Distinguished dental clinician Dr. Peter Dawson: Any dentist can improve and see incredible results in his own practice

June 6, 2012
Thais Carter
Thais Carter

Issue 6

Dr. Peter Dawson’s CV is formidable. To look at all he’s achieved-the textbooks, the international recognition, the patients’ lives changed-it is easy to look at his career and assume that it is his story, exciting to listen to but impossible to emulate. But one of the greatest parts of the Dawson story is his commitment to making it accessible to the masses, to helping general dentists be better and see incredible results in their own practices.

Dr. Peter Dawson’s CV is formidable. To look at all he’s achieved-the textbooks, the international recognition, the patients’ lives changed-it is easy to look at his career and assume that it is his story, exciting to listen to but impossible to emulate. But one of the greatest parts of the Dawson story is his commitment to making it accessible to the masses, to helping general dentists be better and see incredible results in their own practices.

It starts with the simple premise that any dentist can improve if he or she is committed to asking the right questions.

“From the very beginning of my career, I asked why and sought answers. I sought after experts to learn from and took considerable CE,” Dr. Dawson explained. “My continuous questioning led me to get involved with research at the University of Florida. I did countless dissections with Dr. Parker Mahan to discover the anatomy and function of the temporomandibular joints and the muscles of mastication.”

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After finishing his first textbook, Dr. Dawson started holding classes to share what he learned with fellow dentists, and out of this, The Dawson Academy was born.

Dawson Academy students typically realize that some things in their practice just aren’t working. This could be chipped porcelain, broken teeth, sore muscles after placing a restoration, or restorations not fitting properly at placement. These frustrations lead them to Dawson’s first seminar “Functional Occlusion: From TMJ to Smile Design.” Before lunch on the first day of this course, they know there are answers for these problems and that they can, with knowledge and skill development, produce predictable, stable, beautiful results. The program is not a one weekend, learn a new technique type of program. It requires a significant commitment and students have this commitment because they want to be the best dentists they can be for their patients.

“Our mission is to teach dentists the foundational principles and associated procedures they need to solve patients’ problems predictably,” he summarized. “I have said for more than 40 years that dentists are the physicians of the Masticatory System. No other specialty in medicine has the responsibility for this system. Because teeth don’t just hang in space, we have to know and understand how the muscles, teeth and joints work together in functional harmony.”

Over the last 50 years, that mission and the foundational principles of the company have remained the same.

“We know from scientific research as well as the longevity of real cases that I completed over 40 years ago that these principles-occlusal and esthetic principles-work,” Dr. Dawson shared.

“There is a specific reason for every contour of every tooth in the mouth, and when dentists know this and practice the principles we teach, they can restore any case following a structured treatment planning process and are assured of a stable, predictable, esthetic result.”

So what has changed?
First, The Dawson Academy curriculum has evolved to include the expansion of the treatment planning process to incorporate all the esthetic and functional principles with the overarching goal being for dentists to get patients’ mouths healthy and keep them that way with the least amount of dentistry.

Second, technology has made the foundational principles more relevant. As Dr. Dawson sees it, the dentists they encounter at the Academy aren’t looking at technology as a “solution.” As they study and progress, they begin to see technology as a tool to assist in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of functional and esthetic problems.

“The advances in technology are amazing, and they can be exceptional if the dentist using them knows the foundational principles of the design, function and breakdown of the masticatory system. Without this understanding, the technology will just help a dentist do more bad dentistry faster,” he said.

“I am, however, very excited about advances in technology when used with this knowledge. I have crowns in my own mouth prepared and placed by Dr. Jeff Scott using E4D technology. I was able to watch Dr. Scott create these restorations and it was amazing,” he continued. “The margins are perfect and the result is a perfect fit that is absolutely comfortable. I am also excited about cone beam technology because now, nothing can hide from our ability to diagnose the health of temporomandibular joints.”

 

A CAD/CAM convert
In this way, CAD/CAM dentistry is an ideal technology to use in the pursuit of “complete dentistry,” in which the dentist offers a comprehensive diagnosis that identifies the cause(s) of all identified problems and is followed by a complete treatment plan that corrects the cause of the problems and then corrects the effects of the problems.

What stands out for Dr. Dawson about CAD/CAM generally and the E4D Dentist System in particular, is its integration of occlusal principles into the software as well as the E4D team’s willingness to continuously improve.

“My first working introduction to the E4D system was at the corporate headquarters in Dallas. I spent the day with CEO Basil Haymann, Lee Culp, Dr. Gary Severance and the software engineers. I was amazed at how quickly the software engineers grasped the principles of occlusion as I gave them instruction, and I was absolutely impressed with the integration of occlusal principles into the software,” Dr. Dawson remembered. “If a dentist is considering a CAD/CAM system, I think he or she needs to ask about the occlusal principles used in the design-if any.”

When it comes to creating a process for incorporating CAD/CAM-or any other technology-Dr. Dawson first wants the dentist to have the basics needed to examine a patient and develop a diagnosis.

“At minimum, this would be a semi-adjustable articulator with a facebow, a doppler, and a good camera system. They also should have some basic tools to develop a 3D model of the treatment, such as a waxer, slow speed handpiece, and a vacuum mixer,” he recommended. “Only after they can make a complete diagnosis and develop a complete treatment plan do I want them to invest in technology related to treatment. I do counsel dentists to be sure that they don’t get into a situation where achieving a ROI on the equipment determines the treatment. Only sound principles of function and esthetics should enter into those decisions.”

The Difference Makers series is brought to you in partnership with D4D Technologies, makers of the E4D Dentist System.