Recently, I received an angry e-mail from a disgruntled endodontist (who did not provide his or her name) in response to an article I had co-authored about endodontic retreatment. Among many issues, the endodontist objected to my teaching general practitioners (GPs). The writer thought this teaching devalues the specialty (and will make it obsolete), reduces productivity, and sends a false message that endodontics is easy. From conversations with a large number of endodontists through the years, the overwhelming majority unconditionally respects its GP dental colleagues, and wishes to see the standard of endodontics performed at as high a level as possible by both sets of clinicians. Said differently, the individual who wrote me does not represent the endodontic professon, at least as I understand it.
GPs do the vast majority of endodontic treatment in the United States. These clinicians treat family members, potentially even mine. As an endodontist who admittedly has made my fair share of clinical mistakes, I seek to share my knowledge and the experience gained from my failures to help educate all clinicians to the greatest extent possible. This is especially true of GPs. Having lectured worldwide, I have seen firsthand the keen desire many GPs have to learn and improve their skills. Why would anyone try to prevent sharing the best information possible when this can help a GP perform at a higher level for his or her patients?
I see abundance in endodontics. There is more than enough work for all parties. More proficient clinicians of all types can only help reduce the stigma of getting a root canal and increase demand. A rising tide will lift all boats. Increased demand is good not just for all clinicians, but also for the manufacturers who supply us with innovative products and promote new capabilities. Providing endodontic therapy is not a zero sum game in which one party wins and another loses. A case done by a GP is not one taken off the plate of a specialist. There are many opportunities. Only the cynics and critics see it differently.
There always will be a sufficient number of challenging teeth, challenging patients, and challenging clinical situations to keep specialists busy. In fact, it is my deeply held belief that if GPs are provided the most recent and unbiased information - presented in a clinically useful manner - they will better understand which cases they might attempt and which cases they should refer.
When teaching courses, I enjoy seeing discoveries and breakthroughs occur before my eyes. I can recognize those “aha” moments when something clicks with a clinician, and he or she is able to perform to a higher standard. This is gratifying for me, and it is good for all parties concerned.
In addition, except for advertising and lectures, how can a GP get the “how-to” information on a variety of new products like RealSeal bonded obturation (SybronEndo, Orange, Calif.) or other exciting developments in endodontics? Teaching through the written word has unlimited value for creating positive change. To me, trying to hold anything back simply makes no sense, and is counterproductive to what those of us in the healing profession are trying to accomplish.
I write about endodontics for a variety of dental magazines around the world. I do so because I think sharing my experiences globally can impact the world in a positive way by relieving pain, improving esthetics and function, and bringing about enhanced health. Why should my voice or other voices be silenced to protect someone’s economic turf? I suggest that this is not the way to move forward for anyone - not me, not the specialty, not GPs, and not the global dental community. Efforts to provide endodontic information such as the RxRoots.com Web site, the annual Roots Summit, information on Web sites like SybronEndo.com (and others), as well as “how-to” writing like that found in this column, are doing something invaluable. They are sharing knowledge that can improve the quality of life for others. I am honored to play a small part in this worldly endeavor. I welcome your feedback.
Dr. Richard Mounce is in private endodontic practice in Portland, Ore. Dr. Mounce is the author of a comprehensive DVD on cleansing, shaping, and packing the root canal system for the general practitioner. The material also is available as audio CDs and a Web cast pay-per-view. He lectures worldwide and is a widely published author. For more information, contact Dr. Mounce via e-mail at comfort@MounceEndo.com. Visit his Web site at www.MounceEndo.com.