their lives. It's a great feeling to know you have had some part in changing someone's life.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not talking about giving every patient an extreme makeover. Nor am I encouraging you to spin down every patient's anterior teeth for crowns or veneers. What I do advocate is a complete diagnosis and treatment plan for all your patients. I once had a dental assistant ask me why I wasn't telling my patients about all the conditions in their mouths. At the time, my "complete" exams weren't all that complete. Most exams I performed were not complicated. Most patients told me what was wrong. "Hi Doc, I lost a filling on the upper right and I broke a tooth on the lower left." That's easy — a new filling and a new crown. Check the rest of the teeth out and decide that you will keep a watch on the rest of those old amalgams that are in various stages of breaking down. Take some X-rays, check for hidden decay, and you're finished. The patient exits with an appointment for that filling and crown.

My assistant thought I should tell my patients all the problems as well as the solutions to those problems — a treatment plan. You know what, she was right. People come to us for care, and it is our moral obligation to inform them about any condition and how to treat it so they can be healthy and keep their teeth for the rest of their lives. This discussion with a dental assistant led to many changes in our office philosophy. We began working on a system that would change how we brought new people into our practice and how we introduced them to dentistry. That system became our new-patient, complete exam process. I call it a process because it is always evolving.

This change in philosophy led to other changes throughout the practice. Our continuing education became more focused on team need. Our hygienists were learning about new treatments to improve our patients' oral health. Our clinical assistants were learning new skills to become certified as expanded-duty assistants. Our business assistants were learning new computer skills to keep the practice operating efficiently and effectively. I was learning new skills and techniques to improve my treatment of our patients. We were all learning communication skills to help us communicate with each other and with our patients. We were all learning about each others' new skills so that we could all know the options that were available to our patients.

The best CE courses are those we attend together. We all get to hear the message together so we can interact much more effectively. My mentor told me a long time ago that there are no second-hand learning experiences.

I am excited by the changes recently announced by the Pankey Institute. The executive director, Chris Sager, told me about these changes last January and then swore me to secrecy. I am in the process of doing an interview with Sager because he really has such a wealth of knowledge about our profession. I'm looking forward to sharing it with Dental Economics readers in a forthcoming issue.

Joe Blaes, DDS, Editor — email: [email protected]
Toll-free phone number: (866) 274-4500

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