Game Changers in Dentistry: 2013 and Beyond

Marjorie Jeffcoat, DMD


December 17, 2012

In This Article
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'Tis the Season for Reflection

'Tis the season to indulge in philosophy and big-picture reflection. I am not immune. Although I gave up on New Year's resolutions a long time ago, December is as good a time as any to get our heads above the daily torrent of information and try to assimilate what has really been happening in our respective fields -- dentistry, in my case. With your permission, I would like to offer a personal view of what could be game changers: the ideas, science, technology, and policies that have the potential to influence the practice of dentistry in fundamental ways.

This is a dangerous and speculative exercise. Sometimes, it seems that time stands still in dentistry; it is a rare discovery or development that dramatically changes the way we do things. Yet, if we take the broad view, the practice of dentistry has undergone massive changes in a remarkably short period. It's not hard to identify the game changers in retrospect: fluoride (a bit before my time), composites, sealants, endosseous implants, and safe whitening techniques come immediately to mind. Other nontechnical developments have also changed the landscape, such as a new role for dental auxiliary personnel, the growth of group practices, the slow but inexorable expansion of dental insurance, and the rise of aesthetic dentistry as a practice focus.

However, if you ask me to name the revolutionary advances of 2012, I would first admit that I don't know, then plead that, in my defense, we are looking at processesrather than epochal events. Certainly, scientific knowledge and technical capabilities are being developed and disseminated at an exponential rate -- if you have any doubt, just take a look at Medscape, Medline, or any of the burgeoning print and online journals at your disposal -- but almost all advances are incremental. Which of the many thousands of articles and innovations will be translated into a standard of care? Routine practice is a matter not of revolution, but of evolution, where the fittest ideas survive and prosper. Frankly, very few make the cut.

Still, we can make some intelligent guesses at the trends that seem to be emerging as the likeliest game changers for 2013 and beyond. So, with no little trepidation, I will suggest 5 game changers, and await your feedback. Here goes.