With endodontics changing all of the time, the committee believes in the importance of honoring the specialities’ past. In an attempt to do just that, the committee has selected four endodontists to interview. These individuals will open up windows to the past and can share with us just how much endodontics has changed, why their mentors were so imperative to their development and what young endodontists should do to ensure success.
Peter A. Morgan, DMD MScD
Diplomate, American Board of Endodontics
President, AAE Foundation for Endodontics
Q: When did you complete your endodontic training?
A: I completed my endodontic residency at Boston University in 1975.
Q: Where have you practiced throughout your career?
A: After completing dental school at the University of Pittsburgh, I spent three years in the U.S. Army Dental Corps including a one year internship at Ft. Bragg, NC and two years at Ft. McNair in Washington, DC. After my two years at Boston University, I joined North Shore Endodontics and have been there for over 40 years.
Q: Tell me a little about your endodontic mentors.
A: During my time at Boston University, my primary mentor was Dr. Herbert Schilder, who was the Department Chair. In addition to Herb, who was the best teacher I have ever met, other members of the faculty and my co-residents were integral to my transition from dentist to endodontist. When I joined two of those faculty members, Dr. Harold Levin and Dr. Bob Rosenkranz in practice, I continued to learn from them. It was the beginning of a long-term successful professional relationship which continues to this day. Today in our practice, there are four partners and three associate endodontists and we learn from each other every day. In fact, one of the best learning opportunities comes when a new doctor joins and we all benefit from the combination of experience and new ideas and energy.
Q: Why is it important for residents and new practitioners to have a mentor?
A: A student can learn in a class room, from a book or in a clinical learning situation, but the learning experience that comes from the exchange of ideas with someone more experienced can have a lasting effect on your education, your patients and your career. In my case, I was encouraged by Herb Schilder to strive for 100% success in every case. His influence is still present in my daily approach to diagnosis, treatment planning, and treatment.
Q: In your opinion, how has endodontics changed over time?
A: I believe the essence of what we do to eliminate clinical symptoms and save teeth has changed very little. The methods we use to achieve our goals have changed considerably. An example is the following. When I trained, I did not use any type of enhanced vision, only wore gloves for surgical cases, and had no intracanal engine driven instruments except Gates Glidden drills. Every one of those categories has changed for the better. However, I still strive to achieve the same goal of 100% success and that success is based on my ability and persistence as a clinician to eliminate 100% of the contents of the root canal system and to obturate that resulting space.
It is easier to do now with rotaries and magnification, but it is still very challenging to achieve the goals.
Q: How do you see the future landscape of the specialty?
A: I believe the future of our specialty is in our hands. Several of the important factors are very clear:
Patients want to save their natural teeth
Implants have long-term failure rates greater than that of root canal treated teeth.
Endodontists are the specialists who should be doing all but the simplest cases.
The future success of our specialty depends upon all endodontsits providing the highest standard of care and advocating for that standard in all appropriate forums. It is dependent upon educators to demand all dentists in training understand the appropriate standard of care in endodontics. It is dependent on new and continued research to support the science that supports our treatment methods.
The partners and associates of North Shore and Brookline Endodontics pose for a group shot at their recent summer gathering.
Q: What is the most important thing endodontists can do to ensure a bright future for the specialty?
A: As President of the AAE Foundation for Endodontics, I have seen the benefits that the funding from the Foundation has provided to research, educators and to our newest effort in Outreach to Care projects. Residents, endodontists and corporate sponsors have supported the Foundation with generous funding. The continuation of this support is essential to the future of our specialty.
Q: If you could encourage young endodontists to preserve one thing about the specialty going forward, what would it be?
A: I believe the most important issue is for all endodontists to support the highest possible standard of care. It is that distinction between the highly trained specialists and general practitioners that should drive all stakeholders to demand the highest standard of care for all patients.
Q: What is your favorite thing about endodontics?
A: I still find the process we all experience daily to be one of the most rewarding things in my life. That experience typically goes something like this:
A patient in distress with life interrupting symptoms presents to the office of an endodontist. The patient has understandable apprehension about their problem and does not typically know the doctor to whom they have been referred. Then in a short time, painlessly and effectively, the endodontist gains the patient’s trust, diagnoses and treats the problem, saves the tooth, and gets the patient back to their regular life. In that process, I need all of my experience, built on my education and the influence of all of my mentors, to have a good outcome.
Q: Anything else?
A: Endodontics is hard. Find time to enjoy your life outside the office. It will provide you the tangible benefits of your hard work.