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Do you believe in the future?

The Council of the Federation of Canadian Dental Student Associations meeting in Ottawa, June 2016

The Council of the Federation of Canadian Dental Student Associations meeting in Ottawa, June 2016

Last weekend, I attended and played a small role in the annual meeting of the Council of the Federation of Dental Student Associations (FCDSA). For two days, twenty really intelligent, creative and dedicated dental students from all ten dental schools in Canada came together in Ottawa to chart the course of their organization over the coming year.

It is not an easy task to create and develop a national student organization, but the previous and current leaders of this federation, that is still only four years old, have made great advances in this short time. Having been a dental student organization leader myself forty years ago, I was really impressed by how organized and passionate these students of today are and how focused they were on improving the lot of their fellow students through their efforts.

This desire to care for others is totally consistent with my perception of how nice and decent these students are. I certainly came away from the meeting with a great feeling of optimism about the future of the dental profession.  What kind of dentistry these future dentists will practice over the course of their careers has long pre-occupied me and I have made a number of attempts over the past 15 years to gather information that could give us insights in this area.

My latest effort to gain such insights takes the form of a series of interviews with recognized thought leaders in a range of clinical disciplines and clinically-related domains, in which I asked these leaders what they believe their discipline may look like in ten years’ time. We began posting these interviews in May 2016, and I am still working towards completing the series over the next couple of months.

I invite you to listen to and/or watch our already-published Oasis Discussions interviews with people like Dr. Chris McCulloch on the future of periodontics; Dr. Paul Edwards on the future of oral & maxillofacial pathology; Dr. Alison Dougall on the future of special care dentistry; Dr. Michael MacEntee on the future of geriatric dentistry; Dr. Anibal Diogenes on the future of endodontics; Dr. Jim Hupp on the future of oral & maxillofacial surgery; Dr. David Wong on the future of saliva in disease management; Dr. Jeff Glaizel on the future of tele-dentistry; Dr. Sree Koka on the future of prosthodontics; Dr. Rick Carvalho on the future of dental materials; Dr. Peter Jacobsen on the future of dental pharmacology; Dr. Ross Kerr on the future of oral cancer management; and Dr Bill Scarfe on the future of oral & maxillofacial radiology.

Some themes keep coming up in many of these interviews:we are on the threshold of much greater understanding of disease processes, we are in the era of patient-centred care, one size fits all treatments will be replaced by personalized medicine, genomics, proteomics, biomarkers and regeneration will be tools in everyday practice. Our challenge will be to re-imagine dentistry – both in our own minds as dentists, and in the minds of those we serve.

In the immediate future we have plans to conduct interview on the future of restorative dentistry, caries management, pediatric dentistry, dental anesthesia and orofacial pain. I continue to seek experts in the areas of orthodontics and sleep apnea. Am I missing crucial clinically-related areas where you would value the insights of a thought leader about the potential future of those disciplines?

Your insights about any aspect of this future-focused project are really welcome. The more insights we get, the better the leaders of our profession will be able to position our profession to be as strong and exciting as the student leaders of today are hoping it will be. Your engagement is a powerful signal of your belief in their future.

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