Now more than ever, R&D drives innovation in dentistry. We offer a worldwide tour of that process at every stage—and celebrate the brightest lights who make it all happen.

INNOVATIONS IN dental health care require a staggeringly large global effort, a matrix of entities driven by motivations ranging from pure knowledge to profit to patient care. Somehow, it works. Dental technology is progressing at an exponentially fast pace. That’s thanks in large part to dentistry’s researchers, the glue that holds it all together.

For this issue, Incisal Edge was granted special access to the upper echelons of dental science, corporate R&D and product testing worldwide. It starts with basic research, which advances scientific understanding and forms the building blocks of progress. The problem is, there’s generally no money in that, which is why government agencies, nonprofit institutes and universities do most of the work. Former Wall Street Journal reporter and U.S. Senate policy advisor Jerry Markon explores the landmark merger between the American Dental Association and the Forsyth Institute that created a powerhouse of visionary thinking in basic research—and rescued one of the world’s leading centers for dental and craniofacial research from an uncertain future.

Basic research lays the foundation for applied research, mostly by for-profit corporations. Starting on page 20, you’ll meet the R&D maestros behind many of the products you use every day. Discover what drives them, how economics influence their decision making, their secrets to success and how their work affects you as both a clinician and practice owner.

Then there’s product testing, which serves as the ultimate check on quality and efficacy. Financial journalist Elizabeth Dilts Marshall gives us a rare look inside Clinicians Report (see page 42), led by the legendary Dr. Gordon Christensen, whom Dilts profiled for an Incisal Edge cover feature in 2022. The famously independent publication of Christensen’s CR Foundation methodically scrutinizes a dizzying array of new products each year, helping doctors separate the worthy from the not-yet-ready-for-prime-time.

We also induct two new members into our Dental Innovators Hall of Fame: Dr. Dan Fischer, the dentist-entrepreneur behind product manufacturer Ultradent, and the late Dr. Dominick P. DePaola, celebrated dean of several dental schools and former president and CEO of the Forsyth Institute. Finally, we wrap it up with the winners of our 2024 Design Competition, which for the eleventh year showcases the most intelligently conceived, planned and executed practices across the country.

Research, in all its forms, makes the dental world go ’round, nudging it toward progress. You’re a promi­nent part of that, since what you buy—or don’t—helps plot the direction of future R&D. We hope that this look behind the curtain usefully widens your perspective about the road products travel as they make their way to your practice.