Earlier this year, I found myself taking a dip in the North Sea. This was my way of celebrating passing my Diploma in Implant Dentistry, awarded by the Royal College of Surgeons.
It was a process that began nearly 3 years ago. In dentistry, as with many things in life, it is easy to keep well within the safe, stable environment of your comfort zone. However, sometimes you decide to take a chance and break out.
It started with a 6-page application form and a gigantic leap of faith. I thought I was well prepared: a few trips away over a couple of years along with the odd assignment and a few patient cases. What I hadn’t anticipated was the volume of work; the long days flying to London; the transfers from airport to hotels; trips to Germany, Spain and Italy but not seeing anything beyond a few lecture rooms and a couple of clinical areas; the work and time required to complete the assignments; the time required to identify, write up, treat and present patient cases; the stress of the build up to an exam; the exam itself and of course the waiting for the result; not to mention the financial investment as well as the time away from my family. At many times through the process I questioned what I was doing.
However, looking back now, the positives and the gains well outweigh the stress and sacrifice. In applying to do the course I knew I’d learn a bit about implants. What I hadn’t anticipated were the many other positives that I would gain: new friends, colleagues and contacts; increased knowledge and understanding in all aspects of dentistry, not just implants; an ability to balance and juggle work, course and family commitments (sometimes more successfully than others!); new skills such as critical reading and assignment writing as well as the sense of accomplishment that comes with setting yourself a seemingly improbable task and then achieving it.
So, looking back, am I glad I stepped out of my comfort zone? Of course! Ultimately, I have ended up where I thought I would, but I have gained so much more along the way.
Every day I meet new patients who, by coming to see us are stepping well outside their comfort zone. Whether it is embarrassment about the condition of their teeth; the belief that nothing can be done or the anxiety or fear of coming to the dentist, by making that first step they are taking their own gigantic leap of faith. However, by doing so, as I found with my diploma course, they often gain much more than what they were originally hoping for. It goes beyond just fixing teeth, providing patients with increased confidence and self-esteem, not to mention the smile they have always wanted!