The dental industry is always evolving as new materials and techniques are developed and perfected. Dentistry of today is much different from the dentistry of twenty years ago. Continuing education (CE) has also evolved, especially in the past five years as we navigated the pandemic and the post-pandemic normal. There are options for online learning, in-person seminars, hands-on workshops, special events and hybrids of all of these. In a recent Spear study, The State of Dental CE, we surveyed dentists to find the latest on dental CE trends and learn how these trends will impact the future of the industry.

This Spear study covered multiple topics surrounding dental CE. In this article, we highlight our favorite findings. To see the full results of this study, download the e-book.

The dental CE trends for 2022 include hands-on workshops that boost clinical knowledge.

Dental CE Trends: Staying Within Budget

Dental CE trends may be primarily led by the number of hours required by your state, but it was interesting to see that meeting CE requirements is not the only determining factor in signing up for a course. The financial investment for most of the dentists surveyed was between $1,000 and $5,000 per year. Surprisingly, that number did not change very much from pre-2020 to post-2020. This number was also only affected slightly by the number of years of experience and specialty.

Most states require about twenty CE credits per year. Budgeting for CE credits is something that most dentists plan for, especially those who are just starting out and working to build their practice. Despite years of experience or specialty area, dentists seek out continuing education that will both fulfill the requirements and stay within budget.

Dental CE Trends: Building Clinical Skills

There are other factors that determine the type of CE dentists prefer. In the study, we asked respondents to rank the CE they chose based on the following reasons:

  1. Learn new clinical skills
  2. Learn about new technology
  3. Learn how to better manage my practice
  4. Meet CE requirements
  5. Refresh my memory on procedures I already know
  6. Meet like-minded dentists

Overwhelmingly, and not surprisingly, dentists at all levels of experience were motivated by CE that taught new clinical skills. Building on your current skills allows you to offer a higher level of care to your patients while expanding on what procedures you can offer in your practice. Most continuing education providers offer courses that align with innovative technologies, updated materials and improved techniques in the industry.

As new techniques and materials are developed, it is important to dentists to learn these techniques and understand the materials to be able to offer these treatments to their patients. Most technical training began in-person. Colleges have started to offer more online options, but it was not the norm for the dental profession. With the pandemic, the ability to get quality online education was born and has continued to flourish.

Dental CE Trends: Connecting In-Person

“The in-person experience… provides a unique energy and opportunity to interact live with colleagues.” — Dr. Ricardo Mitrani

Despite the availability of online continuing education, our survey showed that 61% of dentists still preferred to learn in-person. The importance of attending a hands-on workshop and being taught by a valued dental professional can't be downplayed. As Spear faculty Dr. Ricardo Mitrani said, “the in-person experience… provides a unique energy and opportunity to interact live with colleagues.”

The growth of the online format is valuable, and a hybrid form of learning truly checks off all the boxes, but for tactical, hands-on learning, an in-person workshop brings the greatest level of reward. In the study, this was validated in the follow up questions about in-person learning. We asked respondents to rank which of the following statements was the truest for them:

  • I prefer lecture-based learning like a seminar
  • I prefer hands-on learning like a workshop
  • I prefer to learn in a small group setting, watching a pre-recorded lesson before discussion

64% of respondents chose “I prefer hands-on learning like a workshop” and this number was even higher for dentists with less than 15 years of experience.

Dental CE Trends: Esthetics Courses

In person, online and hybrid learning are all options currently available to the dental industry. Dental CE trends in content ebb and flow with changes in society. As we have become more engaged with social media and photos are at the forefront of any event, esthetics has become an area of dentistry that has grown substantially. Our study confirmed this fact, especially among dentists who have been practicing for more than five years.

Dental CE Trends: Quality Matters

Dentists have options available to them when choosing continuing education. With the increase in online providers, there are even more choices. In the closing section of our survey, we asked dentists how they chose their dental CE. In all the categories, “subscription/education costs” were the determining factor. In addition, all respondents prioritized “faculty instructors “and “company reputation” in the top two. This tells us that although dentists are cost conscious, it is also about the level of education you will be receiving. Learning from the best, creates a better overall experience and a better ROI.

Taking what you have learned and using it to grow your practice while improving patient relationships is the goal of continuing education. Our study showed that dentists do not take CE just for the credits but to learn more clinical skills and connect with other dentists. It is about networking and learning. The dental CE trends of the past five years have changed the ways dentists are learning, but at the core, what you value has remained the same.