Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Outliers”, puts forward a well researched observation regarding the topic of skill and mastery. He states that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of concentrated activity to become a master or expert. He gives examples of concert pianists, sports figures, computer programmers and even The Beatles, who spent many a weekend performing and refining their music and performance skills in clubs well before becoming known to the wider world. How long is 10,000 hours? Ten thousand hours comes to working 8 hours a day 5 days a week for at least 5 years.
How does this apply to dentistry? The art and science of the dental profession certainly falls within the definition of something that is difficult and complex, not only intellectually in diagnosis, knowledge and assessment, but the use of physically demanding and precise surgical techniques. While there is a certain amount of innate talent and certainly compassion involved, the true mastery takes a long time to develop.
In Pediatric Dentistry, it pretty much takes at least that long. A new graduate knows a lot, but has not yet mastered the art of the profession. In fact, in dentistry, we call it dental “practice” because you are really never done learning and improving.
I am humbled that, although I have gone well past the magic number of hours, I still am refining, learning, and relearning how to practice with a certain degree of mastery. In fact, I think the rule for dealing with children (and their parents) on a daily basis should be closer to 20,000 hours, or maybe a lifetime!
So, if a dentist with many years of experience takes a look and says he is concerned or offers an opinion, you might be well advised to listen.