Cosmetic dentistry continues to be one of the fastest-growing areas of dentistry. With more than 7,600 members, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry is the largest cosmetic dental organization in the world. DE spoke with current AACD President Dr. Marty Zase about several topics including the boom in cosmetic dentistry, the status of the organization’s accreditation process, the AACD’s Charitable Foundation, and the future emphasis of the organization.
DE: To what do you attribute the continued growth of cosmetic dentistry?
Dr. Zase: I think many factors are involved, but the most important is the tremendous amount of media attention paid to this area of health care. This is multifaceted. The PR efforts of organizations, like the AACD, are significant but are only one segment of the issue. Countless magazines and newspapers are doing stories on cosmetic dentistry because people are interested. Dental product advertising has inundated television as well as all other media outlets. The television show “Extreme Makeover” exposed millions of people to the benefits of cosmetic dentistry. Individual dentists are advertising at the highest rate in history. The public is truly starving for more information on how to look better and be more fit. This has been exacerbated by the coming of age of the huge population bubble of the baby boomers. Gyms are full; healthy diet fads are sweeping the country. Most boomers want to look younger and more attractive, and their smiles are a great place to start.
In addition, cosmetic dentistry has opened up an inexpensive gateway with the widespread popularity and safety of tooth whitening so it is now available to most adults instead of only the wealthy. Once people start whitening, they observe their teeth much more and begin to notice additional problems. When patients own their problems, they are much more likely to want treatment than if they are just told that they have a problem.
Finally, like it or not, we are a society of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Well, the Joneses now have beautiful smiles!
DE: What would you say are the most notable achievements that have occurred in cosmetic dentistry in recent years?
Dr. Zase:First, and most important, is that cosmetic dentistry is focusing more on health and function rather than just improving esthetics. Educational opportunities have expanded and dentists are taking advantage of them. Thankfully, an ever-expanding number of cosmetic dentists have learned not to just do the job but do it well.
New porcelains and composites have increased the beauty of the results that can be achieved. We have much less dependence on metals, so we can produce even more natural restorations. Our growing knowledge and techniques around implants have given us options that never before had been available. We have increased our relationships with other disciplines of dentistry (most notably periodontics and orthodontics), which have helped us raise the bar for the level of what we produce.
We have improved our bonding techniques so much that sensitivity from restorative work can be virtually eliminated. We have improved our whitening formulations and treatments so that sensitivity in that area has also become significantly reduced.
Our education and knowledge is both growing and being spread throughout our profession so the work we do is becoming much more predictable.
We also are getting the word out - not only about what is available, but also that quality counts.
DE: Accreditation is one of the focal points of the AACD. What are the organization’s latest efforts in regard to the accreditation of cosmetic dentists? What measures have been established to ensure the success of the accreditation process?
Dr. Zase:We have a major goal to inform our members that accreditation is attainable. It takes commitment and letting go of some of the old, unfounded or obsolete myths about the process. We now accept digital photography as well as slides. Cases can be submitted one at a time, and they are judged without the examiners knowing who the candidate is so there can be no possibility of prejudicial treatment. Our examinations are incredibly objective, and they have specific criteria on which we judge. We give detailed feedback to unsuccessful candidates so they will know exactly where they need to improve. Our examiners are calibrated annually to ensure consistency in their evaluations.
We have an entire accreditation track at every AACD Annual Scientific Session to make certain we help teach the procedures on which we test. We have expanded the number of accreditation workshops we offer, and we present them across the country to make it easier for candidates to get involved and get feedback on their progress. We have established a mentor system for those candidates who desire one (HINT: get a mentor). Our photography and criteria manuals are enormously helpful in demonstrating what we are looking for so candidates will have a better understanding of what we believe excellence in cosmetic dentistry really is. We recommend courses that are helpful toward accreditation at universities and private dental institutions through our University Advisory Council and Private Education Advisory Council programs. We authorized a DVD series, available from The Source of Knowledge, which recorded some of our best practitioners/lecturers on each of the case types required for accreditation. Our new members-only Listserv allows candidates to ask questions of other candidates and accredited members to help them learn how to better deal with some of the challenges that come up during the accreditation process.
You should know that the American Board of Cosmetic Dentistry, as well as the entire Academy, is totally dedicated to increasing the number of deserving accredited dentists and laboratory technicians because we know we will be stronger and gain increased respect across our field when we have greater numbers to set the standard.
DE: How is AACD expanding cosmetic dental education beyond accreditation and the Annual Scientific Session?
Dr. Zase: First, our Web site - www.aacd.com - gets more than half a million hits every month. Most of these hits are from consumers who have found us on the Web because they have questions about cosmetic dentistry. We are answering those questions and educating them one click at a time.
We have challenged our members to be ambassadors for cosmetic dentistry. With more than 7,600 members, they reach millions of patients every year. Part of our responsibility as professionals is to teach. We encourage the highest standards of that behavior.
Our public relations campaign is hugely successful. We give media interviews weekly, and deliver press releases continuously. We average between 20 and 30 million mentions in magazines and newspapers every month. Those mentions lead to consumer questions, which lead to consumer education.
We established the UAC to enhance the teaching of cosmetic dentistry education at all stages of a dentist’s career. We believe that, in our profession, one should never stop being a student. We have 46 dental schools partnering with us in this endeavor.
We have also established the PEAC to encourage the teaching of the highest levels of cosmetic dentistry. We have 21 private dental institutions who have joined us in this program.
We recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Academy of General Dentistry to further cosmetic dentistry education. Although the details are not yet complete, the goal is the exposure of the entire AGD to more and better cosmetic dentistry continuing education.
DE: What will be the future areas of emphasis of the AACD?
Dr. Zase: Our goal is to become the preeminent resource for cosmetic dentistry information and education. We are well on the way. But even with the great start we already have, education of the public - as well as dental professionals - will always be our main focus. In addition, we will continue to expand services to our members to help them achieve and maintain excellence in the delivery of the highest of ethical treatment and cosmetic dentistry services. In short, we will provide education to anyone who is interested in learning more about cosmetic dentistry, and we will be well recognized as the voice of cosmetic dentistry.
DE: AACD’s Charitable Foundation has surpassed the $3.5 million mark in donated services. Would you tell us more about the Give Back A Smile program?
Dr. Zase: The program was designed as a way for cosmetic dentistry to give back to those who are less fortunate. Since 1999, we have been restoring the broken smiles of survivors of domestic violence. Just imagine being reminded of a horrible relationship every time you look in the mirror. Our volunteers have responded by providing cosmetic dentistry services - at no charge - to those people who once experienced such relationships. We are helping them get their lives back together, and the personal satisfaction is immeasurable.
The program is open to member dentists and laboratory technicians to provide services, and to the rest of the public via donations. We hope people will consider finding a way to be of assistance. Each year we conduct a silent auction at our annual meeting to raise funds. This year our charitable event in Atlanta will feature singer Kenny Rogers. We invite readers of DE to attend, donate, or both.
DE: AACD recently launched an improved AACD.com Web site. What should visitors expect at AACD’s new online home?
Dr. Zase:The design of our new Web site has been made more consumer friendly. It is easier to navigate, less crowded, and more pleasing to the eye. We also have included more information on the site. We have links to our educational and business partners. We make it easy to find a cosmetic dentist.Access by consumers and the media has been redefined and simplified. All photos on the site are the results of cosmetic dentistry done by our members. We have developed a simple site search to find what you are seeking. Our reference section has been expanded. Meeting registration, dues payments, and product ordering can now be completed with ease online. The accreditation section has been expanded with much more to come. Listserv options can be selected. We have made it easier to find what you are looking for so that we can truly be the preeminent resource for cosmetic dentistry information and education.
Dr. Marty Zase is one of only eight dentists in the world to have both a Mastership from the Academy of General Dentistry and be accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. A former clinical instructor at Tufts, he practices in Colchester, Conn. He lectures internationally, has published numerous articles, has developed many dental techniques and instruments, and was elected to Fellowship by the American College of Dentists. He is the president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and serves on the AACD’s Board of Accreditation Examiners.