Take It From an AEGD Director: Dentaltown Rocks! by Dr. Gordon Lai

Dentaltown Magazine

Discover how he’s worked it into his training—and which forums and courses his students have learned the most from

by Dr. Gordon Lai

As a site director for the UCSF/NYU Langone AEGD program at a federally qualified health center, I’ve had the privilege of mentoring residents for the past seven years and helping them expand upon their clinical and didactic knowledge from dental school. One point I always emphasize on their first day of orientation is that my goal during the year is to help train them to think critically, and also to be able to think outside of the box when it comes to dealing with clinical situations they might face. Especially being in a community clinic setting where the facility and patients may not have the resources that a private clinic would provide, this becomes all the more important to provide the patient with the best care we can.

Office Highlights

During the early stages of their AEGD training, when I ask why they do a certain technique most residents reply it’s because the faculty at school told them to do so. However, many times they’re not able to give a clinical rationale for what the faculty had taught them to do. I try to expose them to a variety of techniques to approach certain clinical situations, so that they can eventually develop their own methods of dealing with it on a rational basis.

Dentaltown’s website and message board forums have been an invaluable and critical part of my own growth as a dentist, and I realized how beneficial it would be for my residents to supplement their didactic modules and lectures with learning from the community as well.

When I finished my dental school training and began a one-year GPR, I realized that I still had so much to learn. Dentaltown became a go-to resource for me during those early years; I would visit the forums on a daily basis to increase my knowledge. I tell my residents that over the years, the site has saved me lots of money and time that would otherwise have been spent on acquiring all the knowledge that is available for free on the site. One of the top reasons why I like the community for the residents is that it exposes them to new ideas, and new ways of approaching clinical situations they may not have been exposed to in dental school.

The top opportunities for learning
Throughout the years, I’ve utilized the site in different ways with the residents. Even before they start their program officially in July, I encourage them to sign up and enroll so that they can get the benefits as a student—which include being able to view most of the online continuing education courses free of charge. I also encourage them to start looking at the different forum categories and see which active topics are of interest to them and read up on them. Once they officially start the program, I encourage them to post cases and questions that arise with their own patients so that they can get feedback on how different clinicians will approach a certain situation.

There have been several areas and topics that I have found Dentaltown to be tremendously beneficial for the residents and their development. In this article, I’ll spotlight some of my favorites, which have proved invaluable to me and students alike.

I’ve found the site to be a tremendous resource when training my AEGD residents. I’m grateful for all the hard work that has been invested into it by not only Dr. Howard Farran and the administrators but also all the dentists who take time to post cases and comment so others can benefit.

I would certainly recommend new graduates spend time on the site and use it to enhance their learning, whether they’re in a residency or going straight into a practice setting.

Dentaltown Magazine

1. One area most residents have lacked in when coming into the AEGD residency is understanding occlusion and how to evaluate and treatment-plan larger cases. To help them gain a basic foundation in these areas, I have the residents review several of Dr. John Nosti’s online CE courses that he’s recorded for Dentaltown. Nosti covers a wide range of topics, including how to evaluate occlusal issues; how to take a CR record; and how to treatment-plan aesthetic anterior cases or cases with severe wear. These courses give the residents a good foundation to start thinking about how to evaluate and treatment-plan patients with more complicated occlusion and aesthetic issues. Each year, the residents have found Nosti’s lectures to be very beneficial, because he’s an excellent speaker and able to articulate and break these concepts down into easier ideas that residents can understand. Some of my residents have commented how they wished they had an instructor like him during dental school to make occlusion a less confusing subject!

Online CE

Dr. John Nosti’s CE courses on occlusion: dentaltown.com/nosti-on-occlusion.

2. With regard to restorative dentistry, I enjoy showing them the beautiful cases that are presented by different talented dentists—for example the composite restorative cases that Dr. Jason Smithson has posted. Seeing the quality of the cases being presented on Dentaltown has inspired a lot of my residents to strive to work on achieving those same results on their own patients. I always feel proud when they’re excited to show me one of the aesthetic fillings they’ve just completed, whether it’s because they got to use layering techniques or shaping techniques.

Case Studies

Dr. Jason Smithson’s case studies: dentaltown.com/smithson-cases.

3. In the area of endodontics, one common question I receive from new residents is about locating and accessing the MB2 canal in a maxillary molar. In the endodontic forum, a thread called “Hank’s Definitive Guide to the MB2 and Beyond” really helps new residents learn about the location where they can find this canal—and also the dos and don’ts when it comes to trying to get a file down this tricky canal.

I’ve also liked the different forum discussions regarding rotary file comparisons, and also the variety of case presentations that show residents how different dentists tackle the difficult endo cases. These forum discussions help my residents to see that there are multiple ways to tackle an endodontic case, instead of just the one way that they may have learned in dental school. I have also been able to expose them to some of the existing controversies surrounding endodontics today: traditional versus minimal access, one-step versus two-step appointments, and which irrigation method is best.

Message Boards

MB2 discussion thread: dentaltown.com/MB2-thread.

4. Dentaltown has also introduced some dental tools and instruments that I’ve come to depend on, and which I introduce my residents to. One such important tool is the microscope: The microscopes forum and specifically Dr. Glenn van As have been important factors for me in developing my passion and skills with microscope usage, which I try to pass on to my residents. Each year I do a microscope hands-on training session with the residents incorporating a lot of advice that I’ve picked up from the microscopes forum. So many of them have commented that after using the microscope and seeing what they are able to view (as well as the improvement in their postures), it’s hard for them to go back to just using loupes!


Microscopes forum: dentaltown.com/microscopes-forum.

5. Another important tool in our dental clinic is the SLR camera, for documentation purposes as well as patient communication. I emphasize the importance of taking good clinical pictures not only for the residents’ own case presentations but also because it will help them later to have a case portfolio to show future potential employers. Many residents had only limited exposure to taking pictures with the SLR camera during dental school, so I’ve found Dr. Jason Olitsky’s “Introduction to Photography” course to be very beneficial because it provides an easy-to-understand, step-by-step guide on what settings to use as well as how to position the patient and mirrors to get the perfect shot.


Dr. Jason Olitsky’s photography course: dentaltown.com/olitsky-on-photos.

Dentaltown Magazine
Author Bio
Author Dr. Gordon Lai received his DDS degree from University of California School of Dentistry in 2006 and subsequently completed a one-year GPR at the VA in Palo Alto. Since then he has been working at La Clinica de la Raza, a federally qualified health center in the San Francisco Bay area. Lai has served as the associate dental director at La Clinica de la Raza Pittsburg for eight years. He has also been actively involved in mentoring AEGD residents as the site director for the UCSF/NYU Langone AEGD since the program was founded in 2011. After years of practicing general dentistry and teaching, he has decided to specialize in endodontics and is currently a first-year endodontic resident at UOP Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.
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