Editing staff and publisher



The Last Word: A Message from the Dean, Volume 6

Now that we're actually in the second millennium and most of the fanfare about its arrival has died down, I've been thinking about how rapidly our profession has advanced and what developments we can anticipate happening in just the next 10 years. We're truly thousands of years away from the days when dentistry was practiced by ancient Mayan, Hebrew, and Egyptian cultures, and 150 years away from the 18th and 19th centuries, when dentistry in its crudest forms was practiced by blacksmiths and barbers.

Up until the last 50 years, dentistry was mainly a surgical profession with teeth being either extracted or restored. Little was known of the scientific basis for diseases of the oral cavity or of the properties of materials used for restorations. Our knowledge of preventive dentistry was limited (although not inaccurate), and cosmetic dentistry for everyone was a dream. Yes, we have come a long way in treating our patients, and the basis for that lies in our research advances.

In just a very few years we have experienced significant progress in our understanding of the anatomy, embryology, microbiology, and molecular biology of oral diseases. This knowledge provides the foundation for exploring and understanding the scientific basis for oral infectious diseases and craniofacial deformities. It also brings us closer to the still-elusive vaccines against caries and periodontal disease. And while the genetic code that defines susceptibility to disease and its expression is being deciphered, the ability to harness the power of this code to prevent and treat disease is likely to be just a few years away. Tissue engineering, which will ultimately enable the regrowth of teeth and their surrounding periodontal structures, shows enormous promise.

As you can imagine, just writing the above boggles my mind! And when I think that we here at NJDS are on the cutting edge of the research that shapes some of the answers to these challenges ... well, my mind boggles even more. Which brings me to the point: The new millennium shows infinite promises of advances that are only limited by our imagination and our resources. And how do those promises translate into reality for our profession? Yes, through patient care.

It is only fitting that as we begin this new century, we become active participants in the largest capital improvement program for UMDNJ that has ever been initiated. We're talking curriculum revision, improved patient care systems, research expansion. Please join me in my excitement as we embark on a journey full of new opportunities and prospects for each of us.

Warmest regards,

Cecile A. Feldman, D.M.D., M.B.A.
Acting Dean


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