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The Importance of Continuing Education in Dentistry

Advances in technology and information are constantly putting dentists at risk of falling behind if they don’t keep up. As a dentist, these constant changes challenge you to learn new ways to improve patient care.


Advances in technology and information are constantly putting dentists at risk of falling behind if they don’t keep up. As a dentist, these constant changes challenge you to learn new ways to improve patient care.

Staying at your current level without new learning is simply not an option any longer. With advanced technologies like dental lasers, improvements in laser technology and its application for every day clinical care, dentists who fail to keep pace may mean you’re actually falling behind in the quality of care you provide.

The Constant Need to Keep Up

I had to buy a new smartphone last week.

My old smartphone was only two years old, and it still made calls – so why invest the time and money in keeping up? Because those who rely on me expect the level of service that only the new phone can provide. The capabilities of the newest phones and what they can do have become the expected norm.

My phone still made calls, but people had begun to comment on the fact that the quality of the connection wasn’t as clear as most of their other calls. Microsoft Outlook and several of the other apps no longer worked as well (or at all) because they had reconfigured their offerings to work on the newest phones – not the older ones. People were complaining when I wasn’t returning emails or able to access contact info.

So now I enjoy all the benefits my new phone provides me. I’m happier. Those who depend on me are happier. The quality of the work I do with my smartphone is better. It was a win/win, and a profitable investment of my time and money.

Of course, along with the new technology came the need to learn new things so that I can get the most out of it.

It Starts with Knowledge

And so it is in dentistry as well.

Your keeping up doesn’t always have to require upgrades in hardware. In fact, most often, your efforts to keep pace with change and improve your practice will come in the form of increasing your knowledge, not necessarily your instruments and other equipment. New clinical uses and best practices advance, even when the underlying technology doesn’t. That’s why continuing education is so important.

Put your learning to use. Share your new knowledge with your staff. Tell your patients about your commitment to continuing education. Keeping up with change and learning new practice methods leads to personal and practice growth. A commitment to continuing education is your best opportunity to not just keep pace, but to grow.

The Many Forms of Learning

Whether it is certification courses, training workshops, seminars, conferences, organization memberships, higher education graduate courses, discussion sessions, or mastermind groups, continuing education opportunities are plentiful.

Web-based lectures and e-learning opportunities vary from online courses to chat rooms and interactive educational forums. Dentists now have numerous opportunities to keep up and provide the best care for their patients.

Certification programs, typically designed by associations, provide a platform for demonstrating proficiency in a particular subject matter.

Requirements for mandatory CE differ from state to state. Whether or not continuing education or certification courses in lasers is a state mandated licensing requirement (check with your State Board of Dental Examiners ), it benefits you as a practitioner to consistently participate in workshops and lecture seminars provided by independent organizations like the Academy of Laser Dentistry’s (ALD) programs.

Typical of most associations for instance, the ALD’s certification program is voluntary. ALD provides Introductory Courses, a Basic Competency course in lasers (6 hours), and Standard Proficiency Certification Courses (12 hours) and advanced proficiency programs for those practitioners who want to demonstrate their proficiency with dental laser use.

Many state meetings offer continuing education on lasers during their annual sessions. Be sure to check your sources and participate in a variety of different workshops. Manufacturers sometimes offer training courses with the purchase of a dental laser. Always ask questions about the education available. Many laser manufacturers have training programs to support their customers, and it is important to participate in these programs to become familiar with the proper mechanisms of the device you will use every day.

Annual conferences are one of the most effective forms of learning something today that you can immediately put to use to improve your practice the first day back to your office. Conferences like ALD 2016 provide the chance to listen to leading experts share the latest best practices, participate in hands-on workshop sessions, participate in panel discussions, and view the latest technologies.

The type of continued education you seek should reflect your professional and practice goals.

Training and Certification

Validation of your commitment to continued learning is sometimes a prerequisite to practicing (as in a state’s mandatory CE requirements), and always an asset.

For instance, to assure safe and efficacious use of lasers for the health and welfare of patients, ALD manages a certification program to demonstrate the understanding of safe laser use.

Introductory courses offer general information but do not assess understanding or proficiency. Standard Proficiency courses offer instruction with hands-on exercises and a clinical simulation proficiency examination.

It is recommended that a Standard Proficiency Course be satisfactorily completed before using lasers independently. This level of education has been defined as the educational standard. Advanced Proficiency represents your advanced knowledge and clinical experience with the dental laser.

Where to Start Your Continuing Education

Whatever your goals are, continuing education will play a big part in your professional and practice success.

A great way to start is to make a personal commitment to attend at least one major annual conference each year. Conferences provide the widest scope of opportunities within one setting to increase your personal growth.

If you do decide to make a conference (or conferences) the cornerstone of your continuing education efforts, it’s important to have a strategy in place beforehand to make sure you get everything out of your attendance that you can.

We’ve developed a guide to help you do just that. Download your free copy of 9 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Next Dental Conference.

If you’re a laser dentist or interested in discovering how lasers can improve your practice, there’s no better place to get all the support and knowledge you’ll need than at The Academy of Laser Dentistry 2016 Annual Conference in Orlando, FL this April. Find out more about how ALD 2016 can help in your professional growth here:

Whatever your chosen path to continued learning, make a personal commitment to getting on that road today, and making it a lifetime journey!

Gail Siminovsky CAE
[ ALD Executive Director ]
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