Leaving dental school behind doesn’t mean you’re done learning. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. As dentists, our mission is to provide the highest quality of care, and embracing lifelong learning is essential to providing that care.
Focusing on improving the patient experience and constantly learning go hand in hand. Investing in learning and development opportunities not only helps us become better clinicians and leaders, but also ensures we stay up to date on the latest technologies.
By taking advantage of continuing education courses, dentists can learn to master the latest industry advancements and how to utilize new technology and techniques to provide patients with the best-in-class care. Dental technology is advancing every year, from intraoral scanners to digital dentures to clear aligners. Dentists who seek to broaden their clinical capabilities will be able to offer more comprehensive care to their patients and help guide young dental professionals more effectively.
As dentists grow as clinicians, they should be open to trying everything. For example, extractions may seem uninteresting to you now, but an effective continuing education module or a hands-on tutorial could make surgery the best part of your job. Taking a deep dive into all aspects of dentistry can help you identify your strengths and cultivate an expert-level skill set.
Learning and development helps dentists grow as leaders too. This can include listening to feedback from colleagues and staff, along with seeking out mentorship and taking time to reflect on how different leadership styles could benefit their teams. A strong and strategic leader makes teams more efficient, which leads to better patient care.
Strong leadership qualities also help us run better businesses. Being able to think critically and interact positively with our team members and patients, while running a practice smoothly, are skills we can continuously sharpen.
Dentists who are comfortable with the status quo will miss out on opportunities to give themselves and their teams a competitive edge. Those who challenge themselves to continue to grow will be able to offer the most care options to their patients and provide the best support to their teams. As dentists, we must focus on constantly getting better. Understanding the importance of learning and development is necessary, but providing the time and space to take advantage of those opportunities is even more crucial.
In practice, that could take many forms. For example, Aspen Dental offers an extensive library of online courses that doctors can access at their convenience. The support doesn’t stop there, though—doctors can reach out to Aspen support teams to discuss cases, brainstorm treatment plans, and answer questions. Aspen Dental is frequently adding courses and updating its library, allowing doctors to strengthen areas of clinical weakness and learn about technology and techniques they may not have been exposed to in dental school.
Recently, Aspen Dental took its commitment to learning and development one step further by opening The TAG Oral Care Center for Excellence, an onsite training facility in Chicago. At this facility, doctors can experience hands-on training from experts in the field, getting the chance to practice new techniques in a judgment-free environment. Experts on everything from dentures to implants are ready and available to answer questions and provide coaching and feedback.
Learning and development doesn’t only happen through continuing education, however. Mentorship is an important part of nurturing new dentists and expanding the skill sets of more experienced practitioners. Hands-on mentorship can help dentists develop as clinicians, learn about patient management, and encourage teamwork. Doctors who carve out time to mentor and lead by example can help instill the value of lifelong learning throughout their practices, benefiting both the staff and the patients.
The most effective way to encourage learning and development is to designate in-office time for staff to pursue such opportunities. For example, one Aspen Dental practice in the metro Detroit area closes its doors for several days to allow staff to take part in online learning and development courses. As a team, they discuss the most salient parts of the courses and explore how that new learning will translate to their practice.
Ultimately, it’s no surprise that lifelong learning and development are crucial to a successful career in dentistry. We have a duty to provide the best possible care to our patients, and if we’re not well versed in the newest technology and techniques, then we’re not doing our due diligence.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Taylor Sutton, DMD, MBS is the owner of an Aspen Dental practice in Philadelphia. He has piloted both digital dentures and Motto Clear Aligners for Aspen, and was named the #1 Motto Clear Aligner doctor for 2022. In addition to innovative dentistry, he loves fitness, traveling, and spending time with his family.
Evelyn Lucas-Perry Cheek, DDS, MPH, serves as the managing dental director and owner of two Aspen Dental practices in the Metro Detroit area. Prior to clinical practice, she served as the director for public policy research at the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) where she conducted in-depth research into public health and other policy issues affecting academic dentistry and oral health. Dr. Lucas-Perry’s areas of expertise include the dental care delivery system and health care integration.
Mark Medeiros, DMD graduated from Boston University with his undergraduate degree in 2013 and with his doctorate in 2017. He grew in his career with Aspen Dental from an associate to a managing clinical director. Now, he owns three practices in Massachusetts. Outside of dentistry, he loves spending time with his family and dog.
Whitney White, DDS is a passionate dentist committed to providing excellent patient care. She focuses on comprehensive general dental care, and has extensive experience with oral diagnosis, restorative treatment, oral surgery, prosthodontics, cosmetic procedures, and more. She is currently a lead dentist for the Aspen Dental practice in Cedar Park, Texas. Her overall mission is to increase access to excellent dental care.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: marekuliasz/shutterstock.com.