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I recently began a 6-week clinical rotation at Salud clinic in Longmont, Colorado. On my first day, after I performed my clinical examination, I presented my treatment plan to my preceptor. After she performed her own exam, the patient’s treatment plan looked entirely different. After listening to my preceptor’s rationales, it became clear to me that her treatment planning principles were significantly different from those we employ in my school clinic.

 

When it comes to something as fundamental as caries diagnosis, it’s surprising how much discrepancy there is among dentists about how to treat a lesion, or if a lesion should be treated at all. Although we may share the same foundational knowledge, our philosophies can vary greatly. And so, it is important to review concepts from our first year of dental school, including adhesion and bonding chemistry, ideal preparation shapes, and even proper ergonomics to establish a baseline. These topics will continue to be relevant throughout our dental practice, and help us make tough calls. There are a few simple ways to review your fundamentals:

1. Volunteer to be a teaching assistant for D1 or D2 pre-clinical courses

Being a T.A. requires you to know a broad base of information. Underclassmen will ask you to clarify tough concepts, which will challenge you to deepen your understanding of the topic.

2. Read dental journals and articles

Reading dental magazines such as ADA News, Dental Economics, or Dentistry Today will brief you on new studies that challenge popular thought.

3. Join study groups or discuss procedures with your colleagues

Discussions with your colleagues about how you perform procedures can help you systematically review your basics.

Reviewing your basics is essential to becoming the best clinician you can possibly be. Challenge yourself to think systematically, and to rely on scientific reasoning when making clinical decisions. By doing so, we create consistency in our practice, and make decisions based on a little more than just intuition.