The false myth of experienced dentists

There is a common belief in dentistry…that with time we get better with our work.
This is quite logic cause with time we gain experience but are there any real data behind this?
Reading the book of K.Anders Ericcson I was amazed by this research. According to the author, research in the field of medicine proved that doctors practicing from 20-30 years were worst than doctors just specialized.
What Ericcson found was the the mere repetition of a task every day is not, as usually thought, related to improving nor maintaining this skill.

Just doing is not enough…

I read this sentence a while ago and it was something like floating in my mind looking for some other connections till yesterday.
Reading another book (yes, you’re right! I am a compulsive reader !) I stumbled in a sentence from a great thinker, John Dewey.
The sentence was : we don’t learn from experience, we learn if we have time to think about that experience.

Reading this sentence my brain immediately made the connection with Ericcson’s one.
These sentences are so connected and meaningful together, cause this is what I see in dentistry.
The first bias we fall into is a sort of selection bias or confirmation bias.

Most of the times when we talk about experienced colleagues we look at the top of that category. But if we look to the whole segment of doctors practicing from a long time what we see many times is “not so acceptable ” dentistry …the point is that we just don’t look at these people, yet they are the majority. People working in the same way since 20 years. People bored by the repetition of the same task losing the right focus and getting even worst.

According to Ericson what we need in order to thrive is what he calls ” focused practice “, and this word is perfectly matching with Dewey’s one.

What we need to thrive infact is not only to gain experience but to gain experience in a correct way. The most important part is getting feedback.
If you’re lucky enough to have a mentor you’re already in a good position. I think that having a mentor driving you is the best accelerator of your learning curve.
Like a coach in a football team, a mentor is able to drive you, to accelerate your results.
But, unfortunately, not everybody are so lucky to have a mentor.
I hadn’t at all….just to say one.
In the ideal world each one of us would need a mentor. But we live in the real world and, for truth’s sake, this is hardly the rule.
No mentor, no help.
I still remember my early years…20 years ago …
Alone in my office fighting with patients. trying to getting better in this hard job called dentistry with its claustrophobic space and so many limitations of space.
How to solve this scenario? a real scenario for many colleagues like me at that time? Are there any solutions?
And here came to my mind Dewey’s sentence…time for thinking.
What I did in my first years was to collect documentation about what I was doing and, every day, i was looking again at my photos comparing them with the photos of books and courses trying to analyze the main differences, which steps had I to manage in a different way.

Without a real awareness I did what Dewey suggested …thinking to my experience in order to improve.

If you have the chance to read Benjamin Franklin ’s biography you will understand that his life has been a paradigmatic example of self improvement, and among his daily habits there was to retire in a quiet place and think to the spent day. He was thinking to any action, the right ones and how to make them stronger, the wrong ones and how to avoid them and he was writing strategies in order to harvest the best information from each day.

I started unconsciously doing something like this just with dental photos almost 20 years ago. .

20 years passed since that day and. .you know what? I became every year more diligent and organized in doing this sort of approach, I expanded this action beyond dentistry moving to other fields of my life.
And the result had been a huge step forward in my dentistry and in my life. The time I take for thinking and reflecting on topics related to clinical and extraclinical skills has been the most valuable time of my life.
But to think you need to build material …so if it is about clinical work you have to collect photos, documentation, data and analyze them, compare the,, check the follow up over the time. If it is about extraclinical you have to write a sort of diary and write and test your ideas. There is not a single and perfect recipe but I know the wrong one: …to think that time and mere work will bring you towards excellence.
Remember John Dewey ‘ s words : we don’t learn from experience, we learn if we have time to think about that experience.

If you wanna read more about my experience, what I learned and my struggles take a look at my free ebook ” Reality in dentistry “, you will find my mistakes, my lessons and How I arrived to choose some techniques in my daily practice…

Download it for free here: https://educational.studiomaiolino.net/ebook-reality-in-dentistry 

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