The July edition of Oral Health regularly highlights new products, new techniques, and new technologies. These are the innovations that improve our patients’ oral and general health, and make clinical dentistry better, faster, and easier. Inventive approaches make the practice of dentistry more exciting, something to look forward to each and every day. It should be no surprise that these developments don’t just happen by magic; they are always the results of perceptive intuition supported by rigorous persistence and personal determination.
How does a creative idea make it into the practice? It is a long and arduous process at best. While most dental developments are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the vast majority of new concepts never even achieve the prototype stage. Proof of concept is not always within the ability range of the developer(s). The modeling is laborious and expensive and requires tenacity on the part of inventors and backers who are well aware that fewer than 1% of new ideas can expect to succeed. Then there are the hurdles of standards and regulations which must be completely fulfilled to assure safe clinical application.
Finally, against all odds, and at great and risky expense, a product or technology is ready for presentation to the profession. At this stage, it comes down to the ability of the marketing sector to generate interest in the concept, to wean dentists away from established (and often successful) procedures to better (and even more effective) ones. Dental professionals are a conservative group, and reluctant to change proven protocols. The rationale for change must be comprehensive and convincing.
It can also happen that the better concept does not ultimately prevail; in the 1970s, Sony’s Betamax failed in competition with JVC’s VHS. While the Betamax technologically was superior, JVC did a much better job of reaching out to the consumer, educating the market, and seeking industry partnerships. How you present a new idea, who presents it, and where you present it make all the difference in creating success.
The established channels for communicating innovations in dentistry are publication and podium. Today, continually evolving online platforms form an increasing part of the publication channel. These are the forums where novel concepts are introduced, discussions occur, and practice-changing decisions are made. Without the ability to renew and revitalize itself, a profession risks stagnation and loss of relevance.
It is critical that the publication and podium channels be kept wide open to facilitate the ongoing discussions and evaluations of novel concepts. Profession-wide communication platforms are essential in ensuring that improved products, treatments, and technologies are readily understood and recognized. The parallel platforms of publication and podium continue to lead the dental profession to a future of enhanced treatment processes and treatment outcomes.
About the Author
Dr. George Freedman, DDS, DiplABAD, FAACD, FIADFE is Adjunct Professor at Western University (California) and Professor and Program Director, BPP University, London, UK, MClinDent programme in Restorative and Cosmetic Dentistry. A founder and past president of AACD and co-founder of the Canadian Academy for Esthetic Dentistry, he is author of 14 textbooks, most recently “Contemporary Esthetic Dentistry” (Elsevier), and numerous articles and webinars. Dr Freedman received the Irwin Smigel Prize in Aesthetic Dentistry (NYU College of Dentistry). A McGill graduate, he lectures internationally on direct and indirect restorative materials and new technology. Dr. Freedman is a Regent and Fellow of the International Academy for Dental Facial Esthetics, and maintains a private practice limited to Esthetic Dentistry in Toronto, Canada.