Perhaps it will not be so surprising to hear that when a person graduates from dental school, he or she still has much to learn. To that end, there are a variety of post graduate teaching institutes available to engage those dentists who choose to carry on the learning process. There are schools or curricula for learning implants, dentures, crowns and bridges, cosmetics, TMJ and a variety of specialties and sub-specialties. It is up to each individual dentist to decide which path he or she chooses to pursue.
After graduating from dental school, and having served an “apprenticeship” in offices other than my own, I knew that basic drill and fill dentistry was not for me. I found that the study of occlusion – how the teeth, jaws and muscles work as a system – was fascinating for me and provided the basis for practicing dentistry with excellence. What we were taught about occlusion in dental school was adequate for a basic understanding only. So, I decided to begin studying this subject and have been studying it ever since.
I will be writing thank you letters to the important mentors in my life later this month, but I must mention Dr. Peter Dawson who is considered by many to be the father of modern occlusion–he actually wrote the book on it. In the late 1980s, I traveled to Richmond, Virginia to take a course from Dr. Dawson. As luck would have it, I ran into him at a restaurant in the airport as I was traveling home after his course. We had a very interesting conversation, and he suggested that I attend the L. D. Pankey Institute in Florida if I was serious about learning and understanding occlusion. I came to learn that this Institute was the premier of its kind and was attended by dentists from all over the world. So I did enroll as Dr. Dawson recommended.
I traveled to Key Biscayne, Florida on several occasions for the multi-day courses which were offered at this beautiful institute. I pursued the study of occlusion there over a four-year period and learned much, much more than simply occlusion. We learned about the practice of dentistry as well as a philosophy encompassing the balance between work, play, love, and spirit. The L.D. Pankey Institute changed my life, and allowed me to provide a level of dentistry of which I could be quite proud.
Many years later, as Y2K approached, I became fascinated with providing more and finer cosmetic dentistry for my patients. At that time, the economy was in major growth; and patients had the desire as well as the means to improve their appearance. I had heard about a place called the Las Vegas Institute where outstanding cosmetic dentistry was being taught. The name of the Institute caused a bit of apprehension on my part, because I assumed that dentists went there simply because of its location, but I proceeded to take a course there. I actually brought a patient and performed her dentistry in their clinic after the associated classroom lectures. The patient who came with me was my wife, Elizabeth, and both she and I were ecstatic with the result.
As it turned out, students from all over the world also attended this teaching institution, and like my experience in Florida, they taught a philosophy of dentistry with which I became intrigued. It is here where I learned a different point of view about occlusion, and it is here where I developed my ability to better help those with Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction and head or facial pain. I traveled there on many occasions over a period of more than 10 years and completed their entire curriculum of courses. During that time, the quality of my dentistry constantly improved and I loved the entire process.
I feel blessed to have found each of these two institutions which helped to shape me into the dentist that I am today. It is the dedicated teachers and researchers at these facilities who provided such amazing information about technique and materials as well as the philosophical basis for providing excellence in dentistry and life in general.
The next time that you are in the office, you will see two walls which are covered with certificates from those institutes. I am proud to have attended these two prestigious schools and THANK them for shaping my career into one of which I am proud.
To learn more about Dr. Peter Dawson, please click on this link: http://dental.thedawsonacademy.com/author/dr-peter-dawson
To learn more about The Pankey Institute, please click on this link: http://www.pankey.org/the-pankey-experience/the-institute/photo-tour/
To learn more about The Las Vegas Institute, please click on this link: http://www.leadingdentists.com/about-lvi/