Leading the way in dental education in the new normal
Earlier this week, Ash Parmar and Manish Chitnis met virtually with Dentistry Online, so that these two highly respected leading lights in the field of cosmetic dentistry could share with readers the future of dental education in light of COVID-19.
It’s an understatement to say we have been through a challenging few months. As leaders in the field of cosmetic dentistry education, how would you describe your virtual learning experiences over the last three months or so?
Ash: The last three months have seen many publishers and associations responding to lockdown by offering extensive home learning opportunities. Webinars, Zoom meetings and social media live updates have provided a multitude of support for us all. Including COVID-19 and association updates, back-to-practice support and more bespoke webinars around oral health, finance and cosmetic dentistry. I have also provided a handful of webinars for the profession, which I have enjoyed.
These have all been great. We could feel connected from our homes and continue to update our skills while our practices were closed. This is something that I am sure will continue to be a successful route of learning.
Manish: I’ve really enjoyed virtual learning over the last few months. I’ve been teaching through this route too, so I can see the benefits from both sides. The main benefits for professionals are the removal of travel times, reduced stress levels and the value of being able to reflect immediately on what was learnt – all from the comfort of our own homes.
That said, do you think dental professionals risk missing out on anything if learning is virtual rather than in person?
Ash: Yes, I really do. Virtual learning has been absolutely wonderful while face-to-face hasn’t been possible. However you simply cannot challenge that hands-on learning on a live patient. It’s the best way of advancing clinical skills. This is something that I believe in very strongly. It is one of the unique strengths of my Academy By Ash courses.
I like the Edgar Dale ‘Cone of Learning’ concept. It is a model that incorporates several theories related to learning processes. These have become known as ‘experiential’ or ‘action’ learning.
So, say for example you buy and read a book about porcelain veneers. Dale claims you might retain 10% of the information you’ve read. Then you listen to the information – this time you may remember 20% of what you learn. You may see some pictures of veneer techniques; this time you will remember 30% of what you learn. If you find a good Youtube video or see a masterclass demonstration, as you see and hear about veneers, you may retain 50% of the information shared. You could receive information as above and participate in a discussion or give a presentation yourself, then you will retain 70% of the information.
Now, imagine you are part of a smile makeover shown live on a big screen. You have step-by-step instructions and teaching using the best materials, equipment, and technology. This interactive learning includes watching a soft tissue laser being used for gingival contouring, taking of a Kois facebow record, and T Scan software to get the best end result in terms of occlusion. These experiences will truly provide a foundation of permanent learning. They include emotionally rewarding experiences that will motivate you to practise and learn throughout your life. You are now likely to retain 90% of what you learn!
This level of education is why our delegates are so successful when they incorporate what they learn into their own practices.
Manish: Hands-on experience is absolutely essential when updating your clinical dentistry skills. Being present during live demonstrations and taking part in hands-on sessions is very much responsible for where I am today. I cannot imagine that would have been possible through virtual learning alone.
What types of courses ideally need an element of personal interaction? And which could remain virtual without affecting the quality of education?
Ash: Courses focus on topics such as composite skills, the aforementioned porcelain veneers and implants are best taught face-to-face. We can also teach this online, but to a limited degree. There is no virtual replacement that can match the benefits offered by hands-on learning on a live patient. Being right in the middle of things as and when it is happening is a far superior way of advancing clinical skills.
Imagine the difference between watching Gordon Ramsay on TV or being with him in a kitchen. You can clearly imagine that there is no comparison in terms of what you can learn in real time with the expert to hand, to answer questions, offer a guiding hand and provide constructive feedback then and there.
Manish: There is also what I call a ‘tribe energy’ when you are in a room with like-minded individuals that you just do not get with a virtual learning experience. That shared energy translates into confidence and motivation. It is really hard to gain the same kind of momentum in a room by yourself.
Clearly there are incredible benefits to attending events outside of the home. But what do you believe will be some of the key concerns for dental professionals after this lockdown spell?
Ash: Cost is likely to be a hurdle at the moment. Especially while clinicians are used to having free webinars. Alongside whether they have the wherewithal to perform treatment that requires a new skillset. Another consideration is whether they will have sufficient patient demand to justify the investment. Plus, there is confusion; there are so many courses out there, it is hard to choose.
Manish: Just to reassure clinicians, when it comes to returning to face-to-face learning in terms of COVID-19, any worthy course provider will have everything in hand to set participants’ minds at rest; delegate safety must be of utmost importance.
For example, on our course we recommend travelling either in your own car or on public transport wearing a mask. In the venue you can practise social distancing, keep your hands sanitised and wear appropriate PPE.
And in terms of live treatments, with our courses, Ash will be downstairs in a different room. While delegates are upstairs watching it all in an AGP-free bubble. With two-way verbal interaction and really high quality visuals, so that is taken care of, too.
Ash, you mentioned the financial implications of education. Some dentists are facing financial difficulties and may be looking to scale back on expenses. In the scheme of things, how important is ongoing investment in training programmes?
Ash: Very important. Current issues such as PPE costs and uncertainties with the NHS and so on mean that there is a great opportunity to progress and excel in private dentistry. Selecting the right course and investing for your future is essential right now. Learning new and better skills will allow you to do more comprehensive dentistry and earn more income, so any investment is actually a financial win in the long term.
What advice could you offer a dentist not sure what steps to take next with their business and career?
Ash: Actually, Manish is the perfect example of a dentist who came on my course 10 years ago with his wife Shilpa, who is also a dentist. Together they have worked hard, starting from an NHS background, and grown their business in so many ways. He practises the concepts I shared with him and has proven that they work. His story and our friendship, our business relationship and our mutual respect is important. We help each other in so many ways – like a mastermind group, really.
Anyone who comes on my courses will get my ongoing advice and mentorship, if they want it. By sharing my mistakes over the years, delegates will save money and headaches and with Manish there, it is a comprehensive educational offering that you cannot beat.
It is time to reflect, plan, and prepare to recreate a thriving business and focus more on private dentistry.
With that in mind, The Academy By Ash will be running its incredible three-day course from 16 to 18 October in Andover. Led by Dr Ash Parmar in association with Dr Manish Chitnis, this unique learning experience comprises a smile makeover from start to finish. It includes that all-important hands-on learning experience with a live patient and guidance on communication, ethical selling and marketing.
Ash runs a private referral practice in Chigwell, Essex called Smile Design By Ash (www.smiledesignbyash.co.uk). Due to his reputation and expertise, patients have travelled from Germany, Italy, Monaco, Egypt, Qatar and India for their dental care.
Ash is a national and international lecturer and has his own training academy for dentists (www.theacademybyash.co.uk), sharing his dental knowledge and experience in his popular and informative courses. His inspirational programmes and lectures have motivated numerous dentists to reach the pinnacle of their careers.
Manish obtained his dental degree in India and has enjoyed a successful career in dentistry for over 20 years. After gaining experience in India and the UK, working in small as well as large corporate dental clinics, he decided to run his own practices in the UK, creating advanced, state-of-the-art centres furnished with the latest technology.
Besides growing his dental practices, Manish is passionate about sharing knowledge and resources with other dentists in his spacious education centre at Andover. He has also run many training programmes in Oxford and Hampshire in the areas of clinical governance, dental business best practices, and designing the best possible patient journey within the economic framework of a dental practice.