For the third year running, we honor the best dental R&D of the last 12 months—with a fresh emphasis on the intellectual curiosity that helps us all imagine a brighter future.

By Rick Cohen and Chuck Cohen

WE STRIVE HARD for continuous improvement at Benco Dental. As a fiercely independent and family-focused company, though, we refuse to chase progress in the ruthless, dehumanizing ways some public companies do. Just the opposite.

We believe innovation is about people helping others work smarter, live healthier and get more out of each day. Practiced mindfully, as part of our culture, innovation is joyful, inspiring, fulfilling and fun—feelings we want to share. That’s why our third annual Year in Innovation issue of Incisal Edge is our biggest celebration yet of intellectual curiosity, maverick thinking and technology in the promotion of oral health.

We start by asking some of the smartest dentists and industry pros, “Why Not?”. Specifically, what would they wish for if anything were possible? Then we invited R&D specialists, industry executives, educators and entrepreneurs to share their unique perspectives on progress. From robotics to software to pharma, we posed some great questions and got even more candid, eye-opening and encouraging answers.

You might be equally surprised by how complex the innovation pipeline for dentistry really is. For dec­ades, a combination of public and private research funds has generally been unfailing in its ability to benefit dentistry—but not without careful navigation by people, institutions and companies whose motives can range from pure knowledge to aggressive profit. Former CNN staffer and Condé Nast writer Jamie Luke breaks it all down.

For this year’s Dental Innovator Hall of Fame, meanwhile, we induct two unique honorees. One is the most revered name in dental anesthesiology, Dr. Stanley Malamed. The other is a true unsung hero: an early, overlooked and largely unknown pioneer of light curing. We also check in with entrepreneurial dentist Dr. Michael Verber for an unflinching look at the ups and downs of implementing AI in his multi-unit practice.

We end on a milestone: This marks the tenth year of the Incisal Edge Design Competition, showcasing the most harmonious, boundary-pushing practice designs of the past year. If you want to see where the innovative rubber meets the road, our winners set new standards for marrying technology and high style with patient and team well-being.

As this issue demonstrates, innovation isn’t the sole domain of any one enterprise or institution. It belongs to all. Innovation is everything we aspire to be and wish for future generations. As leading-edge researcher Dr. Carmem Pfeifer told us, “Mentoring the next generation of scientists is a big deal, something everybody should be committed to. It’s a way to pay it forward.” We hope this issue serves a similar purpose, helping to keep the fire burning bright for all who believe in the power of possibility.