The fear of failure

lessonsIn dentistry – more often than not – we focus on our successes rather than our failures. We have this inherent obsession of not letting our patients down. 

However, in order to progress it is paramount to recognise that the greatest failure is the failure to try. Realising that those beautiful composite filings we see on Style Italiano didn’t just happen overnight.

Embracing mistakes

The masters who orchestrate grand treatment plans or produce intricate restorations had to start somewhere. I had a fellow colleague ask me how I became good at the cosmetic dentistry I produce. I told her very openly and honestly that it took practice and embracing my mistakes.

Of course one should work within their competence zone, but when you go on that course don’t be afraid of trying out your skills and be ready to encounter failure and disappointment.

I must now contradict myself. There really is no such thing as true failure. Either you win or you learn.

A personal case

My diastema closure case with composite is an example.

I used a wax up and putty matrix however my centre line was slightly off. I ended up removing the composite but this caused gingival bleeding.

Before I knew it, I wish I had just minded the gap instead of trying to close it.

I knew I had to do another diastema closure case so I went back to the drawing board. I looked at several case studies and I tried differing techniques. I discussed my mistakes with fellow colleagues. For the next case, I used a rubber dam and floss ligatures – which was an improvement from my initial case but still not perfect.

I looked at the photos and re-evaluated and I kept doing this over and over again until I finally became better.

As scientists we want to approach everything in a systematic manner and it’s not so much that we strive for success, but as dentists we have a fear of so called failure. Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.

Top tip summary

  1. Try new skills after careful planning working within your competency zone
  2. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes
  3. Always revaluate your work. Take photos and think how you can improve. Constantly critique your work
  4. Keep improving your skills by treating the same types of cases, but think of differing techniques to produce a better result
  5. Reflect after each session
  6. Seek for advice from a mentor whether via technology or in person.


Become a Dentistry Online member

Become a member
Add to calendar