Border Moulding Is Like Doing Your Kumon Homework

Recently, I had a virtual meeting with the owner of a local Kumon learning Centre.  The purpose of this meeting was to see if my two kids should join their program in order to enhance their learning in English and Math.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Kumon method of learning, it was developed by a Japanese educator who developed a series of worksheets that the children are supposed to work through.  This particular Kumon owner refers to the experience of his students into three stages. The first stage is when the students are fresh about the idea of doing worksheets.  They started off with the easy ones, feeling good and excited about doing them.  They don’t mind doing them.  Then as the difficulty increases, they started to really dislike doing them.  This is the stage I hear most from the kids.  Then as they persevere and get over the difficulty, they start to appreciate what the philosophy of Kumon learning has done for them.  They still dislike them but continue to do them because they see the value in these worksheets.  When I first heard about the progression of this Kumon experience, I thought to myself this is analogous to me going through the learning stages of border moulding.

When I was in dental school, I first learned about the concept of border moulding in lecture. I had no idea why we have to do border moulding.  I just remembered seeing stacks and stacks of compound cakes and sticks in clinics.  But I never see the students nor the instructors use them.  When I finally had a case that I thought I should use these compound sticks for impression and border moulding, I was discouraged to use them.  Finally, I found a prosthodontist instructor who was willing to show me how to use them on my patient.  At the time, after using it with a Bunsen burner and a hot water bath, I thought it was really messy, time consuming and required a lot of set up.  I really didn’t understand the significance of using this material for border moulding.

Then going through graduate school in prosthodontics, I had to do lots of dentures…lots and lots of them.  Naturally it was an opportunity to try different materials and techniques.  I had so many amazing prosthodontists trained in removable pros to show me how.  The first time border moulding section by section using compound sticks, it took me three hours to get it right. It was so long and time consuming that I dread the thought of doing it again with the next patient.  But since I had to do so many dentures, I tried so many different ways of border moulding and had so much practice doing it.

Then I graduated and moved back to Toronto.  I didn’t have many dentures to do at the beginning.  But when the case called for it, I skipped the border moulding and tried to justify that I had a really good custom tray and that my heavy body PVS impression would be able to capture the vestibules.  I ignored the fact the borders were not perfect and justified again that I am now in private practice, the clock is ticking and I need to do everything fast.

Then few years into my practice, I realized how I stopped seeing the same suction I used to see from the dentures that I made in graduate school, or the suction I feel when I finished border moulding even before taking the final impression.  Then I realized how much border moulding with compound sticks contributed to the overall retention of my maxillary complete dentures.  From that point on, I digged out my compound sticks again, my Bunsen burner and get all messy with my border moulding again.  This time, it doesn’t take me three hours.  I can do it much faster.  Currently, I have reached a stage that I secretly enjoy border moulding and found this process very therapeutic.

In today’s jammed packed dental curriculum, I feared that the students will never learn to appreciate the art of border moulding.  For me, it took me many years to understand that.  I hope the students who want to learn the art of border moulding will find the instructor to show them how, and to persevere during the difficulty stage of learning, and to appreciate the value of this important step in denture making.

Thanks for reading.

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