Forget the flavor-of-the-week social media celebrities. True importance lies elsewhere—and no one illustrates that better than the man on our cover.

MOST PEOPLE gauge influence by the number of someone’s social media followers, but that hardly equates with the ability to effect change. Just look at the many advertisers demanding greater accountability from their influencer marketing strategies as engagement wanes and calls for regulation grow louder.

Not all influencers are created equal. In a world where more people than ever have become famous for being famous, trust matters. It’s one thing to follow people because they’re entertaining but another entirely when their views factor into your decisions.

Despite the media landscape’s seismic changes, Dr. Gordon J. Christensen has only grown in stature as a powerful influencer, starting decades before Merriam-Webster recognized the word in 2019. Social media wasn’t even a concept when dental professionals began following him as a sought-after lecturer and educator, not to mention for his contributions as cofounder of the nonprofit Clinicians Report alongside his esteemed spouse, Dr. Rella Christensen.

His reputation for unbiased, rigorous evaluation of new products, technologies and techniques is the stuff of legend. He’s a critic of the shoddy and unethical and an infectious champion of dentistry’s noblest aims. That unique combination has cemented his stature as an enduring and ever-influential icon.

We’re especially proud to feature Dr. Christensen on our cover, as well as the subject of a very special feature story (page 48) that caps our sixth annual 32 Most Influential People in Dentistry issue. Our reporting on industry influence is designed to reveal today’s most powerful, famous and persuasive individuals and deliver insights on how they pull the strings. After all, their influence affects your work, practice, life and prosperity—and dentistry’s public image.

Over the years, readers have taken issue with some of our picks. Consider, for instance, the beauty blogger whose evangelization of charcoal toothpaste helped make it a staple in medicine cabinets, to the chagrin of doctors nationwide. Or the young entrepreneurs reinventing dentistry for the digital age while streamlining doctors out of hands-on treatment. Our selection of the 32 Most Influential is understandably controversial, even among our staff, but it’s not our place to editorialize, let alone pass judgment.

Luckily, most of our influentials are widely viewed as positive forces—a testament to dentistry’s inherent goodness. All of us here feel proud to be part of a profession that’s trusted, respected and valued. We hope our analysis helps you make better sense of how dentistry is changing so you can make sharper and more informed decisions that yield greater success. Because regardless of the size of your sphere, you’re also an influencer who makes an impact. ■