Getting Ahead: “Real-World” Technologies Give Dental School Grads an Edge
As another new class of dental students graduated this past summer, it prompted me to reflect back on how much I still had to learn after completing my dental education. We were all taught the basics. We learned how to be competent and safe beginner practitioners. We learned how to perform basic dental skills with basic dental tools. Yet out in the actual working world I learned very quickly how this knowledge did not go much further than the dental clinic door. Dental school only skimmed the surface of what state-of-the-art dentistry currently has to offer.
Most dental schools tend to have modern technology but don’t fully utilize it. As a recent dental school graduate I was lead to believe that I was the product of the latest and greatest dental school education and training available. I felt good about that. However, I was quite unaware of the real-world technologies being used in dentistry that I was not exposed to or trained in while in school. These included microscopes, 2-D and 3-D cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) imaging, CAD/CAM for everyday restorative treatment, and even lasers.
Upon joining my father in his practice I was pleased to be introduced to many of these newer technologies. Although faced with many student loans and trying to start a family, buy a home, and basically just get my career started, I cannot imagine practicing without these newer tools and techniques. It has set me apart from many other dentists practicing in my area and has given me confidence and a competitive edge in delivering comprehensive dental care to my patients. Being able to provide same-day appointment crowns and obtain better diagnostic information from digital x-rays, 3-D imaging, and intraoral cameras has helped my practice excel. In addition, use of both hard- and soft-tissue lasers has allowed me to be more conservative and to accurately treat dental decay and periodontal disease and perform endodontics. This, in turn, has made providing dentistry more fun and profitable. The practice is booming and I am flourishing thanks in large part to new technology.
New dentists need to be familiar with the technologies available today or they will spend the better part of their young careers trying to catch up to the real world. Continued education is a must if recent graduates are to compete and excel in the dental environment. My patients perceive me as not only having graduated from one of the finest dental schools in the nation, but also as more technologically advanced than other dentists and capable of offering treatments that others are not.
Investing in Technology
With all of the different products, choices, and expenses involved in practicing dentistry today, I’m often asked as a recent graduate what purchases in technology I would make, and in what order, to enhance patient care. I would first start by investing in quality magnification (intraoral cameras, loops, and/or microscopes). Simply put, if I can see better I can perform better. Next, I would acquire digital x-rays and/or 2-D/3-D cone beam imaging. This investment would allow me to better identify dental pathology and help me deliver clinically superior restorative therapy. I would then proceed to laser technology for both hard- and soft-tissue applications and use them with CAD/CAM imaging and software such as CEREC®.
Dentistry has come a long way—from belt-driven, to air, to electric handpieces, and now laser technologies. With the widespread use of the Internet and mass media, today’s patients are better informed and familiar with different treatment methods. These more educated consumers have grown to expect their dental professionals to use the most up-to-date technology. The public perceives the use of dental lasers as being advanced and “cutting edge.” Patients want alternatives to conventional methods. Methods that promote more tooth-sparing, less invasive, and less painful approaches with better outcomes are all possible with today’s advanced lasers when used with the correct parameters and delivery.
A Professional Obligation
Now is an exciting time for dentistry. As ambassadors to their patients, dentists have a moral, ethical, and professional obligation to provide the best, most current technologies available. To wait or “not change” is simply unacceptable. Whether you are a recent grad or a well-seasoned dentist, continued education and training will benefit both you and ultimately the patient, helping you utilize all the tools available to deliver the best dentistry possible.
So, what have I learned since graduating from dental school? Don’t let yesterday’s methods of treatment get in the way of using today’s advancements in technology.
About the Author
Roberto DiVito, DDS
Dr. DiVito is a graduate of the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, California. He joined the Arizona Center for Laser Dentistry in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2008, and is a Clinical Instructor at Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, A.T. Still University, Mesa, Arizona.