Urs Christoph Belser, DMD, Prof. Dr med. dent. Chairman, Department of Fixed Prosthodontics and Occlusion, School of Dental Medicine, University of Geneva. Prof. Belser is an eminent key opinion leader, who has spent more than 40 years in clinical practice.
 
What are the most significant developments in restorative dentistry in the past ten years?

Digital impressions, CADCAM, new materials like high-strength and press ceramics, advanced polymer technology and adhesive technology have all had a big impact, along with an increasing trend toward the use of biomimetic principles.

What impact has digital technology had on your own work?

A major one! CADCAM technology has given us access to novel materials like zirconium dioxide and lithium disilicate. The spectacular virtual world we have entered offers numerous attractive pathways to high-tech restorations – from digital impressions and treatment planning to guided implant surgery, prosthetic design and manufacture. Also, communication between healthcare providers and patients is enhanced.

Will digital technology develop to the point that robots will take over from dentists?

Probably not, or only in specific fields like guided surgery.

Are high-end esthetics out of reach for the average patient?

Not necessarily! Natural teeth can be enhanced using minimally invasive techniques like dental bleaching and laminate veneers, which are now certainly within the competences of the average clinician and the budget of average patients.

Is implant dentistry driven by prosthetics?

To a large extent it is, because partially dentate or edentulous patients normally ask for teeth, or additional stability and comfort, not directly for implants. Logically, an implant has to be considered as the apical extension of an optimal restoration. In other words, implant manufacturers should increasingly focus on the restorative/prosthetic dimension of implant dentistry, as there is still a major need for further development.

How much difference have improvements in oral hygiene made to dentistry?

Prevention of oral diseases and efficient plaque control are the cornerstones of contemporary dental medicine. Evidence-based prophylaxis-oriented clinical concepts are changing both individual oral health and public health policies. Several European countries have reduced the number of dental students while increasing the number of dental hygienists.

What do you see as the major advances in restorative dentistry in the next five to ten years?

We will see further refinement of biomimetic, minimally-invasive concepts and techniques, along with the development of associated materials. Computer-assisted treatment planning, 3D guided surgery and virtual design of reconstructions will improve substantially. This process will be driven by visionaries from both the industry and academia.

What are the most pressing needs?

We need a more intense, efficient dialogue based on mutual respect between industry, researchers and clinicians to identify the future needs of the population, followed by concrete collaboration to respond to those needs. Scientific documentation is also essential to sustainable progress.