From the Editor
Gerard Kugel, DMD, MS, PhD
Two years ago, Inside Dentistry explored how dentistry had arrived at The Age of Digital Dentistry. Since then, manufacturers and oral healthcare professionals alike have created, delivered, and incorporated technological innovations designed to take dentistry where it’s never been before. The motivation for such calculated and educated leaps of faith undoubtedly has been to enhance the practice, predictability, and productivity of day-to-day dental operations.
This month, we fast-forward to 2020 as we attempt to forecast the conditions and trends that will shape the profession and the face of oral healthcare. In particular, we analyze what is taking place today in four key areas and how that might come to bear on what happens tomorrow in the dental practice.
Artificial Intelligence. Whether based in part on conclusions derived from computer calculations or some other type of differential diagnostic tool, the decisions dentists make about their patients should be practical and well-informed. If possible, it should be research-based. There isn’t anything artificial about that. Keep in mind, therefore, that technology is and always will be a tool for enabling better clinical decision making. It is not a substitute for intelligent, responsible case management and treatment planning.
New Benchmarks for Personalized Care. We cannot deny the unprecedented preventive and intervention opportunities that will come as we understand more about a specific individual’s biologic makeup and/or disease state. However, while such expanded knowledge about an individual may facilitate more targeted and specific treatment approaches, dentists and oral healthcare providers have always had the ability and responsibility to provide personalized care that is customized to the patient’s unique needs. The concept of personalized dentistry isn’t new, but rather a way of practicing that we have been using to care for our patients all along. The biologic and genetic discoveries taking place today that we expect will lend themselves to new diagnostic and treatment methods tomorrow will serve as tools for enhancing customized treatment.
Future Considerations for Adopting Technology. It doesn’t matter if it’s cone beam CTs, genome processing, CAD/CAM systems, or some other technology to come, the initial cost of “technology solution ownership” might limit early-phase adoption and assimilation in many dental practices. Increased demand and competition in the marketplace, however, will likely force lower prices and create greater affordability and accessibility. When you decide it’s time to incorporate the “technology of tomorrow” into your practice, I encourage you to exercise the same level of scrutiny when evaluating the appropriateness of these technologies as you would with any other “new and improved” material, procedure, or service offering. Remember that your job is not just to pass on technology solutions to your patients, but to educate them as well. You can’t teach what you don’t know, so be sure to stay informed by reading the major journals, staying in touch with your colleagues, and taking courses.
It’s always fun to ask, “What if...?” We hope you enjoy this “futuristic” issue and find that it delivers relevant and insightful information as you peer into the next decade of dentistry. As always, we encourage you to send us your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org . Your thoughts, opinions, and reactions motivate us to continually enhance our clinical content and coverage of today’s topics of interest. Thank you for reading and, most of all, thank you for your continued support.
With warm regards,
Gerard Kugel, DMD, MS, PhD
Associate Dean for Research
Tufts University School of Dental Medicine
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