Greetings to all,
For several of us there were only six short days between the 2014 Saratoga Dental Congress and the NYSDA House of Delegates meeting. During that brief respite, I found myself reflecting upon the SDC: reviewing some of the successful changes that were present in this year’s event, and taking notes on the modifications that could be made to make next year’s meeting even better. Here are some thoughts.
I was fortunate enough to spend three evenings in the company of our wonderful SDC speakers: Dr. Hal Crossley, Dr. Timothy Followell, Dr. Joe Camp and Mr. John Rosemond. Each night our conversations gravitated toward the same topic. What does it truly mean to “Focus on Youth?” And what changes could be made, both to us as a dental society and to us as individual practitioners to ensure that our young patients have the tools that they require to emerge as healthy and responsible adults in this age of increased technology and decreased interpersonal experiences?
From a dental-health perspective, we need to understand that dental caries is currently the number one chronic disease affecting US children. This statistic is costly for our country and should be embarrassing to us as a profession. As we all know, dental decay is treatable and preventable. Surely we can do better than we are now. Although there is help on the horizon through research on new prevention modalities such as vaccines and saliva testing, at this point the most effective way for us as dental professionals to combat this disease is though the wide spread implementation of the age-one dental visit. We need to educate the public that all children should be seen by a dentist by their first birthday, and we need to make sure that we have the providers available to accomplish this goal.
From a social perspective, we need to empower our young people to accept responsibility. I am noticing a national trend toward entitlement and away from personal accountability. Let’s try to educate and encourage those young folks that we encounter to take personal responsibility for their health and lifestyle and to make wise choices about diet, drugs and alcohol. Many of us are in a unique position of seeing our young patients at least semi-annually and often for fairly extended periods of time. We can use these opportunities with our “captive audiences” to guide and educate.
Guidance and education have historically rested in the hands of the older (and presumably wiser) members of any society. With exponentially increased technology, the youth of our country are receiving more and more of their information (and misinformation!) from sources such as the Internet. This is a double-edged sword. While there is an abundance of information available, there is less face-to-face contact and less of a forum for personal discussion, guidance and debate…and building of wisdom.
The same issues hold true within our own Dental Society. Each year, fewer members choose to be a part of organized dentistry. And younger dentists, in particular, are less likely to join the tripartite and attend local dental society meetings. There is a growing trend toward completing continuing education requirements on-line. Sadly, this equates to less opportunities for our younger dentists to learn from the wealth of experience and knowledge held by our older practitioners. This topic was addressed repeatedly at the NYSDA House of Delegates meeting. What can be done about this unfortunate trend in our profession? I feel that our dental society needs to have a “Focus on Young Practitioners!” Those of us who are in the “second half” of our careers need to make a concerted effort to get newer and younger dentists involved in our organization. The information that needs to be imparted to our young colleagues is not technical in nature, but instead deals with more practical and ethical concerns. As I mentioned in the winter newsletter, please consider inviting a new member to a local meeting, a board meeting, a CE course or simply out to lunch one afternoon. We have had about 25 young dentists join the Fourth District during the past 24 months, and their names are available from Lynn, our new ED. Of course, there are many other young dentists in our area that we would like to invite to become members.
Please feel free to contact me with any reflections you have on these same matters, or on any other ideas or suggestions. Or consider having me join you for lunch with a young dentist!
Have a wonderful summer,