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Open Clinical and Science Forums offer chance for dialogue

Las Vegas—“If we don’t get the answers here today, at least we will get the questions,” said Dr. Michael Glick, kicking off the Oct. 11 Open Clinical and Science Forum on the safety and effectiveness of dental restorations.

IMAGE: Dr. Hastreiter
From the audience: Dr. Dick Hastreiter, Eagan, Minn., participates in the Open Forum discussion. Photos by EZ Event Photography

About 700 dentists and others gathered in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for the first of two open forums on hot topics in dentistry at Annual Session.

The second forum, a discussion of facts and opinions surrounding temporomandibular disorders, was held Oct. 12. Sponsoring the forums for the second straight year are the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs, The Journal of the American Dental Association and the Council on ADA Sessions.

“Our hope is to engage you in a dialogue” on critical issues in dentistry, said Dr. Daniel Meyer, senior vice president, ADA Division of Science and Professional Affairs.

Drs. Meyer and Glick hosted the forums, which featured half a dozen panelists who offered brief presentations on their areas of expertise and then invited questions from the audience. Dr. Glick is the editor of JADA and dean of the dental school, University at Buffalo, the State University of New York.

The first presenter for the dental restorations forum was Dr. John Burgess, assistant dean for Clinical Research and director of the Biomaterials Graduate Program, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Burgess presented research showing that failure rates for dental amalgam and composite restorations were roughly equivalent and that the need to replace direct restorative materials usually resulted from secondary caries.

He later declared amalgam “a good, safe material,” which appeared to be the panel’s consensus.

IMAGE: Dr. Glenn
Dr. Glenn: The dentist’s role is to “apply science.”
Another panelist, Dr. Stephen Glenn, is a veteran of 38 years in private general practice and has just completed his term as chair of the ADA Council on Dental Practice.

At CDP, he said, “we like to think that we’re the council that is closest to the practicing dentist.” Restorative materials are constantly evolving, he added, and it is the practicing dentist’s role “to take scientific knowledge and turn it into applied knowledge.”

Dr. Eugenio Beltran of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the ideal restorative material should be durable, easy to use, easy to transport and store, acceptable to the patient, inexpensive and with no or minimum side effects.

Dr. Art Conn brought greetings from Canada where he is the dental advisor to the Medical Devices Bureau at Health Canada, the nation’s government-backed health care system.

In Canada, he noted, dental restorative materials are Class III medical devices, and manufacturers must provide evidence of their safety and efficacy.

“The government of Canada,” he said, “believes dental amalgam is a safe and effective restorative material.”

But certain environmental interests, he said, are “pushing hard for a ban on amalgam” and raising public health concerns about restricting access to the material for “vulnerable populations.”

Dr. Jed Jacobson, another panelist, is chief science officer and senior vice president of Professional Services for Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. He showed slides noting a decline in the use of amalgam and a dramatic rise in composite restorations between 1992 and 2009.

The final panelist was Dr. John Hellstein, chair of the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs, who talked about the council’s role in helping ADA leaders draft policies on restorative materials and other science topics. He also pointed to resources available online (the EBD website, for example) and in ADA publications and urged everyone in the room to be lifelong learners.

Questions from the audience ran the gamut:  the value of dental sealants, the reasoning behind certain insurance company reimbursements, the relative health threats of diseases as disparate as HIV, malaria and dental caries.

Never a dull moment.

IMAGE: Q&A: Audience members listen Oct. 11 to the Open Clinical and Science Forum panel discussion held in Las Vegas.

Q&A: Audience members listen Oct. 11 to the Open Clinical and Science Forum panel discussion held in Las Vegas.