Taking Control of Our Specialty
“The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails.” - William Arthur
Our specialty of endodontics has come a long way since I completed my residency program in 1991. Electronic apex locators, rotary files, the surgical microscope, bioceramic materials and cone beam CT are but just a few things that have not only raised the quality of endodontic care over the past 25 years, but they have raised the bar on what should be the standard of care for ALL dental practitioners performing root canal therapy. As I have had the opportunity to meet with various AAE affiliates and members over the past 12 months, the message from you, our members, has been clear. We need to increase our efforts to educate the general public – and this includes our general dentist colleagues – about who we are and about the quality treatment we can and do provide to our patients.
I attended a faculty retreat earlier this week and one of the topics dealt with “digital dentistry” and other technology breakthroughs in dentistry. The speaker (a general dentist) made the comment that these changes have “blurred the lines between the specialist and the generalist” as technology has made many procedures very easy to perform by the general dentist. Needless to say, I was appalled at this statement made to our faculty, which included many specialists. Yet it didn’t surprise me, as this is the mentality that has been created amongst our general dentist colleagues. Many corporate-sponsored presentations along with some of our very own AAE members have oversimplified endodontic procedures when, in fact, the complexities and challenges encountered with molar endodontic treatment are well documented. While it is true that rotary instrumentation, the surgical microscope, and CBCT technology have allowed us to increase the quality of the treatment we provide, they have certainly not simplified the procedure itself. The skills and talents that endodontists provide in quality endodontic care as a result of the training and experience we have obtained should not be minimalized by anyone. This is a message that needs to be emphasized not only to dental practitioners, but to the general public as well. Our specialty has set the standard of care for endodontics very high and it is a standard of care that all patients should expect to receive! We know our audience and we have our message. And while the message is clear, the conduit of getting this message out has been the challenge.
As many of our members recall, the AAE oversaw a public awareness campaign in the past that fell short of expectations. But as one of our past AAE presidents, Dr. Terryl Propper, mentioned to me in a recent conversation, “The AAE has communication capabilities that were non-existent for our last public awareness campaign. We need to explore opportunities to use electronic media to promote endodontics performed by specialists and determine the most cost-effective way to accomplish our goals.”
It is a new time and a new era. Over the years we have typically collaborated with our dental colleagues, generalists and specialists alike, on many things. But as our most recent past president, Dr. Linda Levin, has repeatedly stated over the past year, “The only dental association that will truly advocate for specialty endodontic care is none other than this association, the AAE, and we need to make ourselves heard.”
With our new AAE Strategic Plan, renewed efforts are being evaluated in this respect. And while we will still collaborate with our non-endodontic colleagues, the AAE Board of Directors will energize our own advocacy efforts. This Board of Directors, your Board of Directors, will lead the way on this journey, however we alone cannot accomplish these goals for you, but we can accomplish these goals with you, our membership. This challenge is one for all of us to embrace! It is time to adjust the sails.