April 2017
Volume 13, Issue 4

Collaborative Learning

Inside Dentistry and Inside Dental Technology present a monthly discussion between dentists and technicians

With the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) set to welcome its new president this month, we asked the outgoing and incoming presidents how they would describe the importance of dentists andtechnicians learning together in a collaborative environment.

Watch the video of Dwight Rickert, CDT, FAACD, and Chiann Gibson, DMD, AAACD, discussing this question and best practices for collaboration on cases for which esthetics is a priority and read more below. 


Dwight Rickert, CDT, FAACD
AACD President-Elect

As I advise fellow laboratory technicians, one of the best ways to establish relationships with new clients is to sit in a room with the dentists and learn what they know with respect to our restorative work and how it affects patients’ lives. My clients want to work with a technician who, for example, has been in the room with them during an implant course. They want me by their side in those courses so that, when we work on cases, we can communicate efficiently and they don’t need to teach me the methods they want to utilize. We can have a collaborative conversation on a case and speak the same language.

During the diagnostic stages of a case, especially unusual ones requiring collaboration with other specialists, both the dentist and the technician can recall principles they learned while sitting together in a lecture or workshop. I have experienced this with implant cases when we have discussed options such as bone grafting, tissue grafting, and using pink porcelain or pink composite therapy; it is beneficial to have been in courses with dentists and learned about those options. A laboratory technician who has been educated in that way can offer a very useful perspective on the best possible treatment to make the most natural-looking restorations possible.

Learning together also helps dentists communicate better with laboratories. A key component is photography; we want to see what we are working with on each case. Quality impressions are crucial during the diagnostic phase. Prioritizing this communication helps the technician talk with the dentist about issues and options from the laboratory’s perspective—including other collaborative efforts with orthodontics or periodontics—to help the patient get from Point A to Point B.

Chiann Gibson, DMD, AAACD
AACD President

Speaking the same language is so important in indirect restorative dentistry. Both dentists and technicians want our counterparts to share the same standards of excellence for the care we deliver. Those who get more involved and educated, especially in a collaborative environment, are able to communicate more effectively with each other.

The more each party knows about the other’s processes and shares their high standards, the easier the delivery becomes. This helps us both because many patients today educate themselves online and have high standards when selecting which dental professionals to entrust with their care.

One example of a scenario in which collaborative learning is helpful is when a patient wants a more youthful look with more translucency. The laboratory may be unsure of how to deliver that, and the dentist may struggle to communicate it; the restoration needs to be designed with an esthetic component in the contours, with the surface texture a certain way and the edges allowing light through. Laboratory technicians who have learned alongside dentists understand that.

In other situations, depending on patients’ expectations, the dentist must convey what the laboratory is doing to the patient. We had one patient who had ground down her teeth, and her restorations appeared very large at first, but I asked her to get accustomed to them for two weeks. We wanted an esthetic component with surface texture and anatomy, and the laboratory created a restoration with the ideal length and width. After two weeks, the patient loved her smile.

To maintain that standard of excellence in the care that we deliver, we need every member of the team to know the esthetic and functional principles. Learning alongside one another makes that much more realistic.

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