Life and dentistry don’t come with a definitive “how to” guide. No one answer or set of answers is right. There is no prescription that can be written, no matter how bespoke, that will give you all the answers you need in life.
What is more valuable than a set of instructions, is developing a strong moral compass, that will act as your guide, and learning fundamental problem solving skills that will help you overcome obstacles on your journey.
When we bake according to the recipe and the cake comes out sunk in the middle again, we blame the recipe. When there is no recipe, who can you blame? (I’ve written about blame before). We all too often want to search for the easy solution, the recipe, that we can deflect blame upon when things don't work out according to the plan.
I’m fortunate enough to be asked to mentor and teach fully qualified dentists seeking further qualifications such as a Masters in Dental Implantology. It’s a brilliant opportunity to help other dentists and their patients, much as many people have helped me on my path to where I am today.
When I’m teaching, I try to focus more on how to approach things, how to assess a situation, how to plan and how to problem solve. I don’t try to give a step by step guide to how to complete a simple treatment. There’s no such thing as a simple treatment for a start, nor a set of repeatable steps that will always guarantee success. No two patients are the same and no two teeth or spaces are the same, even in the same patient.
One of my favourite quotes is from Heraclitus, so called the dark philosopher of Ancient Greece
“No man steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man”
Amend the pronouns as appropriate - in Ancient Greece it was only men who stepped in rivers, apparently.
Even those situations we think we’ve faced before are different, we have grown and changed from our previous experience and the water in the river of life is now different from that which has passed before, even if it appears the same superficially.
If you can focus your learning on the guiding principles and not the solutions to specific problems, you will develop a much deeper understanding and an ability to apply these principles to the benefit of your life and everyone in it.
Try not to seek one answer, but to understand the methods by which you can formulate your own answers every time.