Thinking of the future – time to specialise?News
Posted by: The Probe 7th May 2020
For all those who found their calling at dental school, there are others who want to wait until they’ve gained several years of clinical experience before planning their future. If you fall into the latter category, this future could include entering one of the 13 different specialities listed by the GDC.
If expectations of greater skill mix in general practices come to pass – with dental hygienists and dental therapists delivering preventive-maintenance appointments – dentists will be performing more speciality work that goes beyond a scale and polish. Now is a good time to think about specialising, because advocates for skill mix will point out how the dental workforce is already being reshaped by unstoppable forces. These include the challenge of treating more elderly patients, the shift towards prevention and patients with higher expectations than ever.
So, specialist training could be professionally advantageous and personally fulfilling in this evolving and exciting industry. Up-skilling is a very modern trend, in order to do more, offer more and to enjoy the challenge of solving complex cases. In daily practice, many dentists miss being a scientist. Becoming a dental specialist will re-connect you to cutting-edge science, via the innovative techniques, materials and technologies required to deliver treatment.
Endodontists, the saviours of teeth
Patients are now appreciating the value of maintaining good oral health. They would also prefer to retain their own teeth for as long as possible – and that’s despite the amazing advances in implantology. In essence, this is the job of an endodontic specialist – to find and deliver the solution that returns a tooth to health, prevents extraction and allows the patient to keep it. Diagnosis is a key part of the role because not all oral pain, even chronic pain, will be due to pulpal disease. The general dentist should always refer to a specialist, not only if they suspect a need for root canal therapy, but if they cannot confidently find the source of pain. The endodontist will use their knowledge, clinical experience and skills to diagnose the problem and deliver root canal treatment, if that’s their conclusion.
Could you be an endodontist? Manual dexterity, a love of problem solving, patience – these are key qualities an endodontic specialist must have. Precision and an eye for detail go without saying, as well as the ability to stay calm under pressure. Good record keeping (due to the ever-present threat of litigation) and complete confidence in your skills and knowledge are also essential.
An endodontist also needs to be a great communicator, with the ability to reassure nervous patients about the benefits, to them, of consenting to treatment. Patients don’t like to hear the words ‘root canal’ but if it’s performed by a specialist, the statistics are biased towards a successful, stable result.[i] An endodontic specialist, because they see a lot of referrals, will often only have one appointment to make their case to a patient, and that is not long to create a rapport. This means showing empathy with dental anxiety and any of their concerns about cost, while being able to reassure them why (often immediate) treatment is necessary.
Never stop learning
It’s no secret that undertaking a specialist endodontic programme is a hard work. Once completed, ongoing learning is essential; endodontists must want to keep on learning, upgrading their skills and looking for ways to do thing even better. Knowledge of the latest techniques, equipment and materials is essential because, being a specialist, people will always want to hear what you have to say. Teaching and lecturing as well as a willingness to adapt to the latest innovations are key, because a brilliant endodontic specialist will always be at the cutting edge of science. They will only want to use the best, too. The treatment sequence for root canal therapy may be structured, but every case is unique, so an endodontist will be committed to using the finest tools for a successful result first time. COLTENE’s HyFlex™ EDM files are designed to offer specialists flexibility, reliability and value in one system, in order that canal preparation be easy and efficient even if canals are narrow and curved. Highly fracture resistant, HyFlex™ EDM files follow the anatomy of the canal, which can reduce the risk of ledging, transportation and perforation.
With every case presenting its own challenges, moving into the speciality field of endodontics will be constantly satisfying. With skilled technique and by using quality equipment, tools and materials, you will always be rewarded with a good, stable final result that gets your patient out of pain. With greater skill mix creating more opportunities for dental specialists, patients who choose to have root-canal therapy delivered by an endodontist are choosing treatment from a diagnostic expert, who is a true master at saving teeth.
Author: Mark Allen, General Manager at COLTENE
[i] British Endodontic Society, further information. Link: https://britishendodonticsociety.org.uk/patient-public/further-information/ (accessed January 2020).
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