Getting dentistry back on its feet amid a once- a-century global pandemic was a heroic effort on the part of thousands. This issue tells the tale.

MANY OF THE American Dental Association’s accomplishments go unsung. It is, for example, one of America’s most powerful industry lobbying groups. Yet because political advocacy happens largely behind the scenes, it’s often appreciated more by D.C. policy wonks than busy doctors. Plus, the dizzying array of issues the ADA champions—pursuing health-care reform, improving insurance access and administration, reducing regulatory burdens, managing student debt, funding and guiding federal-level scientific re-search—is a lot for most people to follow.

Then the pandemic hit. Suddenly, all eyes were on the ADA. Authorities jumped to characterize dental health care as “nonessential” and mandated shut-downs. The nation’s misery index spiked as patients went untreated, and doctors and team members suffered staggering income losses. It quickly became clear that dentistry was on its own. So, in April, ADA president Dr. Chad P. Gehani assembled the organization’s Advisory Task Force on Dental Practice Recovery. Thus began a nail-biting race to reopen dental offices led by the two ADA trustees on our cover, Drs. Rudolph Liddell and Kirk Norbo.

Their story, which kicks off our inaugural re-cap of the Year in Innovation (see page 22), isn’t just one for dentistry’s history books—it was the start of something big. Doctors everywhere came together online, collaborating internationally to help reopen practices, resume education and change the way care is delivered in response to this once-in-a-lifetime global crisis. That spirit of unity helped fuel the ADA’s successful efforts to deliver a blueprint for dentistry’s comeback by April. Meanwhile, ADA lobbyists won their fight to classify dentists as essential workers eligible for PPE from FEMA stockpiles.

As you’ll see in this issue, the pandemic did little to slow the pace of innovation in dentistry and related sectors. Conferences and meetings went virtual. Technology providers pivoted, reimagining products like lasers and teledentistry for the pandemic’s unique challenges. R&D continued, albeit sometimes from home instead of the lab. And doctors like the winners of our 2021 Incisal Edge Design Competition are delivering cutting-edge care in amazing new environments.

Many companies talk about innovation, but at Benco Dental, we actually measure it. Driving dentistry forward is our mission, so we take seriously our responsibility for making cutting-edge tools and technology more accessible. Last year, nearly a quarter of the products we sold had been introduced in the last three years. When you think about how little the staples of dentistry change, that’s a stunning figure. Looked at another way, it means our customers are voting with their wallets for what’s newest—to the tune of nearly one in every four dollars. We’re proud of that. On behalf of everyone here, thank you for your part in the collaborations and innovations that make dentistry so exciting. n