Ya say you want an evolution?

Where do you go for your technology information? In fact, where do you go for your updates on dental information?

Paul Feuerstein, DMD

Where do you go for your technology information? In fact, where do you go for your updates on dental information? I bring this point up due to some recent online "discussions" about the value of this and other dental journals. One complaint was that the information was old and rehashed. In this world of instant information, for those who choose to use it, there may be some validity. Dentists have choices on how to keep up with the latest information. Unlike our physician brethren, we do not always commiserate with our colleagues regularly. Most physicians have a hospital affiliation and can easily see the latest techniques, instruments, and information just by spending (required) time there. What do we dentists have? Most states require that we take 20 or more credits of continuing ed annually to maintain our licenses. Nowhere does it say what these courses must be, although some states monitor the categories and do not allow all credits in one area. And how many of our colleagues are in solo practice and have no other practitioners with which to share information? In fact, many feel that other dentists in town are their competitors, so why share anything? And in many cases, even when dentists are socializing, the unwritten "rule" is not to discuss dentistry outside of the office.

The Internet has changed how we exchange information. Journals, newspapers, music, movies, and more are online, and, with new high-speed access, at our fingertips. The increasing affordability of computer storage has also allowed us to accumulate huge amounts of information and index it for easy reference. The problem is that out of over 100,000 dentists, less than 20 percent are involved in this arena. The other 80 percent — at this time — still depend on printed media such as this and courses given by CRA, Dr. Blaes, and others for new product and procedure updates. As the age demographics skew to a younger majority, this will surely change, although, as it is lightly but truthfully said, dentists never retire. Despite the upcoming younger, more technology-oriented dentists entering the fold, the elders remain in practice, keeping the pendulum swinging their way. I can speak from first-hand experience (30 years) of my own peers that many are not or do not care to be "connected." On the other hand, my younger friends always check their email and look over the day's happenings on the Web. The dental information highway will certainly undergo a transformation and force a change in the system.

The evolution starts with David Dodell, a dentist in Scottsdale who had a vision several years ago. As a solo practitioner with an amazing computer background, he saw the Internet as a resource to share dental information. He established the Internet Dental Forum (inter netdentalforum.org), a group of both high-tech and low-tech dentists and related professionals who share daily insights into dental practice. Mike Maroon and a few of his colleagues saw this arena as the future of dental information and a way to bring dental treatment to higher levels. Generation Next (genr8tNext.com) also sponsors small specialty courses such as digital photography and has let us into the offices of some of the best cosmetic dentists in the world who are thrilled to teach and share information right on your computer screen. Both of these groups have set up conferences where members can continue these online relationships in person. In both cases, some new stars have arisen from their little cottage dental practices, a feat that would not have happened without these forums.

The newcomer is Howard Farran (also of Scottsdale) with DentalTown.com. In a short time, this forum has captured 24,000 members who have made over 200,000 posts. There is a 24-hour exchange of everything dental and then some. Last year, two members, Tarun Agarwal and Sameer Puri decided to put on their own DT meeting, similar to those just mentioned. They prepared for 200 attendees; over 800 showed up!

The bottom line is that with these forums, over 20 percent of the profession is finding out about products and procedures as they happen in real time. Be sure and visit these Web sites for more information about the forums and respective meetings. Dental Economics' Web site, www.dentaleconomics.com, is the first place for the latest in dental information. Let's get you other 80,000 into the new age. "We all want to change the world — and you know it's gonna be alright."

Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught courses on technology throughout the country. He is a mainstay at technology sessions, including annual appearances at the Yankee.Dental Congress, and has been a part of the ADA's Technology Day since its inception. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersindentistry.com) and can be reached by email at drpaul@computersindentistry.com.

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