50 Years Later

  • by Larry Stanleigh , BSc, MSc, DDS, FAGD, FADI, FICD, FACD, FPFA
  • Jul 26, 2019, 09:55 AM
It’s 1969. I am in my first year at Camp Wahanowin, a sleepover summer camp on Lake Couchiching, Ontario. On the evening of July 20, we are woken up late at night and ushered into the main auditorium to sit on the floor in front of grainy black-and-white TVs to witness history. Humankind is about to set foot on the Moon.

There are certain events in our lives — certain moments of time — that, no matter how much time passes, you can be transported back to and remember all of the details. As a certified science and science fiction nerd, this was definitely one of those moments. Where were you when we first landed on the Moon?

Just before the 20th anniversary of that momentous occasion, Carl Sagan wrote an article examining what it took to get us to the moon and what it would take to get us farther. And now, as we celebrate 50 astonishing years of humankind in space, we have come so far. Since that time, we have explored all of the planets and many of the dwarf planets and large asteroids in our solar system. We have discovered planets around other stars and learned that this is common. It is remarkable how far our knowledge of the universe has expanded as we continue to search for our place, our role and our purpose. Are we alone in the universe?

Fifty years has seen sea changes in so many fields. In 1969, dentistry had two basic filling materials: amalgam and gold. We had limited options for crowns. We had little knowledge and treatment for periodontal disease, and, therefore, it was common for people to accept that they may lose all of their teeth and require complete dentures in their lifetime.

And now? Amalgam and gold are supplanted by composites, compomers, glass ionomers, porcelain, acrylics, titanium, zirconium and more. Caries and periodontal disease — the two most prevalent infectious diseases in humankind — are now widely recognized as we try to change the world of healthcare and our role as physicians of the mouth. And that is only the surface of the changes that have occurred in dentistry in 50 years.

July 20, 2019, was a particularly sobering celebration for me as I sit in awe of the changes that have occurred in dentistry and in our world at large. I continue to be astonished by how far we have come. And, as an eternal optimist, I remain excited about the good things we have yet to discover, incorporate, learn and grow into becoming.
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