Hit Me with Your Best Shot

I have had many opportunities to try new products in my practice. I report on some here and others in my lecture series ...

by Paul Feuerstein, DMD

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: ADA Clinical Evaluators, Professional Product Review, technology, Dr. Paul Feuerstein.

I have had many opportunities to try new products in my practice. I report on some here and others in my lecture series, but for the most part, I am giving you a >clinical impression of how something worked in my hands in my particular practice. Although I have a lot of experience with many of these technologies, I do not claim to have a research center. For that, I depend on some well-known and lesser-known organizations or dental schools.

Most of us are familiar with Dr. Gordon Christensen and his Clinician's Report (CR, formerly CRA Newsletter). The CR evaluations depend on a testing center, as well as a number of clinicians who use the various products and processes and pool their information as “evaluators.”

We also have Dr. Michael Miller with Reality and Dr. John Farah with The Dental Advisor. In addition, our tax dollars help fund the armed services with their excellent testing program called Dental Evaluation and Consultation Service. This is operated by the U.S. Air Force at https://decs.nhgl.med.navy.mil.

About three years ago, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs set up a new program, The ADA Professional Product Review, for testing and evaluating dental products. The ADA has had a “Seal” program for many years (75 to be precise) to verify manufacturers' claims, and to hold products up to basic standards for both consumer and professional products. The ADA Seal of Acceptance program for professional products was phased out in 2007.

The ADA states that, although it is strictly voluntary, more than 100 companies participate in the current Seal program for over-the-counter products. Participating companies commit significant resources to test and market products in the program. More than 400 dental products that are sold to consumers carry the Seal of Acceptance. These include toothpaste, dental floss, manual and electric toothbrushes, mouth rinse, and chewing gum.

The ADA Professional Product Review newsletter (the Review) is a more comprehensive endeavor. The Review was launched to study dental products used in practice, and issues quarterly reports for “unbiased, scientifically sound comparisons of professional dental products.” The report comes bundled with the JADA as a mailing convenience, but is independent with its own staff and editor.

The Review uses ADA labs where many people spend their days pushing equipment and materials to the limit. In addition, they gather feedback from several sources. Panels of experts in each product category are created and their discussions are published, along with clinical materials.

In addition, several hundred dentists volunteer to participate in surveys on the products being tested. To clarify — at this time — these evaluators are answering questions based on their experiences, but they are not yet supplied with the products to test. This group is called the ADA Clinical Evaluators (ACE). Information about the processes, procedures, and joining the ACE are on the ADA Web site.

Another evaluation method used by the Review is at the ADA annual session. For the past three years, a pavilion has been set up where dentists can try categories of equipment and then report on the pros and cons of each unit.

At the last session in San Antonio, six electric handpieces were lined up for hands-on evaluations. These results are pooled with those done in ADA labs and will be published in a future report. This information is also online at the ADA Web site (www.ada.org). Typing “PPR” in the search box at the top of the page will take you to the reports.

Although my interest is in the tech products that ACE has tested (digital radiography, intraoral cameras, electric handpieces, etc.), the evaluators also have looked at restorative materials, cements, impression materials, sterilizers, amalgam separators, and more. ACE encourages reader feedback, as well as suggestions for future studies.

Now, let me digress for a minute. Most dentists pay their ADA dues and have no idea what this organization actually does with “all of that money.” Some actually complain about the cost.

If you go to the ADA Web site, short videos allow you to “tour” the facility. I encourage you to make a “pilgrimage” to Chicago and get a tour of the headquarters — you will wonder why the dues are so low.

A note to avoid confusion is necessary. There is also a group called ACE (Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics). This online community hosts a discussion group on cosmetic dentistry, runs seminars throughout the year, and presents fellowships to dental professionals who go through a challenge exam. More information on this community is available at www.acesthetics.com.

Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught technology courses. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersindentistry.com) and can be reached by e-mail at drpaul@toothfairy.com.

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