As I look back over the past 20 years of so-called "innovations" in dentistry, a very odd list of products comes to mind. (posterior composites tooth colored inlays, air abrasion, lasers, cosmetic imaging, tooth whitners and so on.) They all have been heavily marketed to us. Bold, aggressive salesmen urge us to buy their better mousetrap becuase, if we don't, the guy down the street will, and all our patients will leave us.
The problem is that we can be lured into believing this stuff if we lose perpective. Some folks would have us believe that the latest trends in technology should define our practices. In fact, I've seen a lot of practices whose raison d'etre is the use of a particular technology.
It seems that some of us have indeed, forgotten that the most important tool in helping our patients save thier oral health is the trusting, caring relationships we cultivate with them. The truth is that there is no product, no technology, and no magic bullet that can displace a skilled practioneer doing the right thing for individual seeking good care. The truth is that the best results occur when patients seek the right dentistry at the right time by the right dentist for them.
I have realized that few, if any of these “better mousetraps” of dentistry are bad things. Some of them may, in fact, help us in delivering good care to those who trust us. However, it is also abundantly clear that they will never push aside L. D. Pankey’s Cross of Dentistry: know patient, know your work, know yourself, and apply your knowledge. The well-trained, ethical practioner knows where and when to use the lastest innovations for the benefit of the patient. None of these innovations is worth anything without a caring dentist who takes the time to know what is right for each individual seeking help.
Our rapid growth in technology will fuel more innovations at a binding pace, as companies try to appeal to our fast-paced, quick-fix society, more and more attempts at bypassing dentists will come our way. With this, will come more questions about whether the dentist really needs to be consulted before the lastest miracle product is purchased.
I hope that all of us reading this realize that no product or technologies can subsititute for a well trained dentist to help people attain their oral health goals. The challenge that innovations pose to us is to continually stirve for clinical excellence and to work to strengthen the caring relationships with those we serve.
Technology and innovation are great. They are meant to be used with wisdom and discretion. Let us strive to apply our knowledge so that we can use tomorrow’s technology with yesterday’s values to do right by those we serve.