Tadpoles? Yes! Dr. Stacey Simmons explains how to seize the moments in your dental practice when you can teach staff members a lifetime of knowledge that will improve their clinical skills in one minute—without missing a beat. Teaching opportunities are endless. Dentists are teachers and students every day, and as the dental profession continues to advance, clinical skills must improve also.
Did I just say tadpoles? Surely, I jest!
I have a new dental assistant here in my office, and one day she had just taken some dental radiographs for a new-patient exam. I noted on the bitewing of No. 21 that there were some pulp stones in the coronal portion of the tooth, so I asked her, "Amy, do you know what this is?"
She looked at it for a second and said, "They look like tadpoles!" I couldn’t stop laughing! After the comedy wore off, and I was thinking about things, it made me realize that there are so many TEACHING OPPORTUNITIES at my fingertips that, if taken advantage of, they would allow my staff and me to better serve the number one individuals in our dental practice: our patients!
For example, earlier that same day, a patient had come in for a limited exam with the chief complaint of pain on the lower right side. This same assistant had said to me: "I don’t see anything except maybe a dark spot by the tip of the premolar on the periapical."
Abscess was the first thing that came to my mind, but when I looked at the x-ray I immediately saw what she was referring to, and I knew right away it was the mental foramen. I stopped for a brief minute and pulled out the good ol’ reliable Netter (you remember...the best human anatomy book ever!) and proceeded to show her what and where this anatomical spot is and why it is often misdiagnosed for a pathological lesion.
One minute equals a lifetime of knowledge that helps Amy be a better and more comprehensive dental assistant.
I am constantly looking for ways to improve my own clinical skills, which is why I enjoy social media forums and similar platforms that generate discussion on issues (whether simple or complicated) that in one way, shape, or form challenge us all. It may be something as easy as isolating deep margins on a filling to managing a tongue that wants to have an arm wrestling contest. These simple, yet oh-so-effective, tidbits can make everyone’s experiences much more enjoyable.
The teaching opportunities we have are never-ending—as is our capacity to learn. We are teachers and students all day, every day, and in this ever-evolving dental profession, there is always room for improvement in our clinical skills.
Stacey L. Simmons, DDS
Editorial Director, Breakthrough Clinical