As practicing restorative dentists, we have the opportunity to help patients in a variety of ways. At any given moment we may be called upon to restore a severely decayed tooth, intervene at the early onset of periodontal disease, enhance someone’s smile so he or she regains a sense of self-confidence, or perform a life-saving examination. As I’ve suggested before, today’s dentistry offers professionals financial rewards and personal satisfaction without limiting them into any one activity—unless of course it’s by choice.
This month’s cover feature about endodontics in the general practice is a good example of how specialized dental knowledge is and should be incorporated into the general practice in order to provide patients with quality care. Clearly, endodontic specialists are our valued and trusted colleagues as we care for our patients with complex and perhaps acute clinical needs. However, for a variety of reasons, the majority of endodontic treatments are being per-formed by readers like you.
Responsive Technique & Product Developments. When it comes to the technological and material advancements that have been introduced in order to simplify endodontic techniques and render them more predictable, the needs and wants of practitioners throughout the industry have been the driving forces. The body of peer-reviewed literature examining the safety and efficacy of various endodontic materials, equipment, and techniques is growing. As a result, general dentists looking for direction about what to use and under what circumstances have additional resources on which to base their decisions. However, personal testing in the hands of the dentist is often the best gauge of how well an endodontic approach will work for you.
Know When to Refer. The statistics indicate that general dentists need to perform endodontic procedures in order to help the profession meet the demands for these services. When patients present with endodontic problems, it’s usually their general dentist who sees them first. Before deciding how to proceed I agree with the American Association of Endodontists recommendation that if the difficulty of a case exceeds the experience and comfort of the clinician that he or she should consider referring it to an endodontist. What’s more, despite adequate training and skill, there will continue to be cases that are best handled by a referral to an endodontic specialist. Armed with a knowledge and understanding of what could be problematic and what’s possible, general dentists can make meaningful contributions to the endodontic treatments in those instances when they’re not performing them on their own.
Practice Makes Professionalism. Endodontic specialists carry that designation because their knowledge is differentiated by special training and, as a result, so are their clinical skills. It’s foolish and irresponsible to entertain the idea that attendance at a 1-day seminar or lecture is sufficient to develop the tactile experience necessary to undertake endodontic therapies on patients. Rather, developing the skills to provide endodontic care requires live, hands-on training from reputable instructors who advocate clinically proven techniques, materials, and equipment, as well as practicing what’s been learned.
On behalf of everyone at Inside Dentistry, thank you for reading. We hope you enjoy this issue and feel motivated to explore new ways to skillfully broaden the scope of the quality general dentistry that you provide to your patients. Please continue to share your thoughts and reflections about our editorial coverage with us by sending your letters and feedback to [email protected]. And, as always, thank you for your continued support.
With warm regards,
Gerard Kugel, DMD, MS, PhD
Associate Dean for Research
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine