THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STUDYING FOR EXAMS AND LEARNING TO TREAT PATIENTS - BOTH ARE WORLDS APART!!
Right now, the only thing that’s different between you and me is that I dared to dream and I was determined to make that dream come true. I believe everyone has immense potential inside of themselves and also enough to offer to help others. Imagine a world where every individual can share their knowledge with the rest of the world to form a collective energy and knowledge pool!
I believe that each one of us has to awaken and realise the potential within ourselves. Do not let that apathetic sense of inertia or dampened hope take over your life. You are who you want to be. Age, sex, circumstance, failures, disabilities – none of that should stand in your way, in fact, turn each of that into your personal USP !!
I am a person with average intelligence, I would not call myself an extremely hard worker either, but I always kept my eyes on the prize and I never let myself slip away from it. Life is hard– marriage, children, finance, doing the things that need to be done may make the things that we want to do, more difficult, but not impossible. If this is the case then imagine the potential you have if you are intelligent, hard-working and focused!!!
I completed MClinDent Prosthodontics from KCL which is ranked number 1 in the QS world ranking dentistry for 2020, the year I passed out. I had a strange realisation soon afterwards, that the prosthodontics I had been taught is already 15 years behind. By the time books are written and published, the information contained in it is nearly 2-3 years old and add to this the fact that most of our textbooks are around 15 years old, on average.. I was baffled when I was exposed to what is happening in the real dentistry world.
I have learned more from listening to intelligent and talented people in the field speaking about their techniques/toys/materials/ in the last 6 months, than all the knowledge gained in my 4 years of MClinDent. I have been trying to understand why this is the case, and I think I now know the answer.
Consider this analogy– the MClinDent / BDS or any degree is like the process of growing a plant. The initial degree is like the seed, which needs to be planted firmly and nurtured into the tree we want it to become. The experience of clinical dentistry is the sunlight. The new courses /techniques that we learn is manure, the papers and journals we read are the pesticides, and each little bit we add to our learning shapes the growing plant, and all these elements together, give our Dentis-“tree”’ a perfect environment to flourish. Investing in yourself with all the right ingredients such as understanding the basics concepts and materials used in daily dentistry, along with evidence-based techniques and procedures is a must and should be the first path of learning taken towards being a good dentist.
Needless to say, the effort and time and care you put into it - will be directly proportional to your yield.
There is a lot to learn, from everyone around you, from your colleagues to your DCP’s. The minute you think that you know it all, you become stagnant, killing all the growth hormones left in you and that is most true in this day and age when anything you want to know is at your fingertips(literally - even the big guns like Didier Dietchi and Markus Blastz ). All you need to have– is a thirst for knowledge.
My aim is to share my knowledge and to open your eyes to the possibilities and opportunities available to you, in dentistry. Each of you will have to carve your own path. It will be unique and be celebrated by many in the coming years. We have all been taught to follow someone else’s footsteps.. We’ve been taught to read books and to accept it as the truth, but you can go beyond this and become a true problem-solver.
Dentistry is simple – prevent disease, preserve what's God-given in its best form, repair or replace what's destroyed/missing and make esthetically pleasing and functionally viable restorations. Do it directly in the patient's mouth or use your talented lab technician to help you achieve this.
MY TOP TIPS FOR NEW DENTISTS:
Learn material science – the technique of preparing the material, the preparation of the tooth surface to receive it, the indications and the contraindications of each - in terms of clinical practice and not for exams. Also, be patient with the materials and help impressions/restorations to set fully/ attain its maximum properties (give the last cure with an oxygen inhibiting layer for any composite) -If you rush, you are not helping anyone.
Learn the lab techniques – go to your own labs and see how it’s done. It teaches you why the 0.1mm and 0.2 mm are important - it may be because the scanner can pick up only 0.2 and not 0.1!
Identify your weakness– and work on improving/eliminating it. For instance, employ an endodontist if RCT is not your cuppa or refer till you master it outside the patient's mouth. Once, I perforated a furcation looking for the canals on a molar tooth - I realised there is a lot of anatomies I needed to learn, I did access opening on all the teeth I extracted (incisors to molars for about 6 months - to get the feel of that initial dip into the pulp chamber and know exactly what I was looking for. Mistakes happen to everyone - it's what you do about it to correct it that matters!
Identify your strengths– and feed it with sufficient practice, theory and evidence.
Do not be scared to try new techniques /materials /methods – be an innovator/ problem- solver
Know and understand niche working principles – and get the toys to achieve them, as each of you is different and you will have to work out what works for you.
Document your learning and progress– a camera should be your first investment.
Keep up to date with new research and evidence-based dentistry.
Give ‘Painless LA ‘ - use a good topical gel for up to 1 minute, warm your cartridge (in cold countries), inject slowly and with the thinnest needle possible. The patients judge you and make an opinion from that, no matter how good the rest of your skills are.
Use magnifications (loupes/ microscope)– it changes the quality of your work. Your work is only as good as you can see.
Do not be scared or ashamed to ask for help or second opinion– this is the only way you learn and grow.
Go watch your colleagues at work – with their permission, and be sure to make note of anything new or innovative. It could even be dealing with patients and the style of talking or soft skills.
Take Bitewings at least every 2 years (more frequently for high caries risk) – it has a wealth of knowledge. If you do miss something clinically, you can double-check and get peace of mind.
I always use my bitewings to educate patients about teeth/enamel decay/bone and interdental cleaning and its importance.
OHI –most oral diseases are preventable. Take your time with explaining oral hygiene, it is one of the most common reasons for tooth problems and you would be surprised by the patient's knowledge of it. Patients will value it immensely in the long run.
Diet Advice in case of high caries /erosion – especially initial changes can go a long way in protecting the teeth. A board - with the amount of sugar in each drink shown as visual representation is a great tool.
Learn the business of dentistry– including the financial management of the practice. learn from others in the field and keep notes, you will need it sometime.
Learn how to run a successful practice– focus on key elements such as branding, website creation, marketing, staff management, stock management, patient management -keep notes.
Building a strong team – Dentistry is all about being an efficient multitasker but try and allocate and train your staff, and take some stress off your back. Everything need not be done by you, an hour of training with clear instructions(written would be ideal) can save you hours by avoiding repeated mistakes.
Have good relations with your DCP and reception – Patients trust their opinion more than what you do to their mouth, so a happy team will work wonders. It’s one thing the team -saying they think you are good, to them believing you are good. Make it easy for them to sell you.
If you are starting at any new practice - Pick up the phone and introduce yourself to the local lab technician(s) the practice is using and built a good rapport. Communication with the lab with phone calls, lab tickets, photographs and making a good impression on them-is almost the key to success for all prosthodontic work.
Find out what went wrong –for example, if a crown does not fit. Own up to your mistakes - it's easy to blame the lab / the material - but mostly it may be your lack of knowledge or skill. The crown will only be as good as your impression and your preparation of the teeth. If you do this - you can work by eliminating one error after another, until a technique is perfected.
As a young and new dentist, do not run after the money, do not cut corners, dentistry is a small world, and a long journey too. Your bad decisions will come back to bite you. If you do good work, it will stand as your testimonial for at least 10 years. And the money will come chasing you.
Know the longevity of any restoration you put in the patient's mouth - everything comes with a lifespan - explain that to the patient and help them make the correct decision. If it is a young person, motivate them for non-destructive treatments like orthodontics and whitening. Always use the ‘daughter test’.
Listen to the patient - examine where they say the pain is- they are almost always right. Listen to their esthetic needs - they may want to recreate a rotation/ diastema they had as a child (even on a denture ) - give them what they want. That will make them happier than giving them a perfect ‘chicklet’ smile.