Clifford J. Ruddle, DDS, discusses the evolution of education.
Q: How have endodontic education and the way we learn evolved?
A: Over the past 3 decades, there have been remarkable advances in endodontic technologies, which affect the way we think; learn; and, ultimately, perform. The good news is technology has created a sea change in clinical possibility. The bad news is all this change has widened the clinical gap between current performance vs achieving one’s full potential. To close this gap, clinical endodontic education is evolving at vastly different levels of focus, quality, and transferability to better serve an ever-growing community of dentists who want to learn, improve results, and have fun.
Following dental school, education typically evolves by reading journals; attending state, regional or national dental meetings; or joining multidisciplinary study clubs. Participation workshop courses are popular and have technologically evolved, allowing dentists to learn new skills by watching live demonstrations and getting hands-on training. However, the fact is that big meeting attendance is trending downward due to the growing availability of relevant clinical information online and increasing travel-related costs.
Q: Where do dentists get their information now in 2019? What are the platforms?
A: The Internet has become a wildly popular way to conveniently access (oftentimes for free) international endodontic education. Specifically, online endodontic education takes on a variety of forms, such as watching webinars, watching videos on YouTube, corresponding electronically with distant mentors, or reviewing the latest research or clinical information—immediately accessible, thanks to online forums. Today, virtually any dentist can go online for readily available educational tips before his or her next clinical procedure. Furthermore, hardcopy educational DVDs that used to be sold and mailed can now be watched through online streaming. What I am noticing as a teacher is that many international dentists are increasingly skipping much of what traditional learning has to offer and pose their questions through email, text messages, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, or private forums, where anything and everything can be debated. Additionally, dentists can post treatment results instantly on Instagram or Facebook, for example, and receive more feedback than they may have even wanted. All of these various platforms are replacing our traditional way of learning.
Q: Do dentists need to be more skeptical of information now than in the past?
A: Absolutely, because online endodontic education is much like the Wild, Wild West. Yet, with a little diligence, online education can be found that is representative of some of the best information that endodontics has to offer. At its worst, online education features massive amounts of misinformation, misconceptions, and perpetuated endodontic myths. Additionally, there is very little regulation as to copyright, piracy, or truth. Furthermore, some Internet courses masquerade as education by presenting live-patient demonstrations that show non-transferable techniques, awkward-to-use technologies, and solutions to nonexistent problems.
The challenge for so many dentists is whom can they trust to help them get the educational experience that meets or, better, exceeds their expectations. The Internet allows anyone to present oneself as an expert, when, in fact, this so-called expert may demonstrate a lack of knowledge, experience, and/or abilities. These types of courses do not meet the expectations of colleagues who want to learn, improve their clinical skills, and increase the quality of care they provide their patients. True education empowers students, is readily transferrable, and celebrates the free exchange of ideas and knowledge.
Q: How has the Internet and online information impacted dentistry?
A: The Internet has made the world smaller, connecting us in ways unimaginable just a few years ago, and has accelerated access to information. All the available endodontic information and education have served to rapidly grow endodontic knowledge worldwide, especially in developing countries. The Internet has and will continue to disseminate the best that already exists, aiding the integration of the most proven technologies into everyday practice. The ability to access virtually all information is now at our fingertips, at home, and frequently at no cost. All of this is serving to forever change the endodontic educational model.
One unintended consequence of the Internet is the fact that many patients surf the web in an effort to self-diagnose and research the treatment that they believe is relevant to their conditions. Some patients present for consultation, arriving as multidisciplinary “experts.” At times, patients question the risks of leaving residual bacteria in endodontically treated teeth or request a certain technology be utilized in their treatment that may, or may not be, in their best interest. This dynamic requires the clinician to alleviate concerns, in a non-confrontational manner, and separate fact from fiction related to the effects of various procedures.
Q: What new opportunities will transform endodontic education and be game changers?
A: This summer, I and my team at Advanced Endodontics will be launching The Ruddle Show, designed to educate, inspire, and entertain. The show will cover a variety of topics, including all aspects of conventional treatment, as well as nonsurgical and surgical retreatment. Specific episodes will highlight new technologies, while others will explore the most heated controversies of our day. The Ruddle Show will feature leading researchers, clinicians, and educators and further focus on unlocking the secrets of inventors, innovators, and titans of industry. This show will also look at the business of endodontics, with emphasis on leadership, ownership, management, and marketing.
This highly relevant, focused, and timely content will be available on YouTube and other platforms (theruddleshow.com). You will be able to access this freeway of information anywhere, anytime, and on any device. My intention is to help dentists create success by design through health, family, and vision. G.V. Black, the father of American dentistry, implored, “No professional has any right other than to be a continuous student for life.” The Ruddle Show will not only entertain you, but also improve performance, inspire you to move ever closer toward your full potential, and make endodontics fun. Stay tuned!
Dr. Ruddle is founder and director of Advanced Endodontics, an international educational source, in Santa Barbara, Calif. Additionally, he maintains teaching positions at various dental schools. He can be reached at endoruddle.com.