By Eugene L. Antenucci, DDS, FAGD
Scientific medical advances, changes to the nation's demographics, and significant revolutions in product technology mean that today's dentists must continually reshape and reframe how they learn about new procedures and research. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging Statistics report of the Year 2000, there are 35 million Americans 65 years or older. This represents approximately 12 percent of the population. By 2030, the administration forecasts that this figure will double, and this will profoundly affect dentistry, according to AGD Impact. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that, due to the dental profession's increased focus on prevention, the demand for dental care will remain high through 2012.
To be able to treat an increased influx of patients, today's general dentists must be vigilant by staying abreast of the latest trends and procedures through professional development. This, in turn, helps to provide patients with optimal levels of patient care. Options abound to help dental professionals advance themselves and the profession.
One of the biggest challenges faced by general dentists today is posed by the sheer volume of changes in dentistry. Advancements in dental technology are occurring with lightening speed. For example, intraoral cameras were used by only a small percentage of practicing dentists 10 years ago. While it has taken a decade for that number to approach and exceed 60 percent, digital camera technology has transformed imaging in dentistry, creating a need for dentists to incorporate changes with technology that is relatively new in their practices.
Technological advancements include digital cameras, lasers, and CAD-CAM devices (such as Cerec3D), as well as computerization and data-management software. Advances in dental materials include adhesive technologies, composite resins, and metal-free ceramic systems. Each and every new device and material brings along with it alterations in technique. Dentists are faced with new ways of restoring the health, function, and beauty of the patients for whom they care. The rapid pace of change makes it imperative that, at a minimum, dentists stay up-to-date. The true challenge, however, goes beyond "keeping current." Dentists must incorporate necessary technologies and techniques so that the rapidly changing needs of patients can be met.
To this end, most states require dentists to annually take a number of continuing-education credit hours, with the intent that mandating education will assure that dentists keep abreast of changes and "fine-tune" their skills. In reality, these requirements are only the minimum. Organizations such as the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) are committed to enhancing the skill and competence of its member general dentists through a commitment to the pursuit of continuing dental education.
Through its PACE (Program Approval for Continuing Education) program, the AGD certifies education providers, assuring consistency and quality in programs it approves. Academy's Fellowship and Mastership programs serve as models for the pursuit of quality CE that is comprehensive in nature. For example, Mastership in the AGD requires 500 hours of participation credit that spans the entire spectrum of dental education. Masters of the AGD have in-depth hands-on training in areas that range from anatomy to orthodontic care.
The AGD Annual Meeting provides an excellent example of a venue where dentists can not only keep abreast of the changes in dental practice, but can go beyond that by assuring competency in all disciplines through its extensive and comprehensive offerings of participation courses. The 2004 Annual Meeting will be held in Anaheim, Calif., July 8-11. The exhibit hall will feature nearly 300 exhibitors displaying the latest products and technologies. The educational program features 30 participation courses that cover the full spectrum of dental disciplines, along with numerous lectures and capsule clinics given by the field's top clinicians.
Editor's Note: This is the third of a yearlong series of articles from the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). The AGD and Dental Equipment & Materials are working together throughout 2004 to bring you articles that will help you in your practice. For more information on the AGD, log on to www.agd.org or call (888) 243-3368.
Eugene Antenucci, DDS, serves as Chairman of the AGD's Council on Annual Meetings and International Conferences and also serves as a national spokesperson for the AGD. He has been an AGD delegate since 1992, and served as president for the NYSAGD in 1998. Dr. Antenucci has maintained a private practice in Huntington, N.Y., since 1987. Dr. Antenucci can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
Resource for CDE Program Providers
- Program Approval for Continuing Education (PACE), originally called the National Sponsor Approval Program (NSAP), was created in 1988 to assist members of the AGD and the dental profession in identifying and participating in quality continuing dental education. The program provider approval mechanism is an evaluation of the educational processes used in designing, planning, and implementing continuing education. Currently more than 720 program providers from organizations have been granted approval or accepted by the AGD's PACE Committee.
- Applications — Applications are accepted year-round. In order to complete the application, visit www.agd.org and print out published standards/criteria to use as a resource. Program providers are expected to adhere to these standards covering 14 different areas in order to obtain and then retain their approval status. It is recommended that applications be sent in three months before a provider's approval expires. For more information or to request an application via regular mail, contact PACE at (888) 243-3368, ext. 4335.
- Review Process — A committee of nine member-dentists meets to review applications from organizations that are national or international in scope, providing programs in more than one state/province or drawing a significant amount of participants from more than one state/province. Batches of applications are reviewed every two to three months, depending on the volume of applications received by the committee. Program providers approved by the PACE Committee are approved for credit hours towards the AGD's Fellowship (FAGD) and Mastership (MAGD) award programs.
To learn more about or register for the Anaheim Annual Meeting (July 8-11), visit www.agd.org/annual.meeting/anaheim/index.html or call (888) 243-3368, ext. 4339. Pre-registration for the annual meeting will end on June 9, 2004. After that date, a higher on-site registration fee will be applied. Dentists who are not AGD members and register for the Annual Meeting will receive free AGD membership for 2004. Call (888) 243-3368.