Resolving to Improve Dental Skills with CE and a Touch of Humility

  • by Zeynep Barakat, DMD, FAGD
  • Mar 15, 2019, 14:22 PM
When Rafael Nadal, a professional tennis player ranked second in the world, lost the final match in the Australian Open in January, his runner-up speech included the phrase, “I will keep working hard to be a better player.” This stuck with me because, with the start of the new year came new goals, and I’m sure many of us made resolutions that are either well underway or have been swept under the carpet.

While I refrain from making resolutions, I began the year by planning my wish list of meetings and continuing education (CE) courses that I would like to attend. I also made sure I was implementing lessons learned from last year’s CE courses and changing some of the ways I do my procedures. So far, I’m doing well with my pledges, but that’s where it gets interesting. Was there a true need to change how I was doing my fillings or crowns? Not really. But some of us have the desire to do what we do every day better than we did it the day before. That doesn’t mean that our dentistry is not good, but, for me, it did mean that someone was teaching me a better way to do them, and it resulted in more superior restorations. Why wouldn’t we all subscribe to that rationale? I don’t think professionals attain high standards with “this will do” thinking.

Constantly improving one’s skills requires putting one’s ego aside and a sincere passion to continually strive for perfection. It’s the striving that is important. I found that by simply reaching for perfection, we get closer to it. Naturally, in order to play an instrument proficiently, we need to practice on the instrument. In order to get flawless endodontic seals, textbook implant placements and impeccable shade matching, we need to do them repeatedly. But, to look back on our work and still find ways to either improve or make procedures easier takes a genuine desire to be better as well as a touch of humility. That is the essence of continuing education. It’s not meant to make us belittle the quality of our daily work, but rather it plays a role in helping us achieve better outcomes or the same outcome in a more efficient way.

So I went back and reviewed a restorative case of mine that turned out nicely both for the patient and me. Why was I still seeing flaws in the case? Wasn’t it perfect enough? I’m no Rafael Nadal, but I did believe that I could still do better, and, with hard work and CE, I could reduce those flaws next time.
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