Supporting Dentistry Into the Future With Integrity

Drs. John Powers and Sabiha S. Bunek
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Business partners Dr. John Powers and Dr. Sabiha S. Bunek enjoy collaborating over science and clinical experiences.

Since 1983, DENTAL ADVISOR has been serving the dental profession by researching products and equipment with a scientific basis in mind and connecting data to clinical practice. DENTAL ADVISOR interacts with more than 300 dentists to gain insight on new and established dental products.

Dentistry Today, which has collaborated with DENTAL ADVISOR for more than a decade to bring product information and evaluations to its readers, recently had the opportunity to speak with the co-owners of DENTAL ADVISOR, Dr. Sabiha S. Bunek, DDS, CEO and editor-in-chief, and Dr. John Powers, PhD, president, about the company’s mission and vision both now and into the future.

We have great respect for the information DENTAL ADVISOR has provided to the dental community over the last 37 years. What is the mission of DENTAL ADVISOR? Has that changed over 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 in 1983. I think that, while the mission of DENTAL ADVISOR hasn’t changed over the years, our approach has evolved as we’ve grown in our knowledge, body of work, and outreach. In today’s world, we recognize the need to be vigilant about remaining authentic, reliable, and transparent as product reviewers for dentists. Our work also benefits manufacturers because we’re not only helping them to identify the features and benefits of their products out in 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.

Dr. Powers: Our core values at DENTAL ADVISOR have not changed since its inception. My background as a researcher, mentor, and educator has influenced the pages of every DENTAL ADVISOR issue. Knowing the importance of material performance and specifications, I have always seen it as critical to determining success or failure in the dental practice setting. Working side by side with Dr. Bunek and assessing needs is what I enjoy most. We are fortunate to have a small but very dynamic and strong team here at DENTAL ADVISOR that is committed to researching what information the dental industry needs and wants.

DENTAL ADVISOR has recently gone through ownership changes. Please tell us about your leadership team and other team members.

SB: Dr. Powers and I have traveled around the world presenting DENTAL ADVISOR information to clinicians and researchers in the industry for the last 10 years, so it was a natural transition for us to become co-owners of the company. We complement each other well. While our styles are very different, we respect and honor each other’s viewpoints. It’s a pleasure to be in business with someone like him, who is not only my business partner but also a dear friend and influencer in my life.

An extension of our leadership team is our executive director, Mary Yakas. Dr. Powers and I rely heavily on Mary to head up the daily operations and pull the balloon strings together to provide daily direction and future planning for our team. Within DENTAL ADVISOR, we have a diverse and dynamic team of researchers, creative and design specialists, clinical writers and editors, a clinical consultant advocate for our wonderful volunteers, and a team that works directly with our manufacturer customers.

We also have clinical consultants from more than 300 offices across the United States who volunteer their time to provide us feedback. Between our clinical consultants and our core team, we are well positioned to influence dentistry, and we have so much more to share. Each time our team is together, I am so impressed by what we can provide by simple conversation and how many different angles are considered.

DENTAL ADVISOR’s editorial board meets biweekly to review product evaluations, new products, and research.

In your opinions, what do you see as the most important considerations in product evaluation as they relate to product development and research?

JP: Over the years, we have developed relationships with large and small manufacturers to work on projects at the pre-market level, often helping with third-party validation and testing. It is important to look at potential issues prior to launch, outside of the confines of the company where it is developed, away from paid opinion leaders, and separate from any internal influence. We pride ourselves on being very thorough and honest with any manufacturer about its product.

SB: My view as a clinician varies slightly. I know how important laboratory and clinical research are to the success of a product; however, it is just as important to have a product work in a dental professional’s hands. We see amazing products come through the door that perform highly in the laboratory only to be very technique-sensitive and not necessarily clinically feasible. For me personally, I need to have a sound, scientific reason to change my methods, but it also needs to be easy to integrate the product into clinical practice for the team to buy in.

Over the last several months, we have seen change like never before in our profession. What is DENTAL ADVISOR doing to keep your readers informed and safe? What do you think the future holds for dentistry?

SB: Although COVID-19 brought out fear and doubt in clinicians about doing things the right way, I do believe our profession was well prepared for the change this pandemic brought upon us. Infection control techniques and protocols have always been at the forefront of our profession, and, although stressful, I’m happy to see how well everyone has been adapting to the changes that have been mandated.

While dental offices were shut down across the country, our team at DENTAL ADVISOR was busy delivering information to help clinicians and their teams navigate the new world of PPE and what products were going to be effective against the new virus. During this time, we have been lucky to have Dr. John Molinari (previously DENTAL ADVISOR’s director of infection control) and Dr. Fiona Collins as our infection control consultants to work with our team on microbiological testing to address the area of aerosol mitigation. We are actively working on quantitative data to present at several meetings, and it has been an area that is sorely lacking in research.

DENTAL ADVISOR tests hundreds of products annually in their biomaterials lab. Dr. Powers, president; Jim Dombrowski, creative director; and Dr. Ona Erdt, clinical editor, discussing and debating DENTAL ADVISOR product research.

DENTAL ADVISOR’s motto is “Product Insights You Can Trust.” Tell me more about how that integrates into what is published and what information is provided from your research.

JP: Having a basis in science allows us to rely on scientific test results to help us assess a product’s claims. We help develop benchmarks and standards in conjunction with the ADA and follow established ISO and ASTM standards for testing. As new product categories are developed, we can take a 360° look at what the basis of the product is, how it should perform, and what we expect from test results in order for us to find something acceptable. The hallmarks of DENTAL ADVISOR are that we are trustworthy, we provide confidentiality, and we provide good research. I am proud to be a part of the product insights we provide.

SB: I agree completely. There is nothing that makes me prouder than sitting at an opinion leader meeting and having someone turn to me to ask what DENTAL ADVISOR found or what we think. It’s critical that we are honest and forthright in providing information and insights that are trustworthy. Anyone can endorse a product. Anyone can review a product. How do people know it is reliable and not a paid endorsement? I recently had a conversation with a manufacturer who mentioned that if we were really providing a service, we wouldn’t accept money. I find that disturbing. As much as I understand the need for charity, we know that the services of experienced professionals are just that: a service. We also need to clarify that although we offer paid services, not one person at DENTAL ADVISOR has ever accepted money for endorsement of a product. People do not buy their ratings or their scientific results. We do the work. We provide a service. Providing a service does not imply that we will find all products to be acceptable or ready for dental practice.

DENTAL ADVISOR is actively testing product efficacy related to infection control, with a particular focus on aerosol reduction. Dr. Bunek is a regular contributor to major dental meetings as an educator and opinion leader.

That’s very interesting. So, have you seen products fail? Do you report on those?

JP: We have seen many products fail, both in the lab and clinically. We take pride in working with manufacturers to diagnose where the issues lie. They can be chemistry, shipping and receiving methods, a variation in instructions, and/or ease of use in a clinical setting.

SB: At DENTAL ADVISOR, we have the approach that no one wins, especially the patient, in promoting a product that can fail. It’s frustrating for dentists and their teams, and it can affect reputations as well as cause financial distress for manufacturers. Our goal is to identify any issues early on and work with the manufacturer to develop and possibly change the product, technique, instructions, etc. As our executive director, Mary, often tells manufacturers, “Our group is not afraid to tell you your baby is ugly.” As bad as that sounds, it’s the truth. As scientists develop products, it can sometimes be difficult to accept that their “babies” may have some issues. This is where we step in and do our best to back up our findings with research as to why something may fail in the dental marketplace. That is not information you will see publicly as we don’t find joy in in letting everyone know how smart we are and that we were able to uncover the shortcomings in a product. We would rather work with manufacturers and their researchers to improve their products for the betterment of the industry and, ultimately, the patient.

Executive director Mary Yakas, Creative Director Jim Dombrowski, CEO and editor-in-chief Dr. Bunek, and Dr. Bunek’s assistant Shelby collaborate daily on DENTAL ADVISOR projects.

If you had to predict what will disrupt the industry in 2020/2021, what would you say it might be?

JP: I believe digital dentistry will continue to shape the landscape. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen 3-D printing companies change to accommodate shortages in PPE and testing equipment. We have seen typically innovative companies bring products back that were long ago introduced and revive them. Technology will continue to evolve, and machine learning will develop even further than before. The availability of Internet-based learning (and even saying the word “Zoom”) has drastically altered continuing education. It’s exciting to see. People are innovating and sending us products so that we can collaborate with them on ideas and make them a reality.

SB: This pandemic has certainly changed priorities for many, including what we had planned at DENTAL ADVISOR. Our publication schedule for the rest of the year, which had included updates on ceramics, composites, and other clinical-related topics, has already changed. We made the decision to completely shift gears and updated our main topic schedule to discuss and review products and equipment related to the pandemic. COVID-19 will affect our practices for years, and we will see many innovations in infection control as a result. Dentists have always been leaders in protecting our patients and our teams; however, I see dentistry taking a larger role in the future. With all the new infection control protocols changing the way we practice dentistry, we will continue to see new equipment innovations and products that fit better with the shifts and disruptions in practice.


Dr. Bunek, CEO and editor-in-chief of DENTAL ADVISOR, leads a seasoned team of researchers and clinicians in reporting evidence-based data relating to clinical and laboratory properties of dental products/equipment. She earned her DDS degree from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and maintains a private practice in Ann Arbor, Mich. Her unique and multi-faceted career as a clinician and researcher provides a valuable vantage point to bridge the gap between science and real-world clinical applications. She has been nationally recognized as one of the Top 10 Young Educators in the US by Seattle Study Club and one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry by Dental Products Report, a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Dawson Academy, named a Top 40 Under 40 by Incisal Edge Magazine, and honored with the Lucy Hobbs Clinical Expertise Award by Benco Dental. Dr. Bunek is a sought-after national and international speaker offering a uniquely balanced program, bridging the gap between research and clinical dentistry. Her dual role as practice owner and CEO of DENTAL ADVISOR establishes her unique perspective as an educator. She has presented at the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry, American Academy of Restorative Dentistry, Society for Color and Appearance in Dentistry (SCAD), and numerous other national and regional meetings. Her collaborative research has been published in several dental journals. She can be reached via email at drbunek@dentaladvisor.com.

Disclosure: Dr. Bunek is CEO and co-owner of Dental Consultants, Inc (DENTAL ADVISOR), and Bunek Dental Studio.

Dr. Powers graduated from the University of Michigan with a BS in chemistry in 1967 and a PhD in dental materials and mechanical engineering in 1972. He was a professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry from 1972 to 1988. He was a professor at the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston from 1988 to 2005, where he is now Professor Emeritus. He founded the Houston Biomaterials Research Center and served as director from 1994 to 2005. From 2005 to 2018, he was clinical professor of oral biomaterials at the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston. He is also adjunct professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, where he is a consultant to the Michigan Pittsburgh Wyss Regenerative Medicine Resource Center. Dr. Powers received an honorary PhD from Nippon Dental University in 2011. He was a founding member of the SCAD and received the E.B. Clark Award from SCAD in 2012. He received the 2013 International Association for Dental Research Distinguished Scientist—Wilmer Souder Award. He was named an American Association for Dental Research Fellow and an SCAD Fellow in 2016. Dr. Powers has authored more than 1,100 scientific articles, abstracts, books, and chapters. He is co-author of Dental Materials: Foundations and Applications and co-editor of Craig’s Restorative Dental Materials and Esthetic Color Training in Dentistry. He has served as dental materials section editor of the Journal of Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry since 2011. He can be reached at jpowers@dentaladvisor.com.

Disclosure: Dr. Powers is president and co-owner of DENTAL ADVISOR.

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