Dental research created a profession. In the early decades of the last century, investments in dental research moved a trade to a profession. From the fluoridation of public water supplies – a crowning public health achievement of the 20th Century – to high-speed handpieces, dental composites and ceramic restorations, periodontal diagnostics and therapeutics, and more biologic approaches to replacing lost tissues, it was the investments in dental research that defined us as a profession.
Despite these advances, challenges remain. Enormous and unacceptable oral health disparities exist across vulnerable and underserved populations, cleft lip and palate remains a common birth defect, oral cancer is rising in young adults – possibly related to HPV, and we’ve yet to harness the true diagnostic value of salivary biomarkers or leverage the tremendous genomic medicine advances for oral health improvement.
So what about the future? With today’s scientific advances in genomics, metabolomics, personalized oral health care, tissue engineering, bioengineering, and the human microbiome, we are on the cusp of a scientific revolution in oral health care. Will the pace of discovery in the 21st Century match or exceed the strides of the last? Will we invest and will we have the scientific workforce?