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December 1st can signal a lot of different things to different people. My wife tends to go into present-shopping mode. As licensed and credentialed dental professionals, the first day of the last month of the year usually means at least a couple of us (ok, just me) are scouring emails, filing cabinets, and even under the car seat for certificates of attendance and completion of the various educational courses that were taken throughout the year.

Continuing Education (CE) Requirements

In case you weren't aware, let me be the one to tell you that every 12 months, each dental discipline must take a designated number of continuing education (CE) courses in order to maintain their license to practice. That makes sense, right. The course completions have to be submitted to our respective governing boards who ensure that all CE are 'approved' and not just some Mickey Mouse fluff courses like 'Yoga as Stress Management for Dental Providers' - although that might actually be a really good one for me.

dentists doing yoga poses in mickey mouse ears

Dentistry Is Constantly Evolving

I have been involved in dentistry since 2004 and cannot fathom doing things now the way we did them back then.

And not only that, but the 'front of house' has changed just as much since the days of pencil and spiral bound appointment books or those space-sucking paper charts with the x-rays that always fell out whenever you picked them up.

dental office technology with surfct
Keeping up with computers and technology.

Obviously, the education Dr. Lake and I got in dental school provided us with the foundational knowledge we needed for a career in dentistry, but we both feel very strongly about committing to that investment in every stage of our professional lives.

Even the evolving business side of running a practice has meant changes to computers, technology and the way insurance claims are submitted, payments are made, and appointments confirmed.

This is all mostly for the better, although the current state of the dental insurance minefield has created another layer guaranteeing Diane's job security.

Lifelong Learners

In the State of Maine, the Dental Licensing Board requires all professionals to maintain their CPR certification.

A dentist must also have a minimum of 40 credit hours, a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) a minimum of 20 credit hours, and an Expanded Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA) 50 credit hours. There are currently no state mandated requirements for non-clinical personnel working in a dental office.

Being the overachieving geeks that we are, we kicked 2017 off with a two-day training for the entire team courtesy of Jameson Management.

Drews Dental Services team learning after hours
Our group of over-achieving geeks.

This gave us the opportunity to hone our verbal skills and dialogue between the clinical and business teams, which translates into better communication with patients. We also focused on perfecting our treatment case presentation verbiage (sometimes it's good to be reminded that dental lingo can be confusing for those who don't 'speak' it every day).

The entire clinical team road-tripped down to Boston for New England's biggest dental extravaganza, Yankee Dental Congress in January. Mindy, Karey and Angie all checked off, 'Lumps & Bumps in the Mouth,' 'Real World Occlusion,' and 'Updates in Pharmacology.'

Photos from some of our 2017 continued education experiences.
Photos from some of our 2017 continuing education courses.

I attended a pretty cool lecture on 'How Orthodontics Can Combat Periodontal Disease' and also took in 'Cosmetic Tooth Whitening,' 'Modern Endodontics,' and 'Suturing Techniques.' Dr. Lake became an expert on 'Implants and the Endentulous Patient,' 'Surgical Extractions,' 'HPV & Oral Cancer,' and 'Vertical Compaction Technique.'

Investing In Technology

2017 has definitely been the year of investing in technology so that we can improve and increase the kinds of services we offer to patients. I made the decision to incorporate 3D digital software in order to expand our in-house lab, allowing us to have more creative control over restorations, and speed up delivery time.

model in the 3D printer
This is a model in our 3D printer

Now obviously, learning how to use scanners, 3D printers and such is a little more complicated than reading the directions on how to program an iPhone, so the majority of the clinical staff had to spend some time in the basement this summer learning what to do with all of the new equipment.

Esthetic Professionals visited us in Maine so they could demonstrate, 'How to Use a Digital Scanner to Fabricate Same Day Crowns,' followed in quick succession by the lovely people at Ahmann Girrbach who provided an intensive training on the new Ceramill.

ceramill
Our Ceramill lets us create restorations in-office, in a matter of minutes.

Matt has expanded his job description from an Expanded Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA) to include 'Head Honcho of the in-house Lab.'

He had an extremely busy summer between taking on-line learning modules, 'How to Incorporate 3D Technology into the Dental office,' and attending weekend courses through Great Lakes Orthodontics on 'How to Fabricate Bruxism Splints' and Ivoclar's 'Smile Design; How to Properly Fabricate a Cosmetic Restoration.'

Ivoclar Vivadent street sign
Matt visited the mother ship to hone his skills to fabricate crowns and bridges.

Let's just say he is the official Captain of the Crown-Making Ship.

Our business team was also kept occupied expanding their knowledge base throughout the year. Northeast Delta Dental  walked both our hygiene department and front of house through the Health through Oral Wellness (HOW) Caries Risk Assessment. What this means for you is that it helps to unlock more of the covered benefits through your dental plan which can include four (count them, FOUR) preventive cleanings a year and a fluoride varnish treatment (typically only covered for the 18 and under crowd).

We sent two members of the business team to the American Association of Dental Office Managers national conference in September, where they attended lectures ranging from how to navigate the insurance maze, to improving a patient's experience, and new ways to implement an engaging on-line marketing strategy (seriously, have you checked out our Facebook page lately?!).

This past Fall, Dr. Lake and I headed to Washington D.C. for Spear Education's  'The Art of Treatment Planning and Case Presentation.' Dr. Lake also went down to the University of Florida to attend a course on her personal favorite, 'Endodontics for the General Dentist.' Her biggest challenge was figuring out how to transport human teeth through TSA and onto the plane.

dr lake and a giant implant model
Dr. Lake & the Giant Implant

She had a fairly implant heavy year between attending Bicon's'Bicon Dental Implants, Surgical & Prosthetic Principles' and 'Optimizing Dental Implant Treatment Outcomes with Digital Technology' by Oral Reconstruction Foundation.

During the Maine Dental Association's annual convention she attended 'Dental Care & Prenatal Patients.'

Our CE year was rounded off with 'Atraumatic Surgical Extractions, Flaps & Splitting Teeth' through Faran Media/Dentaltown  and 'Opiods; Overview, Uses & Management of Acute & Chronic Pain' by PennWell Corporation Dental Group.

Dr. Lake holding her CPR dummy
Dr. Lake and her dummy.

You can also rest assured that should I have a cardiac incident during the day, Dr. Lake has renewed her Adult & Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED certification through the American Red Cross so she can bring me back to life should the need arise.

My wife always likes to tell people when I am away for the weekend it's because, "he's learning how to be a better dentist." I can confirm that I definitely spent a lot of my weekends sitting in classrooms and lecture halls this year.

I attended a hand's on course on how to better use Cone Beam Software through Implant Educators 'In Office 3D Surgical Guide Creation.'

I headed to the University of Florida for a weekend of 'Managing Soft Tissue in the Esthetic Region' and 'Ridge Augmentation & Guided Bone Regeneration with Membranes.'

I got to shift gears into the practice management arena thanks to the American Dental Association's Executive Program in Dental Practice Management. And I also kept busy at the MDA's annual convention with 'Nutrition & Lifestyle Approaches to Chronic Inflammation' and 'The Christensen Bottom Line.'

When it comes to being a better dentist, there's not an actual finish line, because there's always something new to learn whether it's a technique or a piece of technology.

"The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity."

— Josh Waitzkin

Be More Than Average

I come from a family of educators, so even if CE wasn't mandated, I would still sign up for courses and seminars.

Peter Drews quote

Why does this matter?

Honestly, because furthering my knowledge base and developing new skills is the key to moving forward in modern dentistry, and it also demonstrates to our patients that they can trust we are providing them with sound, evidence based treatment.

Obviously, there is more to operating a dental practice than just clinical excellence. An efficiently run office ensures that patients have a positive experience with minimal wait times, fewer scheduling snafus and accurate communication with their insurance providers.

I recently read a statistic that the average dentist invests approximately $900 in CE every year. This is less than some cell phone plans! This means they are probably taking the minimum mandate, which is more than likely whatever is available locally. One of the problems with this approach is that it can leave the individual with a very generalized and piecemeal knowledge base and skill set. Sure, there are always core things every professional should stay current with; however, I have found that a more focused strategy is of more benefit to both the patient and the provider.

Dr. Drews reading a book
This is me catching up on some reading at Rails Restaurant in Lewiston, Maine.

Sheesh, with all this learning and stuff you'd think we'd be super smart by now. But while we can do beautiful root canals, place picture-perfect implants, and win the insurance war, one of my primary educational goals for Drews Dental in 2018 is for everyone to master how to turn the office alarm system off before the police are dispatched.

Yes, we actually had Dave from Building Controls come over during a lunch meeting recently so he could review how to punch in a code and deactivate the siren with us. So 2018 is already off to a great start.

Keep On Learning!

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