Tuesday, November 12, 2019

In the World of Clinical Dentistry - Knowledge Is Power


I'm not sure who came up with the expression "Knowledge is Power" but whoever thought of it was a genius. Those three simple words are true in many different ways. By bringing knowledge into the equation, we become much more powerful in ways we never considered.
Research and development in a myriad of subjects is rapidly increasing the “bottom line” of our knowledge base. Now that we have computers and machine learning, the curve continues to accelerate.

According to Industry Tap Into News, Buckminster Fuller created the Knowledge Doubling Curve. He noticed that until 1900, human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II, knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple, as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth.

For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. Now, this may seem daunting at first, but if you think about it, having access to all of that knowledge can open doors and let us do things we would never have dreamed of.

In the beginning

It used to be that the general practice was sort of a “clearing house” of sorts for procedures. The GP performed basic restorative procedures and simple procedures such as basic extractions and easy one-canal endodontics. Anything more complicated ended up in the hands of one of the local specialists.
Back then, fluoride was not yet in all the places and substances it is now. Restorative needs of the patients was the “bread and butter” of most general practices. Doctors were so busy restoring large carious lesions they didn’t have the time to learn and implement other procedures into their practices. If the patient’s teeth were misaligned, a referral to the local orthodontist. Impacted third molars? A referral to a local oral surgeon.

As time passed, fluoride began to work its magic and the scope of the general practice began to change. Restorative procedures changed from amalgam and “bombed out teeth” to slot preps and conservative composite procedures, and doctors began to look at ways to expand their services.
The rapid proliferation of internet connections in the late 1990s allowed doctors to connect with other doctors as well as digital databases of research that previously were only available to university or government-based researchers.

This allowed “in the trenches” practitioners to gain access to tremendous amounts of data and leading-edge techniques which allowed them to operate more efficiently and with more predictability. Now a doctor could learn a new technique while eating breakfast and perform the procedure twice before lunch that same day.

This created a feedback loop that greatly changed the way we practice. Whether an online database, an email chain from friends, or one of many other sources of information, the knowledge base of clinical dentistry expanded rapidly.

As all of this knowledge expanded, the ability of the general practitioner to treat complicated cases also expanded. Because this expansion of knowledge was stored in a digital format, the ability to share and access that data became a simple matter of “point, click, learn.”

In truth, the doctor had the ability to not only learn, but to then provide immediate feedback to others. This allowed other doctors and educators to quickly evaluate and change procedures so everyone who was “in the loop” could quickly change protocols for the better.

As the operatory computer became the hub of the clinical technology wheel, doctors used their digital integrations to rapidly and reliably share clinical information. Procedures with complications could be tracked and solutions could be advised and attempted in practically real time. Sharing photographs, radiographs and clinical notes with others allowed for the rapid dissemination of clinical information.

For the full article, head on over to the Dental Products Report website.

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