In the 1980s, an inventor, R. Buckminster Fuller, said that human knowledge had doubled every century. As of the year 2020, researchers estimate that our knowledge is now doubling at a rate of once every 12 hours (1). With an exponential increase in knowledge over a period of 40 years, and with a constant increase in population, it is quite clear that the amount of information will only increase and the demand for it will be necessary to succeed.
So, how does this apply to our wonderful profession of dentistry? As knowledge of the world increases, how does that demand for information affect us as dentists?
As a school dropout, I have always found learning difficult and extremely time consuming. By the time I got my general education degree at age 18, my test scores showed a fourth-grade reading level and a math score too low and embarrassing to list here. It took so much effort to get through these reading and learning challenges to get my college degree with a GPA of 3.75.
Learning continued to be an uphill battle for me as I went through my second year of dental school. With 27 credits and 19 classes in one semester, I thought I might never achieve my dream of becoming an adentist. If it took the average student three hours to prepare for an exam, I had to spend 30. During my third year of dentistry, I realized I had to survive in an ever-expanding world
of continuous information, I need to step up my game to increase my knowledge in order to best serve my patients. I started taking refresher courses in addition to the dental school course load. By the time I reached 100 hours in my fourth year, I had become addicted to learning and improving my skills because, as the old saying of Socrates goes, “the more I learn, the less I realize I know.”
Since graduating, I have often been asked by dental colleagues how many hours of in-service training we need to renew our license. While that answer will vary by state, here in Missouri we require 50 CE credits each renewal period. The ADAs Dental Licensing Dashboard provides a continuing education card and provides a high-level overview and details of the required CE.
Our knowledge has a direct impact on our patients and the care we provide. In the short time that I practiced, I have encountered many patients who have received sub-optimal care. It is not my job to judge clinicians or their work. We all make mistakes and there are reasons why we call this the “practice” of dentistry.
But as I continue to learn and constantly ask questions, I have met dental veterans who know nothing about new practices that could be vital to providing optimal care for our patients. Our patients spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on treatments to improve their oral health. If we don’t increase our knowledge, the public may lose trust in us as their suppliers.
While our state requirements for continuing education have been set, we must strive to exceed them by the time the license renewal hits. We must set high standards for ourselves in order to continue to serve our patients better. They will have more confidence in us and we will feel better about our work. Take it from a dropout… learning is difficult and time consuming! With three children, church responsibilities and an increasing number of clinical “tasks” that never end,
it’s hard to find the time and energy to do more. But after immersing myself in continuing education and completing an extra year in a general practice residency, I realized that my work has improved and that as a clinician I have more tools in my tool belt. It’s time to stand up and aim higher so we can leave this profession a little better than it was when we got into it.
dr. Trent Finley is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. His journey from a school dropout to a first-generation university graduate makes him uniquely inspiring as a new dentist. His love of dentistry came after serving a two-year Church mission in Honduras. dr. Finley has lived in many states such as New Mexico, Idaho, California, Utah, and Texas. He currently resides in Missouri, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in dentistry along with a one-year GPR at Truman Medical Center. dr. FinleyHis love of education made him stand out further by earning a certificate in Spanish for Healthcare Professionals and passing his fellowship exam for the Academy of General Dentistry. He and his wife have been married for 9 years and have 3 wonderful children. He enjoys spending his free time on his photography and videography projects, spending time with his family and exercising at the gym.
Editor’s Note: The Association advocates lifelong learning to increase and update the knowledge base of dentists, to foster continued professional growth and development, and to enhance professional skills. Dentists have a responsibility to pursue lifelong learning throughout their professional careers… The Association is committed to serving as a supportive resource to facilitate the process of lifelong learning and to assist members in identifying appropriate resources and mechanisms to fulfill this responsibility for the benefit of the public and the profession. For information about ADA’s continuing education offerings, visit: ADA.org/education/continuing-education† For information on CE courses offered by ADA CERP accredited providers, visit the: Continuing Education Provider Recognition Website†