Innovation: Turning Problems into Solutions

by Dr. George Freedman

Dr. George Freedman Problems are encountered by most people every single day. Their easiest option is to simply back away from the situation, and to focus on more readily manageable issues. This is the most common direction, the path of least resistance and stress. It is often not, however, the most effective decision. Dentists, in particular, are trained as professional healers. They are taught to use science, experience, and manual dexterity to solve complex oral complications of disease, trauma, and neglect. The entire clinical process of assessment, diagnosis, planning, and treatment is essentially a problem-solving exercise. Furthermore, since most dentists practice alone or in small groups, the full responsibility of comprehensive care is borne by the individual clinician. The dental practitioner is inherently a problem solver!

Within the profession, there is small group of pioneering dentists and dental-industry innovators who identify specific problems faced by patients and/or practitioners, and then dedicate their own time, and their own resources, to attempting their resolution. The required work is often accomplished beyond regular practice and job hours. These projects are most often self-financed. A very high percentage of these efforts fail in the development stages; it is estimated that fewer than 2% of dental innovations progress to commercialization and widespread use. And, even the most successful inventions are all too often not credited to the developers and managers who have shepherded the projects from beginning to end. Nevertheless, these innovative individuals show incredible commitment and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds.

These visionaries have developed new materials and technologies, created new protocols, and driven the profession to ever-greater public recognition and respect. They have helped to expand the scope of dental treatment from a reactive, pain-driven discipline to a pre-emptive, function and appearance-motivated area of healthcare. In fact, it is interesting to examine the materials and technologies used daily by the dental profession; almost every advance can be attributed to a single stubborn individual who simply refused to be silenced, refused to give up, and refused to fail.
These are the innovators whom we salute in the July Oral Health issue. These are the colleagues and mentors who have made dental practice better, easier, and faster. These are the pacesetters who are responsible for enhancing the access to dental care and making treatment more comfortable and enjoyable. These are the visionaries whose ideas have finally arrived in the dental marketplace. These are the remarkable individuals who have transformed problems into solutions. OH

Dr. George Freedman is a founder and past president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, a co-founder of the Canadian Academy for Esthetic Dentistry and a Diplomate of the American Board of Aesthetic Dentistry.