Knowledge in Life

by Mark H.E. Lin, BSc, DDS, MSc (Prostho), FRCD(C)

Knowledge is defined as facts, information and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

According to Krathwohl (2002), knowledge can be categorized into four subtypes: factual, conceptual, procedural and metacognitive. It’s important to clearly understand the distinctions between the four and strive to implement your strengths and limitations to enhance your knowledge in life.

Factual knowledge can be defined as the agreed terminologies, specific details, and basic elements within any domain, such as dentistry. Factual information can be learned through education, exposure, practice, repetition, commitment to memory, and by utilizing various sources such as books, websites, or simply asking a person ahead of your specific learning curve.

Conceptual knowledge can be defined as knowing the interrelationships and functions amongst the details and elements that make up a whole concept – understanding that facts can be organized in meaningful and practical ways. In dentistry, for example, treatment planning requires conceptual knowledge, as well as the sequence or priority of each scheduled dental appointment.

Procedural knowledge combines specific skills, subjects, algorithms, techniques, methods, and criteria when deciding when to use the appropriate procedure. Procedural knowledge is innate in our training as dental professionals and applied to each patient at every dental visit.

Metacognitive knowledge is a strategic understanding of contextual and conditional knowledge, and most importantly, self-knowledge. A dentist should dedicate time to reflect on self-knowledge, as it is impractical, nor achievable, to be excellent in all facets of dentistry.

In the best interest of our patients, practices and ourselves, each dentist should realize and feel confident in their respective clinical strengths, limitations and weaknesses. Patient and case selection is the critical element for treatment planning. Understanding when to provide treatment, be mentored, make referrals or take CE courses demonstrates strong self-awareness and knowledge.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s safe to assume that we have all struggled to challenge our understanding of this global virus. What factual knowledge do we confidently understand? For example, the origin of the virus, the efficiencies of the various vaccines, the current or future side effects of the vaccines, the disease affecting each patient in different ways, the future economic recovery, and lastly, what life will look like in the next few months or years.

When it comes to factual knowledge, a critical appraisal must be executed to confirm the credibility of the source of information and the reliability of the unbiased data that are utilized for procedural knowledge and practical applications. Conceptual knowledge has been applied to the novel COVID virus, as scientists worldwide cannot predict with certainty the outcome or consent to global strategies to manage this pandemic. Procedural knowledge on the management of this pandemic can only be applied once scientists, virologists, and infectious disease experts analyze the global data and utilize rigour, unbiased scientific methodology.

With time, experience, and long-term statistical data and clinical outcomes, we are hopeful of attaining the knowledge required to manage this pandemic. Once this knowledge or information has been provided, each person must apply their own metacognitive and self-knowledge to make decisions for themselves and family members. The respective vaccines are still an extremely controversial topic and the personal ramifications and clinical practice implications are serious.

Correctly understanding the different types of knowledge and reflecting on how it applies to dentistry, can genuinely affect your overall quality of life. Wishing you and your loved ones health and safety as we all strive to navigate this pandemic together.

About the Editor

Dr. Mark Lin, graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy for his dental program. He then completed a one-year General Practice Residency program at the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. He practiced general dentistry for 13 years and then returned to complete his post-graduate training in the specialty of prosthodontics at the University of Toronto. He maintains a full-time specialty practice as a prosthodontist at Dr. Mark Lin Prosthodontic Centre.

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