Comprehensive Practice Stresses Education
Spear Education elevates dentists to optimize patient care
Peter M. Virga, DDS
In the opinion of Peter M. Virga, DDS, the group practice model is the future of dentistry. He just didn't know it yet when he joined Watertown Dental Health Group in Watertown, New York, immediately after graduating from dental school in 1988. "I stumbled upon this model," Virga says. "We have grown to a significant size, and I'm really proud of what we continue to accomplish."
What was a small group practice 30 years ago now has 14 chairs and a centralized sterilization station. There are two general dentists, a full-time orthodontist, and a part-time oral surgeon. And until his recent retirement, a full-time periodontist was part of the group.
"We have grown over time because we focus on our patients and try to be as complete as possible when treating them," Virga says. "With specialists in our group, we do not need to send patients to unfamiliar offices. That is, of course, helpful for our business, but it also goes a long way toward making patients feel more comfortable with their treatment."
Another important tenet at Watertown Dental Health Group is co-discovery. "We allow our patients to make their own decisions about dentistry," Virga says. "However, we educate them about their dental conditions because patients who are not educated about their needs do not have the knowledge to choose dentistry that is appropriate for them."
Educating patients requires educated dentists and staff. To help ensure this, Virga's team regularly includes educational presentations in staff meetings.
"When we graduate from dental school, we have just started our learning," Virga says. "Of course, we do not realize it at the time, but with experience, we see that there is much more to learn. Over time, ongoing education helps optimize outcomes in the office, but it also makes you feel good about yourself. You are growing with your profession instead of just doing the same things over and over again."
Virga acquires much of his own continuing education from Spear Education. Headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, Spear Education offers world-class instruction in clinical dentistry in various forms. On campus, dental professionals can learn in small group environments, training side by side with top faculty in state-of-the-art facilities. An extensive catalog of virtual seminars is available as well.
"The quality of the workshops and hands-on courses, as well as the caliber of the resident faculty, results in such amazing educational opportunities," Virga says.
Virga has been involved with Spear Education since its inception. Spear's former chairman and co-founder Imtiaz Manji has been a mentor to him ever since he first saw Manji lecture.
"He talked a lot about how time is more important than money, and how if you are the only person in the room, you will always be correct," Virga says. "Those were two concepts that really resonated with me."
One of Virga's favorite Spear Education experiences is the introductory course Facially Generated Treatment Planning, which he says helps set a foundation for how to run a practice, how to talk to patients, how to balance money and time, and how to think about treatment planning. The course also emphasizes the potential impact of photography.
Another course that made a lasting impression on Virga was Restorative Design with Robert Winter, DDS. "That course basically teaches you how to prepare teeth," he says. "After dental school, most dentists think that they know how to prepare teeth, but that course is a game-changer because it helps you to realize what you don't know. Winter is a master dentist and a master ceramist, so he approaches tooth preparation from both perspectives. He teaches you how to consider all of the angles before starting in order to achieve the best end results."
Virga says Spear's resident faculty includes like-minded people who focus on advancing the profession. He encourages anyone who is open to improving him- or herself to try Spear Education. That attitude is what helped him build his own group practice into what it is today.
"Acknowledging the concept of unconscious incompetence is so important," Virga says. "If a dentist is alone in a room with a patient, developing a treatment plan without collaboration, I can guarantee you that he or she will be 100% "correct" every time. However, you can't see what you don't know, you can't treat what you don't see, and most importantly, you don't know what you don't know. Overcoming that unconscious incompetence requires being vulnerable and accepting that others can help to make you better. Spear Education elevates everyone."
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