Introduction to Dental Medicine

Dentistry in the 21st Century: A Legacy of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Edward F. Rossomando, DDS, PhD, MS


The four-part lecture/discussion series Dentistry in the 21st Century
examines dentistry’s past, present and future. Dentistry’s progress is
intertwined with innovation, but the acceptance of innovation by the
profession is not always straightforward. In the narrative of these
lectures the scientific, political and social forces affecting the
development and acceptance of innovative equipment and products and the
dental profession itself will be examined. Throughout the series, the
interplay of each of these forces will be used to make predictions on what
might be the future of our profession.

Lecture 1 will focus on developing timelines for the scientific, political,
and social changes in the United States from 1850 to 2016. These changes
will be related to technologic innovation and their effect on dental
practice during this same time period. The crossover of some of the
social changes such as women’s rights and civil rights legislation and
their impact on dental practice will be explored.

Lecture 2 explores in more detail the years 1900 to 1950, the dawn of the
industrial age in the United States and the consequences of the development
of a cottage industry for delivery of dental services. Lecture 2 will
introduce the post Second World War focus in American society on the
interplay of innovation and productivity in general and in dental practice
in particular. The effects of inventions on dental office productivity
will continue to be explored through lectures 3 and 4.

Lecture 3 examines the years 1950 to 2000 and examines the changes in
science, politics and society and the effect of these changes on dental
practice. Lecture 3 will introduce the impact on dental insurance on
dental practice and the emergence of chain store dentistry as forerunner of
corporate dentistry.

Lecture 4 introduces the scientific, political and social changes in the
years 2000 to 2016. During these years the digital and bioscience
revolution emerged. A combination of these advances resulted in additional
inventions such as robotics, 3D printing and stem cells all of which
promise to change improve oral health and increase dentist productivity.
This lecture will also explore the consequences of the increase in the
United States population, the relative stability in the number of
practicing dentists, and the emergence of midlevel dental therapists.
Lastly, the effect on dental school graduates by the expansion of corporate
dentistry will also be examined.

Epilogue – Two decades in this narrative are of interest. The interval
from 1900 – 1910 has a lot in common with the ten years from 2000 to 2010.
Both follow decades in which there were significant advances in basic and
applied sciences. The consequences of these advances on dental practice,
however, were quite different. Exploring these differences and perhaps
similarities will provide an opportunity to make some predictions about
future directions for the dental profession.