Hamilton AI (1977), Craftmanship is Important, Operative Dentistry, 2(3) 89.
Craftsmanship Is Important
In a discussion of the need for an increased supply of engineers that are truly inventive and creative, Thring (1965) describes the educational qualifications that he believes such engineers should acquire. Building on the two cultures of C P Snow, that is, literacy and numeracy, Thring adds a third-trained skill with the hands, or craftsmanship. He asserts that properly trained engineers should be able to understand and use the concepts of pure science and mathematics, understand the emotional aspects of human relations including verbal and written communication of difficult ideas to laymen, and should possess the manual skill of the craftsman and experimentalist. Thring goes on to say that the happy man is the man who has attained the highest development in all three cultures. The idea that the man who works purely with his intellect is better than the man who works with both his head and his hands is dangerous nonsense, Thring claims, because the imbalance can lead to nervous breakdowns and other unfortunate consequences.
How like the situation of the engineer is that of the dentist. He too must develop a scientific and humanistic background along with manual dexterity of high precision. Recent concepts of dental education tend to minimize the importance of manual skills and as a result the curriculum now allows less time for the development of craftsmanship.
Those who practice dentistry are aware of the essential part that fine craftsmanship plays in the restoration of teeth afflicted with dental disease. The longevity and success of the treatment depends greatly on the seal of the joint between the restorative material and the cavity walls and on the proper contour of the restoration. Neither of these requirements is easy to fulfill and both require of the dentist manual skill of high quality. Most of us know the frustration of finding recurrent caries around margins that were not adequately sealed and of making crowns that were not quite the right shade, to name only two possible disappointments. For unskilled operators the trauma must be substantial and as Professor Thring has suggested may lead to nervous breakdown. The suicide rate of dentists is extraordinarily high. Better training in craftsmanship to provide a balanced education might have a salutary effect on the health of the dentist; it would surely benefit the patient.
A. IAN HAMILTON
THRING, M W (1965) Mankind and machines. Nature, 205, 1149-1153.