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749: When is the Right Time to Take the Right CE? – Dr. Christopher Mazzola

Continuing education is critical for your practice. But if you don't take the right ones at the right time, it could be harmful for you and your team! To help you optimize your CE experience, Kirk Behrendt brings in Dr. Christopher Mazzola, a CE provider from the Pankey Institute, to share his insights into when, where, what, and how to take courses that will elevate your practice. To learn how to stop wasting time and money when taking CE, listen to Episode 749 of The Best Practices Show!

Learn More About Dr. Mazzola:

Learn More About ACT Dental:

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Episode Resources:

Main Takeaways:

  • Are you going to CE for education or edutainment?
  • Work on the health of your practice before taking any CE.
  • CE can drive a wedge into your team if you're not aligned first.
  • Remember that your team can become overwhelmed very quickly.
  • Take time to implement your learnings. Don't see patients the day after CE.
  • Don't take CE just to take it. You won't gain anything by speeding through it.
  • There are amazing webinars out there, but CE should all be taken in-person.


“Dentists — myself included — have come back [from CE] very, very, very excited. You huddle Monday morning. You're back. You're telling everyone, ‘This is what we're going to do. This is what we’re going to do.’ Secretly, behind you, everybody is whispering, ‘He's going to forget about this in two weeks,’ because of the hustle and bustle of the practice. The best thing that you could do for yourself coming back from CE is not see patients Monday morning. You've got a team meeting two, three, four hours long, however big your team is, however you need to build out systems to implement this, or it won't be as fluid as you want it to be. You will be going against the current. And in some practices, the current is very strong based on the personalities around you.” (11:00—11:42) -Dr. Mazzola

“What happens when people come back from CE, they either have the one or two people in mind as they return that they're going to back up and start over, or they're going to try to hit the bullseye of that patient that matched the course that they took. Hopefully, that happens in the first couple of weeks. If it doesn't, retention drops. So, if you're seeing two new patients a week and you're trying to find this one that's going to be the unicorn that lines up, it might be eight weeks out, or 10 weeks out, or 12 weeks out, or you're already going to course number two before that person appears. So, really understanding what you're investing in before you go six months out, a year out — talk to people who have done the CE before you to prime your brain to be looking for some of this stuff beforehand so you can see how prevalent it is in your practice.” (16:08—17:08) -Dr. Mazzola

“You can overwhelm your staff very fast. You come in and be a driver. So, I'm a driver. I'm a D [personality style]. I come through, I say, ‘This is the information. This is what we're doing.’ And it's not always effective based on the person receiving the information because, unfortunately, what I've learned over 15 years and reading way too many leadership books now is that people don't want to be talked to like I want to talk to them. They want to be talked to in a way that is conducive to making them feel protected and making them feel safe with us moving on as a team, not as me dictating it but me as leading from behind and saying, ‘You guys got me. Can we move forward with this?’ It's different.” (17:50—18:43) -Dr. Mazzola

“I don't think you gain anything back [by speeding through CE] because you have zero time to implement and create change within your team.” (21:06—21:12) -Dr. Mazzola

“If you can't confidently say that the people in your practice know your core values, your mission, your vision, your purpose, what makes you unique, don't go take CE. If they're not on the ship with you, and you're not plowing forward, and the sail is open and you're flying on all cylinders, the CE is probably going to drive a wedge farther into the group because people don't believe in it because they don't have faith in the practice yet.” (22:05—22:41) -Dr. Mazzola

“If you're in your practice and you're trying to figure out, ‘Oh, maybe I should go do Kois’s six courses,’ how is the health of your practice? If you're going to invest in anything, find someone that can help you make that strong, and you will have greater joy while you're at work.” (22:51—23:07) -Dr. Mazzola

“How do you hire, fire, make decisions for the practice that are financially based or for the growth of the practice? What's your framework? . . . If you don't have either three or four pillars that you can stand on and everybody knows it, it's just fluff — or you're relying on someone else to make a decision that's in and out of your life.” (24:30—25:04) -Dr. Mazzola

“We only function as good as our lowest-hanging fruit. We need to help build each other up. So, if the team isn't acting as a unit and you go do this fancy course, and you come back and they're not behind you, it will be like trying to run uphill.” (25:31—25:51) -Dr. Mazzola

“[Make sure, especially if your spouse isn't in dentistry, that you carve out the same amount of time for them that's unique and special. So, if you're going to take a week of CE — I mean, I'm not telling you what to do, but I would at least try to get a long weekend away with my spouse as well because that is not CE based. You need that time to grow and connect. I had a mentor tell me, ‘What we do is challenging because we give our best to our patients. We come home, and we know that at home someone there has unconditional love for us, so we don't have to treat them as well all the time. So, you’d better make sure that that's not the normal, that that's not your every day,’ because we carry a heavy load between trying to keep a happy staff and happy patients, and you come home, and you absolutely can emotionally dump on your spouse. So, you’ve got to be mindful of that.” (29:52—30:55) -Dr. Mazzola

“I think, in dentistry, if we had more vulnerability, more truth to what's being lectured, we would all feel a whole lot better that people are in the same space that we're in.” (35:05—35:15) -Dr. Mazzola

“You really have to take a deep dive, personally, to figure out where you are. Where is your practice at? What's your mix of services? What do you dream to see for yourself in a year, three years, five years, 10 years? Write it down because that's the only way that you're going to be able to get traction and move things the way that you want to see it. So, if you're right out of school, you need to find a mentor. You need to find someone who has a teacher's heart who wants to take you under his wing or her wing and really see that you get the practice of dentistry and the business of dentistry. If you're five, 10 years out and you're super frustrated because you're seeing some of your original work come back and is breaking, chipping, failing, or popping off, maybe it's time to get involved in one of the bigger curriculums. If that's what's frustrating you, go to Pankey. Go to Spear. Go to Kois. They all have their ways of doing what they do.” (39:26—40:29) -Dr. Mazzola

“If you're a practice owner and you're 15 years out, and you're feeling frustrated but it's really not the dentistry that's frustrating you, you need to look at your practice. And I will say that CE is this thing that's in quotations and bubbled because it's restorative-driven a lot of the time. No — practice growth also happens in the practice with your admin team, with your office manager. We've had this conversation about how you don't “train” your team. We train our dogs. Like, we develop each other. You have a saying, and you probably got it from someone else, the best leaders see the people that they've led now lead others. That's what you want. So, if you're not seeing that in your practice, you need to go find that.” (40:40—41:31) -Dr. Mazzola

“There are lots of decision trees that you can go down for this. You really have to look internally first. Are you just filling a void by going to see John Kois? Like, what's the void? Is it because your team isn't helping push you forward? That's a team problem. That's not an education problem.” (41:41—42:02) -Dr. Mazzola


0:00 Introduction.

1:27 Dr. Mazzola’s background.

3:14 Dr. Mazzola’s CE courses at the Pankey Institute.

4:22 Why this is an important topic.

7:52 Figure out the type of dentistry you want to do.

10:43 Don't see patients right after taking CE.

13:24 CE challenges in a multi-doctor practice.

15:32 Know what you're investing in beforehand.

17:32 What CE has taught Dr. Mazzola about himself.

18:45 Get rid of limiting beliefs and imposter syndrome.

20:36 Work on your practice culture before taking CE.

23:40 How core values are relevant to CE.

25:54 Get your significant other on board.

30:57 Why CE should be taken in-person.

33:32 The importance of connection and relationships in CE.

35:19 The future of CE.

37:58 Start your own study club.

39:03 Final thoughts.

42:20 Write your struggles down.

Dr. Christopher Mazzola Bio:

Dr. Christopher Mazzola was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He attended the University of Michigan for his undergraduate studies where he graduated with honors with a Chemical Engineering Degree. During his undergraduate studies, he conducted research with dental school faculty on materials to aid in patients’ healing after dental surgery. He then continued his education at Michigan where he completed his Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree. While in dental school, he was awarded the University of Michigan American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Award for his research in the clinical application of CAD/CAM technology in dentistry.

Prior to joining Traverse Dental Associates, Dr. Mazzola owned a practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he was named one of the area’s 2013 TopDentists™. He continued with education focusing on communication and technology in private practice. He has also served as an instructor and mentor for new graduates focusing on patient interactions and CEREC CAD/CAM Technology.

In his spare time, Dr. Mazzola enjoys spending time with his wife, Christina, his children, Baylor and Eliana, and his three dogs, Isabelle, Lola, and Aspen. He tries to stay active through competitive CrossFit, golfing, running, and skiing. He is looking forward to watching his family grow in the amazing community that is Traverse City!