Basic With a Twist
We have all had rough patches when things just seem to not go our way. I am sure each of you has found yourself sitting at your bench past midnight trying to finish, repair, or adjust that case that is due in several hours (I found myself there just a few days before writing this). As frustrating as remembering all the basics of form and function can be in the moment, whether you are working in an analog or digital world, those basics are truly the key to pulling yourself through. Jason Mazda and Jennifer Vishnevsky's feature in this issue inspired me to think of all that I have learned over the years and how each piece of information I have acquired has hopefully made my toolbox deep enough to pull me through the difficult times.
Deviating slightly from the message in our feature piece, I am taking a walk down memory lane. During many long, distant, and quite expensive educational trips, despite spending days in courses or with a private mentor, I seemed only to take home one small useful nugget of information that became embedded in my thought process. Even though I learned many things on these trips, I sometimes joke that to really understand that distal lingual cusp position of the lower first molar required 4 days in Europe. In fairness to my mentors, they always taught so much more than just one technique or specific process, but one particular thought stuck usually stuck with me from each endeavor.
Still, the most valuable information often came from something much different and much less expected. On a trip to Europe several years ago, I arrived in the early morning at a mentor's laboratory and immediately realized that it was not a normal day. This mentor—usually calm, in control, and willing to stop for coffee breaks and conversation—was frantic from the minute I arrived. He rushed from room to room and back to his bench to finish a maxillary implant arch. Apparently, he needed to deliver it by 11 AM and was under the gun to complete it due to some complications. I sat back and tried not to get in the way. When a driver picked up the case at 11 AM for an 11:30 appointment, I alerted the technician that the mandibular arch was still on the bench. He told me, calmly, "Yes, I know. I need to finish that now while the dentist is inserting the maxillary arch, and then the driver will come back to pick this up." At that point, I thought it best to head to another esteemed colleague's laboratory nearby. My entry into this laboratory was usually greeted with a cappuccino, and we would sit in the yard and catch up on life. But not today. He was sitting at the bench and almost did not acknowledge my arrival as he worked feverishly. After several minutes, he pulled two veneers out of the case pan, threw them on the desk, and said, "These are [trash] … too much opacious dentin."
That Tuesday in Europe taught me more than almost any other single day of learning. Everyone, including two technicians I considered among the greatest in the world, struggles and has bad days or disappointing results. Last week, at 3 AM, while I was still cramming to finish up a case, that learning experience got me through. We are all human and life is not perfect. Yet, our ability to get up the next day and start again is what sets us apart, makes us better, and, perhaps more importantly, makes us stronger.
Peter Pizzi, MDT, CDT