Adapting to a Changing Environment
Adaptation is written into nature. Our environment, profession, and personal lives are ever-changing. To ensure our vitality, we are constantly adapting; reacting to external surroundings and being affected and molded by the things happening around us. Adaptation occurs in nature without forethought and without resistance. Yet, for us as human beings, change represents the unknown—something we are unaccustomed to and therefore often wary of undertaking. From a scientific standpoint, we understand that evolution does not occur without the necessary adaptations and alterations that organisms undergo throughout the generations. It is precisely those changes in nature, such as an animal's hibernation or migration patterns, that allow a species to evolve and ultimately survive in this ever-changing world.
Human beings respond to changes both physically and socially. Our physiology may be altered by variables such as climate, geography, and time. Our bodies adapt to protect us from diseases and allow us to consume different nutrients that are available in our specific environments.
In dentistry, we spend the majority of our time trying to mold our restorative process to the environment. Facial features, lip dynamics, and functional concerns are all part of our daily lives. Yet, in some cases, our work survives or fails based more on the adaptive process of the patient than on our technical ability or intelligence. Our restorative efforts are being employed on a living and breathing individual, so our restorations must stand ready to live and breathe with our patient. The oral environment is not constant; condylar housings change, bone resorbs, and teeth move. Sometimes it feels as if we are chasing a moving target. While some patients go through major prosthetic work and never seem to struggle, others can get minor adjustments and have difficulty adapting to the changes. We must recognize the inevitable changes and reactions that occur in the patient's day-to-day life. In the short term, our restorations can mean the difference in the immediate health and esthetics of our patients. Our goals should also be long-term, and so we must remain aware of the dynamic environment in which our work must survive. This perspective may be a change from the usual way we view our work. But, just like animals in nature, we survive in our profession through our willingness to change and adapt.
Peter Pizzi, MDT, CDT