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News / June 9, 2010

A new direction for implant dentistry training

by Guy Hiscott

The last decade has witnessed many innovations in educational theory and practice, plus an explosion in information technology (IT). The huge impact IT, and specifically e-learning, will have on dental education is well documented (Hillenburg KL et al, 2006). There has been a move away from the didactic approach towards more experiential learning. Educational programmes are traditionally thought of as either theoretical (thinking) or practical (doing), while experiential learning draws the two together and involves reflection on experience.

There are many theories and educational theorists who hypothesise what makes education work. In the simplest of terms, the Chinese proverb may be close to the truth (Confucius):
‘I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do and I understand.’

Expanding on this, the experiential learning cycle suggests that it is necessary to move through four stages:
1. Having the experience
2. Thinking about the experience
3. Drawing a conclusion from the experience
4. Planning to repeat the experience either in exactly the same way or differently based on the three previous steps.

This four-step process is similar to the Kolb cycle (Gibbs G, 1988).

Dennison and Kirk (1990) put it succinctly: do, review, learn, apply.

The vast majority of implant courses offer little in the way of experience – i.e. hands-on skills training on patients – and this has been the single greatest impediment to practitioners becoming competent and confident in the successful placement and restoration of implants. Even the courses that do offer hands-on training require the course candidate to provide the patients and this too has proven a major obstacle for most practitioners.

Hands-on training alone is not enough. There is a saying in implant dentistry that ‘all implant systems work’ but I would add the following caveat – only in trained hands, controlled by an educated mind. So, a balance is required between education and training, knowledge and skill.

A recent innovation in this field is the collaboration between and Biohorizons UK. Together they have drawn upon the latest approaches in medical education and information technology to produce a new direction in dental education, in the process addressing the learning needs of the dental practitioner.


Nicholson room


From classroom to computer, the blended learning approach brings it all together. For short implantology courses in October and November 2010 and the year course from February 2011, call BioHorizons (on +44 (0) 1344 752560 or +44 (0) 7843 089155) or call NIDIC (from ROI on 048 92617471 or from UK on 028 92 617471) for details.


Central to the development of the programme was Dr Ken Nicholson. Having spent the last 10 years heavily involved in dental implant education, Dr Nicholson has listened to his students (and those who did not take up further education and training in implant dentistry) and fully appreciated the good and bad points of courses offered. He has listened to the General Dental Council and academic colleagues. His MSc dissertation on the Evolution of implant education and training in the United Kingdom focused closely on current best practice in medical education and highlighted the many shortcomings of some of the implant courses currently available. These perspectives, combined with a wealth of personal practical experience, has allowed Dr Nicholson to produce an innovative learning platform in dental implantology addressing the issues most pertinent to a practitioner wishing to undertake further education in implant dentistry, namely;
1. Does the training comply with current guidelines?
2. Will I need to spend a lot of time away from my practice?
3. How much hands-on training is provided?
4. Are patients provided?
5. Must I provide patients for treatment?
6. What recognition do I get at the end of this course?
7. Can I offer my patients a discount if treated on the course?
8. Who is ultimately responsible for the treatment (medico-legally)?
9. What happens if my patient’s treatment is not completed before the end of the course?
10. How much does it all cost?

Each of the above questions is based on those most frequently asked by practitioners enquiring about implant courses over a 10-year period. Each has been addressed to produce a learning platform that provides a unique solution for the GDP and his/her patients, fully complies with current recommendations and, furthermore, incorporates the latest thinking and technology in medical/dental education.

From the absolute beginner in implant dentistry to the experienced implant practitioner wishing to brush up on their knowledge prior to sitting an examination such as the Diploma in Implant Dentistry RCS(Edin), offers an innovative learning platform:
• Online presentations – watch and listen when it suits you
• Online assessment – each online module is accompanied by a short test. All modules must be successfully completed in chronological order prior to progression to the next module and advancement on the course
• Online technique videos – (I hear and I forget, I see and I remember). Follow this with hands-on supervised surgery on provided patients to produce the ultimate learning experience – (I do and I understand). Return to these time and again to see what is involved in a particular procedure.
• Supervised surgery/ restorative – (I do and I understand). Whatever your level of confidence, competence and expertise, you will be closely supervised and guided at every stage during surgery and restoration.
• Feedback – an essential component of any learning experience. This will be provided for both the online and practical components of the course in a written format suited for inclusion in the implant case portfolio. Each delegate will be provided with a personal tutor.

Confucius (1993) The analects of Confucius [translated with an introduction and notes by R Dawson]. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York

Dennison B, Kirk R (1990) Do, review, learn, apply: a simple guide to experience-based learning. Blackwell, Oxford

Gibbs G (1988) Learning by doing: a guide to teaching and learning methods. FEU, London

Hillenburg KL at al (2006) E-learning and the future of dental education: opinions of administrators and information technology specialists. Eur J Dent Educ 10: 169-177