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From the Editor
Charting the Course for Change
Think about the number of technological changes that have been realized in the past couple of years, not only in the workplace but also in our private lives. More than likely as we look toward future developments, the natural assumption is to think that the rate of change experienced today will remain constant for the foreseeable future. However, it’s not until we stop to think about how many changes have occurred in the past 5 to 10 years that we grasp the exponential speed at which technological advancements have been increasing, how greatly our lives have been impacted by these new developments, and how quickly we’ve have had to adapt in order to stay relevant.
The acceleration of innovation is doubling and tripling each year. What was new yesterday may be obsolete tomorrow or perhaps has evolved into a new iteration. However, rapid progress is exploding in all arenas. Whether in medicine, electronics, dentistry, manufacturing, or genetics, the quickening pace of technological progress applies across all these fields, which are developing their own pathways of innovation and progress.
It used to be that our expectations for the future followed a route similar to that of our parents and for our parents that of their parents. Exponential trends existed then but not at a rate that left the previous generation struggling to master the technology. Progress seemed to take a more linear and simpler path. The Bunsen burner was replaced by the electronic wax pot, which, in turn, evolved into induction heating technology for wax modeling. Although no steep learning curve was involved, some advocates for the Bunsen burner saw little reason to change. Today, innovation has taken a quantum leap from the simplicity of hot-induction wax modeling to virtual waxing via software and a click of a mouse. The long-held tradition of hand-casting metal copings or pouring up models can now be automated, using sophisticated laser-sintering and 3D-printing technologies. Pressed all-ceramic crowns or copings have given way to milled final restorations or understructures for layering or pressing. Facial scans of the patient can be merged with 3D computed tomography and impression scans for studying facial and bone structure or for the dental team’s virtual implant treatment planning in real time. The technological advances in the past 5 years have tripled any expectation we may have had for the future and brought with them the disruption that accompanies the rethinking and retooling of traditional workflows.
Innovation is progressing at an unprecedented rate. New advances will continue to multiply long into the future. Of critical importance will be how well laboratory professionals embrace these innovations and still maintain the ethical responsibilities they owe to patients.