Art Wednesdays: Becoming proficient at new skills

The opening session at the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry conference in Orlando literally, Made. Me. Cry. I was so blown away by the energy and the passion when the accredited members and fellows proudly strutted onto the stage; I knew I had to do whatever it took to earn accreditation. So far I’ve submitted and passed 2 out of the 5 required cases for accreditation.

Wehking 3

Dr. Wehking

As I work towards accreditation, I’ve become very excited about anterior composites. After taking several hands on courses, I was stumped when I tried to make sense of how I would make these restorations work financially in my practice. Let’s face it, dentistry is a business and we’ve got overhead. BUT for me, dentistry is also an art, and I’m constantly searching for ways to incorporate that artistic side of our profession.

I loooooove the artistry involved in controlling value— blending opaque and translucent composites to create a natural looking tooth. One of my superheroes, Dr. Frank Spear, speaks about his first years as a dentist. He talks about putting in time and investing extra energy in order to make your dentistry stand out.

Before and After of composite bonding on teeth #08, 07, and 09 (left to right).  Each restoration used 3-5 different shades and translucencies of composites and tints.

Before and After of composite bonding on teeth #08, 07, and 09 (left to right). Each restoration used 3-5 different shades and translucencies of composites and tints.

I decided to turn my day off— Wednesday at the time— into my “Art Day.” Around the office, we called it “Art Wednesday.” Art Wednesday was reserved for any anterior case. My first anterior composite took three hours. Charging the patient for a normal three surface filling obviously did NOT cover my overhead for those three hours. I chose to see Art Wednesdays as education days. While these days weren’t profitable at the time, I used this time to build my skills, my speed, and predictability.

After about eight “Art Wednesdays,” I was quick and proficient enough to start scheduling anterior composite cases on regular production days. Believe it or not, I’ve found anterior composites to be one of my more profitable procedures. A three-surface anterior composite now takes about an hour, but with no lab fee and only one visit (compared to a traditional indirect restoration that requires two visits, a hefty lab fee, and impression materials), I can keep costs low for myself and my patients.

You don’t have to own your own practice in order to have “Art Wednesday.” I did a similar thing 5 years ago when I was learning how to incorporate occlusion in a corporate setting. Spending an hour adjusting a splint did not make me a hit in a corporate dentistry setting (yes, it sounds crazy, but my first 20 splints took at least an hour to adjust). I would schedule these cases during my lunch hour so that I could take the time to learn how to do it right until splint therapy became something that I could be profitable doing during normal business hours.

Is there a skill that you’d like to learn but you’re leery about how you can make it work financially? You think you’re slow or you don’t have your systems down? Sometimes it seems like learning conservative dentistry makes it harder to earn financial reward. It’s true that exceptional dentistry takes time, money, and effort above and beyond. However, if you’re doing what’s best for the patient and you can effectively communicate that, you’ll be successful. I promise.

 

Dr. Dawn Wehking graduated from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 2010. She is a member of the American Dental Association, Colorado Dental Association and the Boulder/Broomfield County Dental Society. She was awarded Fellow status with the Academy of General Dentistry.  She finished the Spear Education curriculum, a place where great dentists go to learn how to be exceptional dentists.  She  serves as visiting faculty at Spear Education. Dr. Wehking is also an ADA Success Speaker, teaching dental students about life after dental school. Dr. Wehking owns a small private practice in Lafayette, Colorado. On her days off, you’ll find her with her furry children, enjoying Colorado’s great outdoors.

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