October 31, 2019
by Mark H. E. Lin, BSc, DDS, MSc (Prostho), FRCD(C)
Dental students who have recently completed their education may ﬁnd themselves pondering many questions. For example, they may be considering their need to ﬁnd a stable job. Geographic location may be a particular focus – what setting would encourage a busy career yet also a lifestyle that permits balance? Another possible question may focus on whether they should associate, buy into a partnership, purchase an existing ofﬁce, or start fresh with a new ofﬁce. Finances may also cause a great deal of stress. The ﬁnancial burden of student loans may weigh heavily. Although there are many challenges, questions and opportunities presented to the newly graduated dentist, it is important to always remember that dentistry is in fact a practice. Just because a dentist has completed his or her university degree, the process of learning is lifelong and eternal. Newly graduated dentists may ﬁnd themselves to be incredibly busy, but it is their responsibility to keep-up with the ever-changing nature of dentistry. Throughout this article, readers will be provided with a variety of ways that may support their awareness of the developments that take place in the dental ﬁeld.
Continuing education activities, also known as CE activities, are beneﬁcial to practicing dentists for many reasons. Speciﬁcally, dental courses for CE purposes may allow clinicians to maintain their professional competency requirements and advance their professional careers. The curriculum at most undergraduate dental programs are intense as they incorporate basic sciences and basic clinical dentistry. This level of intensity may make it challenging to cover all aspects of clinical dentistry in depth. Therefore, continuing educational courses provide dentists with the opportunity to cover speciﬁc topics in more detail. As a result, they will gain exposure to various clinical aspects of dentistry that they may be interested in pursuing later in their careers. For example, there are courses that focus on implant dentistry, endodontic, esthetic, periodontics, orthodontics and much more. CE programs that offer hands-on experiences may provide newer dentists with a chance to develop their skills under the eyes of a trained mentor, instructor or specialist. Less experienced dentists must make themselves aware of the various aspects of dentistry practiced.
Not only does completing CE courses build on clinician knowledge, it simultaneously expands the treatment options that may be offered to patients. Undoubtedly, with the sizable number of programs offered, newly graduated dentists will be able to ﬁnd a CE course of interest to them. New clinical techniques and technologies develop constantly, influencing the way that dental procedures are performed. Attending CE courses may cost dentists money (tuition fees) and time away from their practice and family. However, they are incredibly beneﬁcial as they allow dentists to invest in their overall knowledge base. Thus, dentists should choose CE courses carefully, keeping in mind how the beneﬁts of enrolling in these programs will alleviate their investments of both money and time. A tip is to look for CE in-class programming that incorporates hands-on components or live patient treatment since they offer the best simulation of what dentists can integrate to their actual practice. These programs will contribute to maintaining a dentists’ professionalism and ability to efﬁciently address patient need.
Other influential sources of knowledge may be found on the internet. However, dentists must be cautious when resorting to online sources of knowledge since they may include bias or not be scientiﬁcally sound. Sometimes clinicians may use the internet to maintain their knowledge which include, but are not limited to, accessing research articles, journals, webinars and e-learning. A particular beneﬁt to these educational mediums is the fact that many are free of charge and available immediately. On the other hand, be cautious of anything offered for free such as courses on the internet or evening events as they may not be entirely reliable. Additionally, the process of sifting through the countless offered courses and great amounts of online information may be tedious. Newly graduated dentists or less experienced clinicians may not have a lot of spare time to critique multiple research articles and journals to judge their validity. To alleviate this issue, CE course providers or instructors may provide professional literature relevant to their speciﬁed needs. Since new ﬁndings are presented to clinicians daily, they must responsibly select what they want to integrate into their own practices. Overall, reading about updates to dentistry is an easy way of incorporating lifelong learning into any daily routine.
As previously mentioned, webinars and e-learning are also convenient methods of learning for newly graduated dentists. Webinars and other methods of e-learning may be more affordable than CE programs that are offered in-person. However, CE programs attended in person and with live treatments yield the optimal clinical implementation and may aid dentists’ in their learning curves. As a result, newly graduated dentists and less experienced clinicians may be able to ask questions and build on their knowledge through the opportunities offered by these settings.
Finally, newly graduated dentists should signiﬁcantly exercise their relationships with their mentors. Working with individuals who are knowledgeable, experienced and specialize in their areas of practice can be incredibly useful in the construction of a successful career. Seeking local specialists or mentors can often provide guidance and insights for new dentists. Having a trusted colleague may provide less experienced dentists with an informed second opinion or wisdom gained from lessons learned in the trenches. Finding a colleague to conﬁde in early on in a dentist’s career may provide him/her with a certain amount of comfort and support. Knowledge is an incredibly valuable resource for those who are ready to listen and learn. Thus, having a mentor to emulate and work alongside may allow less experienced dentists to access incredibly useful solutions, tips, and information. Without a mentor, dentists may not develop the skills and knowledge they may acquire with a mentor, until later in their careers. Furthermore, without a mentor the development of these skills and knowledge may result from mistakes or errors that negatively impact their career or painfully affect patients. Having a mentor may help dentists to avoid mistakes that do not need to transpire.
Furthermore, mentorships may expose less experienced dentists to a broader network of professionals. Making use of these connections may allow newer clinicians more opportunities for learning. Formal mentorships are incredibly important to expanding one’s professional education. If these relationships are not fostered through the university environment, less experienced clinicians may consider mentorship opportunities upon graduation with local colleagues or specialists. Dentists may also be able to participate in study clubs which are organized groups of dental health professionals who work with a mentor.
The requirements for dentists, both general and specialized, are speciﬁc to their licencing practice. However, there are guidelines outlining the necessary hours that dentists must spend on continuing their education each year or cycle. Going beyond these requirements is beneﬁcial not only to dentists themselves but also to their patients and clinical practice. Clinicians may also generate CE points by attending dental conferences such as the Annual Spring Meeting (ASM) in Ontario, paciﬁc dental conferences in Vancouver, JDIQ in Quebec and many others.
Although newly graduated dentists may have a lot on their minds as they make the transition into daily clinical practice, they must remain invested in continuing education. The knowledge developed through continuing education will impact every dentist’s professional career and will undeniably improve patient care. To conclude, participating in quality continuing education programs will yield high rates of return for all newly graduated dentists and will beneﬁt them for the remainder of their careers.
About The Author
Dr. Mark H. E. 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.