Advocating for Quality Products and Care

Sabiha S. Bunek, DDS

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Sabiha S. Bunek, DDS

In an interview conducted by Dr. Damon Adams, Dentistry Today’s editor-in-chief, Dr. Sabiha Bunek, THE DENTAL ADVISOR’s CEO and editor-in-chief, discusses her dental career and how the organization continues to play a leading role in the industry that is important for manufacturers, clinicians, and patients.

How did you first become involved working with THE DENTAL ADVISOR?
Dr. Bunek: Early in my career, in addition to doing clinical dentistry, I began attending weekly meetings at THE DENTAL ADVISOR. The dynamics and intellect of the group kept me engaged, and soon I found myself volunteering to write an article on fiber posts and composite cores. Of course, I was no expert on the topic at that time. But through research and my resources there, I gained a better understanding of the products in the category, which led me to change the way I practiced. So, early on, I saw for myself the benefit of good product information.

I continued to be involved in writing and research. In 2012, Drs. John Farah and John Powers, who had been mentors throughout my career, asked me take on the role of editor. I jumped at the opportunity, and during the next 4 years, while also maintaining a dental practice, I was on a mission to bring awareness to the work my colleagues were doing—meeting with manufacturers, attending industry events, and lecturing.

While my passion lies in clinical dentistry, my analytical side enjoys the science behind how and why products work. It’s fulfilling to share this information with my colleagues through writing or lectures, helping to connect the dots between research and real-world dentistry. Also, being able to translate research into everyday clinical practice allows me to better serve my patients.

Can you share a few words on what your role entails?
Dr. Bunek: Having been recently named CEO of THE DENTAL ADVISOR and editor-in-chief of its publication, I lead a team that works with dental professionals and manufacturers to obtain and publish evidence-based clinical and laboratory information on dental products and equipment. We’re committed to extending what our founders established 34 years ago into the future.

In my unique role of being both a practicing clinician and an editor, I’m working to bridge the gap between research and clinical practice. Our team communicates regularly with our scientists, as well as those working with manufacturers, to push for testing that is pertinent to real-life dentistry. By being engaged in both worlds, our team can successfully report on real-world clinical applications and advocate for better products for the entire dental profession.

You are a partner in a private practice in addition to your role at THE DENTAL ADVISOR, as well as a national speaker; and you are a wife and mother to 2 young children. How do you balance it all?
Dr. Bunek: I believe it’s essential to surround yourself and spend time with people who understand and respect what you do. As it’s been said, it takes a village. And I have a wonderful support system, from a husband who completely nurtures my drive and passion, to team members at THE DENTAL ADVISOR and at Enspire Dental who also offer incredible encouragement. In fact, my daughter will occasionally accompany me to the offices.

Also, I’ve learned to keep everything in perspective. Having lost my dad 5 years ago in a tragic accident, I am very aware that most urgencies that come up are not life threatening. This mindfulness has helped me to manage situations and overcome challenges.

When it comes to my leadership role at THE DENTAL ADVISOR, I’m fortunate that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel with a lot of things, because Drs. Powers and Farah have, as mentors, had a profound influence on my development as a leader and as a dental professional. They taught me how to navigate the research world, maximize my effectiveness as an educator and leader, and, most importantly, give myself permission to decline opportunities when my work-life balance is at stake.

Figure 1. Dr. Bunek has a dual role as CEO and editor-in-chief of THE DENTAL ADVISOR and partner of Enspire Dental, where she and her team deliver high-quality care for her patients using the latest technologies and dental materials. Figure 2. Dr. Bunek learned the advantages of a new Dental Wings intraoral scanner at the 2017 Chicago Midwinter Meeting.
Figure 3. Dr. Bunek participates in projects in THE DENTAL ADVISOR biomaterials research center. Here, she is working with Matt Cowen, the assistant director of the Biomaterials Lab.

You must have a unique perspective on the dental landscape, based on the many products evaluated by THE DENTAL ADVISOR. Where do you see things going in terms of product and equipment development?

Dr. Bunek: Hundreds of products are sent to us throughout the year, so we do see virtually everything that’s being developed for the dental community. Also, we see our role as providing an objective overview, based on both laboratory and clinical testing, and then summing everything up in an easy-to-read product review.

Beyond that, we do so much more. Several products are brought to us in prototype stage before the world sees them. Our years of experience helps manufacturers bring quality products to market.

The truth is, there are many excellent dental products on the market today. Although many “new” products and equipment might more accurately be considered upgrades or improvements to existing items, the reality is that’s how progress has been moving in the dental industry. Products are getting smaller and lighter, we’re seeing more digital technology, and all aspects of digital impression systems and CAD/CAM are improving. From my perspective, however, we haven’t seen the types of breakthroughs, and acceptance, equivalent to what I see in the consumer market or in other industries.

I also think that patients, as consumers, are taking it upon themselves to be more informed—becoming more aware—of the composition of products that are being put into their mouths.
Although we haven’t seen that groundbreaking technology or disruptive approach, I do think it’s coming. I remain inspired by the creative thinkers who use science and technology to continue to improve products for the benefit of doctors and their patients.

What is the mission of THE DENTAL ADVISOR? Has that changed throughout the years and how does it benefit both manufacturers and doctors?
Dr. Bunek: We’re here to provide dentists with a quick, objective guide to the products that can help them perform at their best, which leads to improved patient care. That’s been the mission of our organization since it was founded by 2 people with expertise in dentistry and biomaterials almost 35 years ago.

I think that, while the mission of THE DENTAL ADVISOR hasn’t changed in the past 10 years, our approach and the tactics we use to achieve it have evolved as we’ve grown in our knowledge, body of work, and outreach. And, in today’s world, we recognize the need to be vigilant about remaining authentic, reliable, and transparent, especially in our line of work as product reviewers and consultants to product manufacturers.

Our reason for being also benefits manufacturers, because we’re not only helping them to get the features and benefits of their products out into the marketplace, but we’re also providing them with feedback from the evaluations so that they can make refinements or improvements in the product development phase. As advocates for good products, I like to think we are one of the factors pushing manufacturers to deliver great products for dentists—and to continue to innovate.

Within the pages of Dentistry Today, we publish clinical evaluations done by THE DENTAL ADVISOR. Can you tell us about the process? Who actually evaluates the products, and how is a rating determined?
Dr. Bunek: As an organization, we review and report on hundreds of products every year. We have a team of 250 clinical consultants across the United States who volunteer their time to provide opinions on products and equipment that is put to work in their practices.

We design a custom survey by reviewing instructions and unique features, then ship everything to the offices that are participating. Once the product has been used and evaluated, we present it to our editorial board—a diverse group of dentists, dental assistants, hygienists, and scientists—who meet weekly to review the product evaluations. The results are reviewed and debated, and a final rating is agreed upon. Finally, a brief review is written by an experienced clinician and published in print and online. Our evaluation comes down to user opinion. Everyone wants a 5 rating, but not everyone can attain that. On the other hand, we have chosen throughout the years to never publish anything lower than a 3 rating. We are proud of our reputation of integrity in reporting and abide by the philosophy that no one wins when an underperforming product is brought to or kept on the market.

People have questioned why THE DENTAL ADVISOR does not cover negative aspects of the products we review—perceiving that we only publish the good. The reason it may appear that we only cover higher-rating products in our reviews is probably due to the fact that we take an active role in identifying any product issues very early on. If there are any negatives, we contact the manufacturers and work with them to investigate the issues and make corrections, which might be something as simple as a need to clarify instructions or address temperature changes during shipment. The manufacturers then have an opportunity to make improvements before an evaluation is completed.

Figure 4. Dentistry, delivered with excellence, runs in the family! Dr. Sabiha Bunek and her husband, Dr. Julius Bunek (a periodontist), collaborate in treatment planning a multidisciplinary case.
Figure 5. Dr. John Molinari hard at work in one of THE DENTAL ADVISOR research areas.
Figure 6. Drs. John Powers (left) and John Farah (right), proud mentors to Dr. Bunek, founded THE DENTAL ADVISOR in 1983.

How are the top awards determined?
Dr. Bunek: Once a year, in the fall, we vote on the top products from each category. Because there are several highly rated products to choose from, we speak from our experience of evaluating the products either clinically or in our laboratories or from both. The best products naturally rise to the top and are tough to beat. The preferred product is the one that was the leading competitor to the award winner and deserves note as it rated very highly as well. Our awards are earned and given, never bought.

These awards are highly debated in our editorial meetings for weeks and combined with feedback from our team of practicing dentists in the field. It’s not always easy! Since clinical evaluation can be very subjective, we’ll also look at laboratory studies in tandem with our evaluation process. A lot goes into rating the products. We discuss each product in depth, and ratings are always fairly established. Again, never does a manufacturer “buy” a rating. We do charge a fee to conduct the evaluation work; however, it does not affect a final rating.

Who are some of your THE DENTAL ADVISOR colleagues, and what are their roles?
Dr. Bunek: Our team is diverse and dynamic. We frequently debate science versus clinical conditions and discuss how to bridge the gap between science and real life. We have wonderful and creative thinkers, from our researchers to our graphics team. Our support team consists of unsung heroes, managing the day-to-day questions from readers, consultants, distributors, and manufacturers. Our account managers are regularly on the lookout for the newest products, techniques, and equipment coming to market.

John W. Farah, DDS, PhD, is the founder of THE DENTAL ADVISOR. He evaluates products clinically and prepares long-term evaluations of products. John M. Powers, PhD, is co-founder, and he manages the business and edits publication content. Our leadership team includes Mary Yakas, Executive Director, who manages marketing and sales and business development, and Jackie Farah, Director of Operations, who manages Human Resources, as well as our long-term database, website, and social media.

What can you share with readers about the core of THE DENTAL ADVISOR as an organization, and how do you see it changing in the future?
Dr. Bunek: At the core of our organization is authentic work being done by dentists, for dentists. As we grow and look to the future, one thing is certain: the ethics of THE DENTAL ADVISOR will never change. As we move forward in a cautious and calculated way, I think, if anything, you’ll see from us a stronger claim to who we are and what it is that makes our organization a unique resource for everyone in the dental community.

There are so many routes a dentist can take today, and there is so much information being thrown around. I believe it’s very important for us now to be that voice that brings together the research and clinical sides to be applied in the real world, so that we’re giving dentists the confidence in the product choices they make on a daily basis on behalf of their patients. When we wake up and are inspired to come to work every day, it’s still about helping dentists and ultimately improving patient care. In fact, I’ll put the coffee on in case anyone wants to drop by and see how it gets done.

Dr. Adams: Thanks so much, Sabiha, for taking the time to share a bit of your personal life with our readers, letting us know more about what goes on at THE DENTAL ADVISOR, and explaining why it has been so successful in supporting the dental industry for many years. Also, I want to take this opportunity to publicly congratulate you on all you have accomplished so early in your dental career. You are truly an inspiration to us all!


Dr. Bunek earned her DDS degree from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor, Mich. She maintains a private practice in Ann Arbor, focusing on aesthetic and comprehensive restorative dentistry. Dr. Bunek is a member of the International Association of Dental Research, American Association of Dental Research, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Society for Color and Appearance in Dentistry, and the ADA. Since 2002, she has been actively involved with THE DENTAL ADVISOR as a consultant, associate editor, contributing author, and, most recently, as editor-in-chief. Dr. Bunek has been published in a number of dental journals and also lectures on a variety of topics related to dental materials and digital technologies, as well as on clinical procedures using the latest products and techniques. She can be reached via email at drbunek@dentaladvisor.com.

Disclosure: Dr. Bunek is an employee and shareholder of Dental Consultants, Inc (THE DENTAL ADVISOR), and is a partner at Enspire Dental, PLLC.

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