Turnover from year to year makes our annual 32 Most Influential list a microcosm of dentistry’s churn. Pay attention—the things they do (and the influence they wield) affects everyone in the industry.

THIS MARKS OUR eighth year tracking the 32 Most Influential People in Dentistry. Looking back, what’s most surprising about our list is how ephemeral it is. At least a third is generally new. If influence equals power—and on our list, it always does—then power in dentistry is shifting faster than ever.

Some shifts are easy to comprehend. Young dentists are far more enthusiastic than older generations about embracing new technologies, which opens the door wider for bold new tech leaders across the globe. A new breed of elected officials is replacing the stereotypical politicians of old, exemplified by the five dentists on our list who are serving in Congress. In addition, high-ranking industry executives are less entrenched in their C-suites. Social media has leveled the playing field for all those who aspire to influencer status. And disrupters like last year’s No. 1, insurance reformer Dr. Mouhab Rizkallah, can deliver a seismic shock to the status quo that’s impossible to top.

That’s not to say establishment’s influence is waning. Dr. Rena D’Souza, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, oversees the largest R&D budget in dentistry, over $500 million. The ADA’s Michael Graham helms dentistry’s most effective (and well-funded) lobbying efforts, influencing legislation and policies that affect virtually every dentist and patient. The CEOs of big DSOs (several are on our list) are capturing a larger share of the dental practice market each year, changing the landscape of how and where doctors practice.

Is all this change chaotic? Perhaps. But it also means there’s a healthy influx of new blood every year—like Doug Brown, the former DSO executive now running a venture fund for innovative dental startups. Or Brittany Glauz, a young hygienist and social influencer who uses her platforms to unite, educate, entertain and inspire fellow hygienists.

Also in this issue: Author and New York Times contributor Mark Caro explores the current state of dentist-physician integration and why, despite years of push and pull, some experts believe it’s finally inevitable (read it here). Former Wall Street Journal reporter Jerry Markon digs into the problems underlying a dire shortage of hygienists in many parts of America, and which solutions might make a real difference (read it here). And speaking of hygienists, we’re proud to introduce our third annual Hygienist of the Year, Shawn Oprisiu. On the design front, we tour a practice in suburban Dallas that trades traditional health care color palettes for something more individualistic.

This is our most important issue each year. The 32 Most Influential have the power to jolt not only oral health care, but also the entire industry, for better and sometimes worse. You can like or dislike them, but don’t ignore them. What they do affects us all. ■