Grading Yourself

  • by Frank Conaway, DMD, MAGD
  • Jun 25, 2018, 08:00 AM

In my last blog post, “Serving the Profession of Dentistry,” I touched on state dental board cases.  This post started me thinking about providing quality care and trying to avoid a situation that would involve the board of dental examiners. After graduating dental school and completing a one-year dental residency, I opened my solo practice. Being an introvert, I tend to keep to myself, and I don’t normally seek out advice from colleagues, so I don’t have another dentist to consult about patient care. I don’t recommend that approach; it’s just my comfort zone. So how do I make sure my treatment is the best quality that can be provided, patients receive the most up-to-date care, and I stay off the radar of the board? Grading myself and continuing education are my solutions.  

I was a typical new dental school graduate who wanted to tackle the world and leave behind all those archaic dental school techniques. An example of this was using a wedge. I would place my band and see no gaps in the box, so I incorrectly believed a wedge was a wasted step, and it hurt patients when it was placed. I later discovered I was good at creating overhangs and that wedges were very necessary. 

The wedge issue prompted me to get back to using dental school techniques and including this additional step. I would grade all my preps. In my mind, I would evaluate my procedures as if an instructor was grading them. I tried to be very honest with myself, and it was not always easy. It is a real pain to finish a filling and realize it has an open contact and would have to be removed. It also teaches lessons on ways to prevent that outcome.

As a member of the state board of dental examiners, I participate in administering dental exams for candidates wanting to get their licenses. Part of that process requires that examiners are all calibrated to grade based on the same parameters. We take tests at each exam as part of this calibration, and now I use my knowledge of ideal preparations for an exam to judge my own dental treatment. It really puts my treatment under a microscope and holds me to a high standard.

It can be stressful expecting perfection from yourself, but I realize that I am not perfect, and I won’t always provide perfect treatment. We all “practice” dentistry because there is no perfecting the process. I would encourage all dentists at any level of practice to push themselves to provide the best possible care, take lots of CE and even grade yourself. The board of dental examiners never sees complaints about good care.

Dixie update: We have a full-blown “teenaged” dog in the house now. The house training is fairly consistent, but the chewing is ramping up. We have a bountiful supply of toys, but she manages to find shoes or furniture on a regular basis. As for being a teenager — she has a hard time listening and doesn’t want to come when called. Obedience school may be in the future.

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