How to Choose Continuing Education: Part 2

  • by AGD Staff
  • Aug 29, 2022

While AGD often discusses how important continuing education (CE) is for dentists and the numerous CE options available, it doesn’t always discuss how to choose among these courses. What strategy should dentists employ when selecting CE? How much weight should they give to provider, company, cost and format? This month, AGD Impact asked five dentists about their views on the best way to select CE for various learning needs. 

Last week, This Week at AGD featured two of these perspectives; below are the other three.

Three Ways to Make CE Work for You
By Roger P. Levin, DDS

CE is an essential part of dentistry that should be viewed as enhancing both the clinical and business sides of the practice. Strategizing a CE plan each year will allow dentists to identify the key areas for improving their personal knowledge and skills and those of their dental team, all with the goal of enhancing the practice and patient care. 

Planning allows you to accomplish important goals more effectively with much greater odds of successful completion. Regarding CE, sit down each December and consider the following questions: 

  • Do you want to improve esthetic dentistry? 
  • Do you want to achieve a fellowship or mastership in an organization? 
  • Do you want to attend a certain clinical institute to improve quality of care? 
  • Is there a technology available that will make clinical care better or the practice run more smoothly? 

These are just a few of the questions you should consider as you think about your annual CE plan. For each of your goals, determine what CE your team will require clinically or administratively to support those goals. Then you can begin to determine which courses, seminars, webinars or other opportunities will allow the practice to reach your goals and achieve the desired results. Map out your CE plan and identify exactly which educational formats and modalities will be accessed to achieve it. 

Three Ways to Maximize Your CE 

When identifying and selecting potential CE programs based on your annual plan, several questions should be answered. These include: 

1. What is the right CE format for your practice needs? CE comes in a variety of formats, from live multiday meetings to one-hour webinars to self-study articles. Don’t make the mistake of simply taking the easiest path to get credits instead of truly identifying the best format to learn important information and improve practice performance. You must also keep in mind that different educational needs benefit from certain formats. Clinical CE is frequently best undertaken in a hands-on course, while practice management CE can be accomplished via remote lectures. Take the time to think through which format is best suited for your budget and your team members’ circumstances. 

2. What is the return on investment (ROI)? It is not necessary to achieve an ROI from every CE program. There are times when our obligation to improve clinical skills and offer the best possible care to patients may not have a direct impact on practice production or profitability. However, your dental practice is a business, and there are many CE opportunities that can have a direct positive financial impact. An example would be the addition of a new service to the practice that is mastered through CE. Identify areas in your business plan where CE is required or desirable for enabling your practice and your team to grow. Align your annual CE plan with your business plan and select courses that will have the most impact on achieving your business goals. This approach will provide an excellent ROI of both time and money. 

3. How can you utilize CE to increase practice speed and efficiency? Many dentists don’t consider this factor in their selection of CE programs. In business, speed counts. The faster a practice can complete procedures (comfortably and without rushing), the more the patients who can receive the excellent clinical quality you and your practice provide. While not every CE program is designed to deliver efficiency improvements, the programs that do should be strategically included in your CE plan. Patients want excellent clinical care, and they prefer to receive it in a well-run, highly efficient, low-stress environment. And it is no coincidence that dental team members prefer to work in this same type of environment. The right CE will elevate your practice to that level. 


CE creates the opportunity to improve the doctor, team and overall practice performance. It should not be viewed simply as “a box to check” in order to accommodate licensure requirements. The time, effort and expense of CE can be put to wonderful use to improve practice quality, clinical skills, patient care, staff speed and doctor satisfaction. Practices that follow these general principles will make continual progress year after year, creating a high-quality and efficient environment. As a final note, CE also works to keep dentists interested, stimulated and excited about their profession. Doing the same thing day after day eventually becomes less exciting, but increased education creates a new level of excitement that will keep practicing dentistry fun and fulfilling throughout a career. 

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the founder and CEO of Levin Group, a dental management consulting firm.

Steps to Take on Your Lifelong Learning Journey
By James R. Keenan, DDS, MS, MAGD, FICOI, FABSCD

I was fortunate to have been an AGD member within the first month of my pre-doctoral training at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry, and then I continued membership as a resident at Peninsula Hospital Center, where my general practice residency director, Leonard Schiffman, DMD, promoted AGD Fellowship. My co-residents and I had an early introduction to the value of CE by attending seven lectures given by renowned speakers in dentistry who presented at the Peninsula Dental Society hosted by Schiffman. The downtime that I had while serving weekends on-call during my residency enabled me to complete self-instruction exercises, which, combined with my residency certificate and CE program attendance, allowed me to fulfill the required hours for Fellowship. Completing the required hours for AGD Fellowship provided me with a broad knowledge base. Subsequent pursuit of AGD Mastership enhanced this base and developed my clinical skills as well as established my interests and selection process for CE. 

Based on my own experience, I believe that it is fair to say that recent dental graduates would benefit most from CE programs in oral surgery, implantology, lasers, endodontics and cosmetic dentistry, as the exposure or depth of experience in these areas is minimal during pre-doctoral training. 

My lifelong learning journey has evolved over time in relation to the characteristics and needs of my dental patients in private practice and in my role as a clinical assistant professor in special care dentistry at NYU Dentistry. In general, the needs of my patients and students have served as guiding factors in my CE selection process. As general dentists, it is imperative that we remain current with the knowledge and skills associated with the dental treatments that our patients will be seeking. However, it is important to understand that a weekend program or a program of short duration may be insufficient to incorporate a new treatment into daily practice without a continued learning curve — whether it be less challenging/complex cases at the outset or the pursuit of additional training. 

Despite extensive experience in clinical practice, established dentists could benefit from periodic “refreshers” in infection control, risk management and medical emergency management. Additionally, as medical and pharmacological management of our patients change over time, it is important to keep up to date with the current practices that may impact our care. 

Although webinars are short in duration, offered at convenient times and have been a blessing to the profession during the COVID-19 pandemic, I much prefer in-person programs because they are more interactive and allow for comments and questions throughout the program. I do my best to pursue CE programs that are diverse across disciplines. Although I have had good experiences attending programs by well-known speakers on the lecture circuit, I am more inclined to select programs presented by speakers who are still current with dental literature, products and protocol development and who provide dental care to everyday patients like I do. 

While each licensing jurisdiction requires a set number of CE hours for relicensure, I am an advocate of pursuing CE as a professional responsibility, not as an obligation to fulfill a periodic requirement. I am grateful that AGD encourages and supports this philosophy by offering Fellowship, Mastership and the Lifelong Learning and Service Recognition to its members, which enhance the profession and benefit our patients. 

James R. Keenan, DDS, MS, MAGD, FICOI, FABSCD, is a clinical assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial pathology, radiology, and medicine at the NYU College of Dentistry. He is also a member of the AGD Dental Education Council.

AGD Has Your Back When It Comes to Education
By Hanna Lindskog, DDS, FAGD 

General dentists setting out on their journeys toward AGD Fellowship, Mastership or Lifelong Learning and Service Recognition (LLSR) can take many different paths before crossing the stage at the Convocation Ceremony. However, AGD provides valuable resources to make sure your path will lead you to Convocation while also providing enriching and valuable CE. 

The AGD Fellowship guidelines require attendance at courses approved by the AGD Program Approval for Continuing Education (PACE), intrastate program providers approved by AGD Constituent Academies or those approved by the ADA’s Continuing Education Recognition Program (CERP). While these guidelines may seem strict or restrictive at first glance, they help protect members by setting standards for quality CE. PACE-approved organizations are committed to delivering high-quality education that adheres to AGD’s rigorous and nationally recognized standards. Essentially, AGD has done the vetting work for you. It has your back when it comes to education. You can register for these courses with confidence that they will be applied toward your award progress and provide accurate and reliable information. Even if you are not on your journey to Fellowship, Mastership or LLSR, the PACE approval logo can give you peace of mind when registering for courses. 

With thousands of PACE-approved courses held yearly in a variety of formats, how do you choose which one is right for you? Virtual CE (both on-demand and live) has its benefits. It provides education in the comfort of your own home or office (and in your attire of choice). You also do not have the added costs of travel. However, there are some downsides to attending a virtual course. While some live virtual courses still offer the opportunity to ask questions, many online/on-demand courses do not. You lose the benefit of having your questions answered as well as the opportunity to learn from others’ questions. Furthermore, it is more difficult for the speaker to engage the audience and facilitate an interactive learning environment. 

The colleagues that you meet at in-person courses have the potential to become mentors and/or lifelong friends. I have found some of the most valuable aspects of in-person courses to be the fellowship and potential mentorship opportunities. When you strive to achieve your AGD Fellowship, you are also very likely to find fellowship among like-minded dentists. Personally, I have experienced the positive impact of fellowship at many AGD courses, including those at my school’s AGD student chapter, Texas AGD constituency and the AGD scientific session. These courses are essentially “two-for-one” events because they provide valuable CE as well as mentorship/fellowship opportunities. You cannot put a price on this benefit, and yet it is something that AGD courses and the AGD environment offer so naturally. 

Ultimately, the CE courses you select will shape your future and positively impact thousands of patients over your career. With AGD’s guidance, you have the opportunity and resources to develop your career in any direction you want to take it. 

Hanna Lindskog, DDS, FAGD, is chair of the AGD Dental Education Council.