The Future of Dentistry
The future of dentistry has already begun. This book describes many techniques which one would not even have dared to dream of a few years ago. Nevertheless, it took 20 years for Buonocore’s acid etch technique to become generally accepted and 15 years until Fusayama’s total etch technique was accepted. Why? Academic chairs at teaching institutions are normally “blocked” for 15–20 years. If one looks at the level of science and not at the level of teaching, one can identify trends and extrapolate these into the future. Furthermore, preventive dentistry has shown significant successes in the past 50 years. Fluoride is used in combination with various oral hygiene concepts, and fluoride has been added to water supplies and to some foods. The use of extensive preventive measures has resulted in a clear decline in caries and its consequence of tooth loss with aging. Another important factor is the higher life expectancy of the people as a consequence of improved health care, better environmental and living conditions, and better nutrition.
Developments in Dentistry
In the past, people primarily went to the dentist when they had toothache. Aesthetic measures were virtually unknown. Patients did not expect to keep their natural teeth up to the end of their lives. The awareness that a smile also creates the impression of youth and health in mature people had not yet developed. Today, dentistry is no longer exclusively pain-oriented. Patients whose teeth are maintained well in modern dental practices by doctors and dental hygienists may possibly never experience toothache during their entire life. Modern dentistry has moved toward preventive medicine and by doing so contributes significantly to the improvement of the patients’s quality of life.
The standard of education of the population has continually increased over the past decades. It has thus also been possible to improve training in the area of oral health and to teach the preventive measures that dentistry offers.
Dental technology has developed impressively over the past decades. Dentists are today in the position to perform dental treatments more quickly, more easily, and qualitatively better than just a few years ago. In addition, dental assistants are better trained and substantially better qualified. All these considerations have led to optimized dental treatment.
Negative Future Trends in Dentistry
Unfortunately, a negative development which is influencing the profession and which will also shape the future of dentistry is apparent in countries such as Germany. Long-term questions are being raised, such as how everyone can have access to dental care and who should bear the expenses. Dentistry too is governed by officials and is controlled by ministries, unions, and universities. Some know exactly what is not feasible, but they don’t know what is practicable. This is hindering development.
Great Britain is a good example of how government influence can have a negative impact on the provision of dental care. The program for minimum dental care was a flop. Today, dentists are turning away from this program and are opening private practices where they can offer patients better quality and a broader range of dental treatment.
Nevertheless, there are many countries that prefer very narrowly defined socialized oral health programs. They frequently permit neither high quality care, nor free choice of care provider, nor free choice of treatment, nor expansion of the care, as provided by modern dentistry.
The dental professional organizations should find a way to allow care for all patients, something which is best accomplished under conditions of free entrepreneurial competition. But this is often prevented by the rules set by the dentists themselves.
Another negative influence in some industrialized countries is the short-sighted orientation of many doctors who only wish to maximize profit. For example, treatments are offered that do not necessarily serve the patient’s health. Medical ethics is not always the basis for a doctor’s actions.
Positive Future Trends in Dentistry
During the past decades, the amount of restorative work being carried out in dental practices has clearly decreased. Previously, restoring teeth with amalgam or composite contributed with 50–70% of all therapy measures in a practice. This percentage has been halved. The previous main focuses of dentistry were tooth extraction, restorative dentistry in children, and removable dentures. This has changed decisively and the process is still ongoing.
The following positive trends can be observed:
To conclude, one can say that the factors influencing the future of dentistry can be assessed as being mainly positive, with exception of plans regarding financing and access to dental care.
Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
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