Paul Feuerstein, DMD
And now, four boys from Liverpool — the Beatles!" Those words from Ed Sullivan changed the face of music (unless you are old enough to remember his censored Elvis performance). As a high schooler in Queens, NYC, that moment was responsible for part of my career path — I wanted to be a rock star! But I also wanted to be a dentist. Throughout college, I studied math, physics, chemistry, and music, attempting parallel paths. Playing in various rock bands and having to set up stage and sound equipment was the beginning of my alleged technological prowess.
Today, all of the tube amplifiers and analog mixers have been replaced with sleek, computerized equipment. You can enter a recording studio and never see a reel of magnetic tape. Concert stages now take days to set up. I can recall the Jefferson Airplane coming to my alma mater, SUNY Stony Brook, in a car with a few amplifiers that had to be thrown up on a makeshift stage in the gym. (As an aside, this school hosted every major rock band of the period, including Jimi, Janis, Jim, and more.) A young band will invest thousands of dollars in equipment, effects boxes, etc., but only a few become enduring superstars. The reason? Technology alone does not create a better musician. It still takes talent, a lot of practice, and constant acquisition of new skills to be a top performer. Ah ha — the connection to this column!
Take a look at digital imaging. With the right camera, and the skills to take good photos, you can do wonderful things with case presentation. But when a patient accepts your recommended treatment, you have to deliver the goods. In addition, the patient now has a copy of the finished product before you start. All the disclaimers in the world that state presentation photos are for simulation purposes only are easily forgotten if the treatment doesn't turn out as the patient expects. Most cases call for a lot of anterior cosmetics — crowns, veneers, bonding, and ortho. Are you confident about prepping and seating six or eight veneers?
A three-hour course can't prepare you properly. So many people have seen Drs. Dorfman, King, and others on TV that their expectations have increased exponentially. You may need to invest some time and money in a comprehensive, hands-on course or series of courses. Several educational entities exist that can give you the preparation you need to meet the new demand for advanced cosmetic services. The Las Vegas Institute, The Pankey Institute, PAC Live, The Hornbrook Group, Ross Nash Institute, and others allow you to bring a patient, diagnose, and prepare and seat a case all under the supervision of expert practitioners and lab technicians. Tuition, time out of the office, travel, and patient and lab expenses may seem expensive initially, but the return can be tenfold.
What about occlusion? Can you do these cases by grinding them in with blue and red articulating paper after they come back from the lab? Do you know how to do a diagnostic wax up and deliver temps to test your theory? Most practitioners received minimal information about occlusion in school. Some cases have bite related problems as well. A few technological helpers such as T-Scan can make diagnosing and treating these cases easier, but you have to be able to understand the output of the program.
Of course, you can start with continuing education courses, but one-on-one help is essential for improvement. There are some wonderful technique videos available, including those from Dental Economic's own Dr. Blaes, as well as those by Dr. Gordon Christensen and others. Plenty of courses, both stand-alone and at regional and national dental meetings also are available.
All of the technology in the world will not make you a better dentist if you don't have the expertise and technique to apply it. Brush up on your skills — "Get a little help from your friends."
Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught courses on technology throughout the country. He is a mainstay at technology sessions, including annual appearances at the Yankee.Dental Congress, and has been a part of the ADA's Technology Day since its inception. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersindentistry.com) and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.