Back to Basics
April 14, 2017
By Dr. Steven Lin, DMD
In Scott's last post on the Academy of Osseointegration meeting, he mentioned that digital dentistry and digital workflow are the way of the future. There is no denying that advances have not only enabled a complete transformation of patient care, but they have also have begun to impact the future of clinical education and clinical standards.
I went through training alongside Scott at the University of Pennsylvania, where the next research paper in CAD/CAM always seemed just around the corner while instructors constantly reminded us to not forget the basics of time-tested techniques and materials. Since graduating, I've constantly pondered on the nature of this dualism.
Dentistry is in many ways like making sushi. If you've seen the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi - an ultimate lesson in discipline - you may recall how the master sushi chef Jiro trains his disciples through repetition. It isn't ever enough to know something, or even be great at something - you get to be a sushi chef when you become perfect at it. One of Jiro's disciples in the documentary mentions that he had to make his tamagoyaki egg sushi two hundred times before Jiro would graduate him.
Digital dentistry should not be seen as an alternative to "traditional" dentistry. There are so many aspects in which time-tested concepts - such as vinylpolysiloxane (VPS) impressions for dentures or retention and resistance form for direct restorations - serve their uses. When working on public health missions, when cost of access to care is too high for patients to afford, or when educating the next generation of dentists in mechanical and scientific foundations of dentistry, the basics are as crucial as ever.
Two years ago, before donning my graduation cap, I wanted to do everything digital. But after observing and performing dentistry everywhere from Botswana, Africa to Barrow, Alaska, and seeing the impact of oral health care in America's largest cities and its remotest settlements, I've given dental basics a second chance.
I'll be the first to admit that I did not appreciate the importance of needing to place 200 anterior composites when I first started my career. I was itching to complete veneers or crowns, since those are the "cool" procedures. But I continued to place composites, and after 200 composites, I got really good at it. Reproducing the same thing 200 times, however "unsexy" repetition may be, reminded me that for every one of us who dreamed of being Olympic sprinters, we ought to learn to walk well before running.
There is a reason for the countless varieties of dental merchandise. We belong to an industry of innovations in materials and techniques, and possess an infinitely customizable armamentarium of tools and gadgets. Our role as dental professionals is to embrace our education and use our hands to perform what our minds know. In order to do that, we must never forget to go back to the basics.
Photo credit- Kenneth Peters.
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