The Changing Face of Continuing Education

by Kenneth S. Serota, DDS, MMSc.

In the expanding universe of dental continuing education, the Internet adds a dimension never before thought possible. Cyber communities on list servers surround the globe and enable an unprecedented exchange of information. This digitally directed exchange originates from a basic tool, but it is the application of this tool that is needed in order to raise the bar on the excellence, sophistication, and creativity that will allow this information driven age to be a success.

While real time, hands-on interactive training is irreplaceable, there is an out of pocket and out of practice expense that sets time and location constraints. Furthermore, the attendee is unable to receive continuous mentoring during the crucial first stages of the learning process and incorporate the newly learned information to the clinical setting. Nor can they be assured of timely updates and continuous interaction with others with respect to the products introduced or techniques learned. The complimentary alliance of Internet based communications and traditional modes of dental education can offset these deficiencies. The only requirement is being connected to the Internet.

Consider the opportunity afforded the educator whether it is within an institutional, convention, study club or dental society setting. The presenter is provided the opportunity to “set the stage” for the real time event by the use of e-mailed threads inclusive of graphic attachments sent to the members. The exchange of questions and answers in whatever direction creates a prepared audience and adds insight to the presenter’s address. As well, the potential for follow-up, linkage to new venues, cross posting between discussion groups with different clinical foci creates a truly interdisciplinary web of information.

The website and the myriad of discussion groups and websites that make up its infrastructure are a volunteer, non-profit Canadian network created by members of the dental profession and dental industry for their global colleagues that addresses these very issues. Supported by corporate and member sponsorship, it provides a round-the-clock forum for information delivery on any related topic, with the strongest focus being in the areas of orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, restorative and operative dentistry.

There is no shortage of dental websites, portals and discussion groups, but they are only used by a small percentage of those who stand to benefit by participation. As a profession, we’ve embraced evidenced-based science; the time to embrace outcomes-based learning is now.

Kenneth Serota is the endodontic Contributing Consultant for Oral Health. He maintains a private practice limited to endodontics in Mississauga, ON.