A Show of Hands

by Blake Nicolucci, BSc., DDS

I was recently invited to give a talk on “Hands-on programs in North America” and “Are They Worth It?” There is no question in my mind that a hands-on course is ‘educationally speaking’ the best way to learn any and every component of dentistry!

The greatest concerns dentists have to overcome when considering these programs are (1) the extra time away from the office, and (2) the increased cost.

Unfortunately, time out of the office is usually necessary no matter what ‘hands-on’ course you decide to take. But, taking courses that include ‘weekends ‘rather than’ weekdays in their structure can minimize the time you spend away from the office.

There are also programs that have a staggered sequence. This will allow the student to assimilate the presented material and immediately apply it to their practice. If you are able to take your own patient to a hands-on session, the fee you charge your patient for the procedure can be used to offset the actual cost of the course. In this manner, the entire course can be paid via patient fees. This will eliminate one of the major deterrents of taking the course in the first place.

The problem of cost should not deter us from taking any course at all! It has been my experience that after taking any such course, the information attained from that course can be utilized directly in your practice to pay for itself tenfold! The course information is ‘cutting edge’ and reflects directly on you and your work–both in the eyes of your patients, and in the eyes of your peers. It is amazing to me how the different facets of dentistry overlap. For example, when studying material you might learn in Implant Prosthetics, you re-learn some of the basics of regular Dental Prosthetics (such as the information used from the research of ‘Pound and Payne’).

If you take Implantology as an example, the Guidelines as published by the R.C.D.S. make it mandatory to have both didactic and clinical components included in the course. The course is to include two days in the surgical phase, and two days in the prosthetic phase of treatment. Not a bad base if you are starting into Implant Dentistry. But you shouldn’t stop there! This becomes merely a base from which you can further your knowledge.

The ‘hands-on’ component in an Implant related course not only allows you to actually experience the surgery, but also allows you to have an experienced clinician guide you through the entire process. This direct involvement gives you the reassurance needed to immediately handle similar cases alone in your office.

This process is not restricted to Implant Dentistry. It can also be applied to Endodontics, Periodontics, Prosthetics and Esthetic Dentistry, etc. There is no substitute for hands-on courses. I am ‘not’ saying that the ‘non hands-on’ courses–offered as continuing education–are not valuable. On the contrary! Furthering your education in any mode is important! It doesn’t matter what kind of course you are taking. The ‘Hands-on’ approach to a specific discipline is merely an extremely beneficial adjunct to the standard didactic and laboratory style of the classroom course.

The ‘Hands-on’ component gives you the confidence and the conviction to continue that component back in your own office. The support of the people running the course gives you the confidence to bring these new found ‘ideas’ into your main stream of thinking–and put them to use. It is the ‘rejuvenation’ of your practice that makes you feel good about dentistry, and allows you to feel like ‘you can make a difference’!

So, what do I think about ‘Hands-on’ courses???…