Ronald E. Goldstein, DDS, discusses the different mediums being used for postgraduate education in the profession.
Q: Dr. Goldstein, you have been mentoring and educating dentists for more than 60 years. What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen?
A: Video, video, and more video! In the 50s, if you wanted to learn the intricacies of how to do a cosmetic dental procedure, you would have to either visit a leading clinician’s dental office or attend one of the courses he or she was giving. Although those options still exist, “over-the-shoulder” videos, such as the ones that DentalXP (dentalxp.com) and other Internet teaching sites produce, allow you to learn in your own time in your own office or home.
Q: Are textbooks still relevant?
A: Absolutely! Although videos are a wonderful way of actually learning to do a procedure, books can and do act as a constant help. The most beneficial books should be either on or by your desk so you can review the steps and intricacies of a clinical procedure as well as the various treatment options available for virtually any patient problem that each day can present. For example, my first and second editions of Esthetics in Dentistry (Wiley) were considered aesthetics “bibles,” according to many clinicians. Most recently, I and Drs. Steve Chu, Ernesto Lee, and Christian Stappert, along with more than 80 contributors, have just completed a 2-volume, 1,500-page, updated third edition. Our goal was to present one comprehensive textbook that can really help the dentist in treatment planning and practicing aesthetic and/or cosmetic dentistry. However, there are many other books on aesthetic dentistry aimed at specific subjects, written by such excellent clinicians as Drs. Gerard Chiche, Galip Gürel, and Mauro Fradeani, and additional texts that should round out an excellent library of cosmetic and aesthetic dentistry.
Q: Some dental journals are seeing a dramatic loss of advertising, so where will this learning aid come in to play in the future?
A: Research and peer-reviewed journals will continue to be quite important to the learning curve of the dental profession. Evidence-based clinical and research articles will always be respected by both academicians and practicing dentists alike. However, one major problem is the backlog of dental research articles that take significant time to publish. For instance, multiple authors writing a particular article can cause significant time lags because of personal schedules and rotating the edited article to co-authors before it is considered “finished.” The final review process takes additional time and results in changes and updates before an article is approved. Once that step is completed, additional alterations, explanations, editing, and internal journal procedures from the journal publisher come into play. Finally, depending on how far backlogged the journal is with articles, it can be published. Nevertheless, the print-plus-digital process, if done correctly, is still the safest way of getting the most up-to-date information to the profession—or at least to those who have a subscription to the publication!
Q: Where do you see major dental meetings playing a role in the dentist’s ongoing education? And what else do you see in the future of dental education over the next decade?
A: Dental meetings, in both large and small venues, continue to serve an important role in continuing education, not only by updating the dentist on many different clinical and business-related subjects but also through person-to-person social interaction, which results in opportunities to learn from each other. In fact, this was the main reason Dr. Charlie Pincus and I established the very first academy devoted to aesthetic dentistry, the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry. Its initial success brought together leading clinicians in various specialties surrounding aesthetic and restorative dentistry, including everything from psychology to plastic surgery and all areas in between. That success went on to inspire the formation of other academies, such as the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and the European and Japanese Academies of Esthetic Dentistry, plus 33 more worldwide. So the benefit of both clinicians’ podium lectures and sharing information one-on-one becomes a definite advantage of attending almost any dental meeting. However, there already is pressure on smaller meetings, which rely on the support of dental manufacturers who, in many cases, are reducing their meeting attendance budgets. I predicted 2 decades ago that technology will become good enough and economically feasible enough to change the in-person clinician format. I showed holographic meetings and how personal they can be to a dental practice or small study club conference. One major dental company already demonstrated how it can be done in large-meeting format as well. But what about a group of clinicians sitting onstage in Japan but appearing via telepresence at the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting in Atlanta? You will think they are actually on the stage lecturing and interchanging ideas with a moderator when what you are seeing is a 3-D-like image. There are already multiple companies developing the technology. You can actually see a video of how this can take place now, but future costs will make it economically feasible for the technology to be utilized worldwide.
We are also seeing an influx of activity in artificial intelligence, which will have a profound effect in virtually every phase of our learning, from smart phones to advanced teaching and communication at all levels. What makes our dental profession so great is that these new technologies will help us become so much better at what we can do for our patients.
Dr. Goldstein is a professor at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University, an adjunct clinical professor at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine, and an adjunct professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He maintains a private practice in Atlanta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.