To Master or Not to Master?.. That is the Dilema!

by Shadi Samawi

In this post, I would like to share my brief opinion regarding what I view as the dilemma of choice between true mastery versus the trend of relentless adoption of new technologies in Orthodontics and Dentistry in general.

“Plowing through complexities without first mastering the basics is a trap even the most intelligent can fall into. “

The rate of technological advancement in most scientific fields has become staggeringly rapid; warp speed-rapid, to be precise. Every couple of months or so, new technologies are unveiled and are commercially launched and marketed as “the next big thing” which – if not quickly adopted by us as clinicians –  then surely, our practice will suffer and fall behind the times! and herein lies the trap;  the trap of pursuing the latest technologies versus attempting their full, proper mastery through sufficient time and clinical experience. 

For one, I’m all for new digital technology and utilizing everything we can to achieve better and improved results for our patients, however, it does seem that our reliance on technology to do most of our work along with the rapid change and commercialization of these technologies have somewhat deprived clinicians of the chance for real mastery of whatever technique or appliance they currently use in practice and has rather converted us into automatons; replacing one short-lived technique with another at such a rapid pace, starting with one new learning curve after another, while rarely ever reaching the full state of achieving confident and consistently-reproducible results through proper mastery of such new technology.

Not only are some of these new technologies being “quickly developed” and marketed without sufficient or strong evidence for their safe or efficient clinical use, but we can also see that not enough time is being given by practitioners for currently-used technologies or techniques to be mastered or perfected in their clinical application and results, before being “shelved” – so to speak – once another incremental development has been unveiled, usually within a short period of time. This may be particularly true in certain disciplines and specialties of dentistry more than others.

You see, proper mastery of any technique or technology requires sufficient time, consistent effort and monitoring of our results through a positive/negative feedback loop. Because of the fast pace at which these new technologies are unveiled and marketed, many seem to be falling into a mindset trap that could cost them dearly, as they seem to be not allowing enough time for any particular technique or technology to be fully mastered and really “sink in”, which is necessary for full expression of excellent results with any technique or appliance.

Technological advancement is a great necessity, but hasty adoption of the “next big thing” for the sake of keeping up “clinical appearances” or mindlessly following trends with no real attention given to mastery of a previously chosen technology or technique is a recipe for persistent mediocrity in any field.

I would like to end by quoting this very interesting article on The Lost Art of Becoming Good at Things  – which I highly recommend – by posing the same question as the article author:

Has the art of becoming good at things become lost on today’s instant gratification society? Is it easier or harder to learn new skills and knowledge today with all the resources (and distractions) out there?

I would love to hear your opinions and commentary in the comments section below.