What 16 dentists and industry leaders are optimistic about

Sixteen dentists and dental professionals shared with Becker's what is making them feel optimistic about the future of dentistry and the industry — including the adoption of new technology and increased quality of care.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What aspect(s) of the dental industry makes you optimistic for the future?

Peter Ackerman. President of ADS Midwest (Chicago): The future has never been brighter for dentistry. While I believe technology has not fundamentally changed the manner in which clinical dentistry is delivered, it has significantly impacted the efficiency and scope that individual dentists are able to provide to the general population. In my almost three decades in dentistry I have never seen dentists as a whole generate more income providing needed services to a broader population with a better life balance than today. If the profession works together I don't see these trends changing.

Anna Berik, DMD. Owner of Newton (Mass.) Dental Associates: I have been practicing cosmetic and full mouth rehabilitation dentistry in Boston for 30 years, and I am psyched that people are beginning to understand the connectivity of oral health to wellness, longevity and youthfulness. I am now able to restore very worn, damaged, and sometimes, hopeless dentition in multiple ways and using digital tech. Game changing stuff when people begin to understand the value of investing in themselves, and we as a profession have the ability to bring them back to health!

Gordon Christensen, DDS, PhD. Owner of Practical Clinical Courses: Activity in dentistry is a reflection of the overall economy which is in a state of stagnation relative to the well known political and economic challenges in the U.S. Nevertheless, patients continue to need oral preventive, restorative, and surgical treatment. This will continue as needed at a pedestrian level. However, the elective parts of dentistry (sleep medicine, occlusal splints, orthodontics, veneers and other esthetic procedures) are not currently implemented at the level present before the recession and COVID-19. The elective procedures will be implemented more as the economy becomes better and the political scene is less uncertain.

Louis Cooper, DDS. Pediatric Dentist and Founder of OralHealthforkids.com: Various aspects of the dental industry are presently undergoing radical change that portends a very optimistic view of the future. Some of the following include: technology, AI and teledentistry, the appreciation of the link between systemic and oral health, the focus on disease prevention, practicing minimally invasive dentistry and the "dental home" initiative. 

Elie Ferneini, DMD, MD. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon at Greater Waterbury (Conn.) OMS: Technology is going to play a major role in our future practice. AI will become an integral part of our practice in offering therapeutic and diagnostic recommendations from cancer screening and prevention, to implant dentistry, to early caries and perio prevention and diagnosis. Virtual surgical planning will play a vital role in treatment planning in facial reconstruction as well as dental implant placement, including 3D printing. 

Rob Gershon. CEO of Convergent Dental (Waltham, Mass.): As healthcare technology evolves, clinical outcomes and patient experience get better and better, both leading to healthier, happier patients. I'm optimistic about the future of the dental industry because we've seen a boom in technology acceptance and application that has absolutely led to better results for patients and dental practices.

For example, laser dentistry was slow to take off when initially introduced. There were a lot of promises made that did not meet up with reality, and when more advanced lasers were introduced to the market, some doctors were a bit leery to consider them again. But today, lasers like Solea are delivering on the promises of virtually anesthesia-free, blood-free and suture-free dentistry. Solea dentists are practicing multi-quadrant dentistry, more same-day dentistry, and expanding into new soft tissue procedures. Technology can help advance the standard of care and enable dentists to deliver superior clinical outcomes.

Jerry Iacovano. Partner at LLI Advisory Group (Cranford, N.J.): The aspects of dentistry that make us optimistic for the future are the continual drive by practitioners to embrace new technology and techniques to enhance patient care as well as the overall patient experience.  While the DSO model has gained traction, there is still a prevalent entrepreneurial spirit in dentistry where younger dentists want to pave their own way in private practice. These two career paths give dentistry vital options for the future.   

Phillip Isaacman, DDS. Dentist at Bluff City Dental (Memphis, Tenn.): We are optimistic about the future of our work here in Memphis because so many of our people have never had good dental care. Huge segments of our population haven't had the means to replace teeth after they've been taken out. We're over here eating 150 pounds of sugar per year. We have tendencies to drink too much and skip our hygiene recalls. As long as we want to keep smiling, eating and living, dentists will be needed. 

Ronnie Klein. CEO of Rocksolutions: I have three children who are dentists (periodontist, endodontist, pedodontist). I look forward to their future due to the following aspects: The increasing focus on preventive care, the development of new technologies, the growing demand for dental services, the rise of teledentistry, the increasing diversity of the dental workforce and the focus on patient satisfaction. I believe that these trends will continue to shape the dental industry in the years to come. I am optimistic that the dental industry will continue to grow and thrive in the future.

Alan Law, DDS, PhD. President of the Dental Specialists (Minneapolis): As a practicing endodontist, I am optimistic about advances in technology that enhance our ability to diagnose diseases and improve outcomes. As a researcher, I am optimistic about research that is happening today that will improve care and outcomes for patients in the years to come. As a part-time educator, I am optimistic when I see the talented and committed dental students and residents who are our next generation of clinicians, educators, researchers and leaders. And as a recent past president of the American Association of Endodontists, I am optimistic when I see how dedicated professionals and staff can strengthen my specialty by supporting research, education, advocacy and outreach.

Timothy McVaney, DDS. Dentist at Specialty Dental Care (Omaha, Neb.): The increased success of fluoride. From 1999 to 2004, out of all adults aged 65-74, 24 percent had lost all of their teeth. From 2011 to 2016, the percentage dropped to 13 percent who had lost all of their teeth.

Lynn Pierri, DDS. Founder and CEO of Destination Dental (Hauppauge, N.Y.): In my 37 years in private practice in oral and maxillofacial surgery, there has never been a more exciting time to learn the new advances in dentistry than now. I have watched dentistry evolve from an analog workflow to a digital workflow with endless possibilities and opportunities. Delivering comprehensive patient care keeps surpassing itself. I look forward daily to what the future will bring.

Jay Reznick, DMD, MD. Founder of Southern California Center for Oral & Facial Surgery (Tarzana): The most exciting thing about working in dentistry is the ever-evolving advancements in technology and materials. These enable us to perform more complex procedures with greater efficiency and accuracy, and more comfortably for our patients. Because of this, dentistry will continue to attract the brightest and most innovative minds to take our profession into the future.

Peter Rivoli, DDS. Owner of Rivoli Dental (Avon, N.Y.): Disruptions in the industry have led to confusion and concern amongst providers. These disruptions come in the form of technology integration and industry consolidation. I believe that there is still a significant group of doctors who are either in charge of or in a position of control over the direction in which the profession grows, which is what makes me optimistic with the current path we are on.

Robert Trager, DDS. Dentist at JFK Airport (New York City): The big buzz around now is the application of AI in one's dental practice. It is here to stay but should not be used as a panacea but rather as an aid in diagnosis and management. I still want to maintain my skills that I have practiced and learned over the years and not become so complacent and allow a computer to determine my diagnosis and treatment plan. We should embrace AI but with an open mind. My most optimistic outlook is that many states have passed laws that will reign in how the dental insurance companies control and regulate their business. They now have to provide anywhere from 70 to 83 percent of the insured funds for dental benefits and not for administrative fees. The other bright aspect is that there are more dental schools opening up as well as dental hygiene and dental assistants in order to alleviate the shortage of dental health professionals.

Marc Wilk, DDS. Dentist at Tudor City Dental (New York City): The technology of scanning capabilities and the AI of design are enabling precision and quality of prosthetics we have never had before. This allows the products we deliver to our patients to be superior to anything we have in the past, and it will only continue to improve. The future of dentistry will allow us to focus more time and energy on our patients, which is where it always should be.

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