OPTIONS IN DENTISTRY
Can a dental education provide skills and knowledge that are valuable outside of a dental office? Absolutely, says Anthony Volpe, DDS, NJDS '60, now vice president of clinical dental research at the Colgate-Palmolive Company in Piscataway. He spoke at a lunchtime program for fourth-year students at UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School, part of a new series of lectures focusing on the many options for dentists beyond the traditional dental practice.
Volpe said that each of the major pharmaceutical companies -- among them Colgate-Palmolive, Warner-Lambert, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, DenSupply, Block Drugs, Gillette and Wrigley -- employs 5 to 10 dentists. Products such as toothpaste, mouthwash, toothbrushes, dental equipment and materials, drugs, analgesics and gum constitute $100 billion in annual sales and reach 5 billion consumers and 5 million professionals worldwide.
Dentists working in industry have a wide range of opportunities, according to Volpe, including conducting basic and clinical research, developing new technology and products, working with professional associations, and planning and conducting oral health education programs worldwide.
The dentist gave up his practice in Nutley in 1967 for a full-time position conducting clinical research for Colgate-Palmolive. (Six years were spent in the skin products division.) His 32-year career there has also included product and advanced technology development. In 1985, Volpe suggested that the company initiate clinical research programs at international sites. Today, Colgate Palmolive markets its products in more than 200 countries, maintains professional relationships with dental associations in countries as distant as Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and South Africa, and completed 30 large-scale clinical trials for its top seller, Colgate Total"®", in 30 foreign countries. He holds three patents, among them the one for Colgate Total -- an antibacterial, antiplaque product that has become the number one toothpaste seller in more than 30 countries. This is only after it went through 10 years of clinical trials and four years of scrutiny by the FDA, he disclosed.
In addition to the interesting work, he names travel opportunities and the possibilities of a generous compensation package among the positives of a career in industry. Although salaries during the first few years are far below what a practicing dentist could earn, he says that "if you make it," a bonus plan (profit sharing), stock options, a health plan and retirement program will substantially boost income.
He told students that future research opportunities are plentiful, particularly in cosmetic dentistry. "It will be esthetics, esthetics, esthetics, just like location, location, location for house sales," he says. Volpe predicts that one third of dental business will be in whitening products and procedures. "There will be new systems and they will be a bigger part of dental practices," he says. "We'll be doing two gels in one, five stripes in two."
He believes the other two areas of import in the future will be new products for periodontal problems and for fixing implants that have gone awry.
"Don't discount the idea of going into industry," he told students. "It' s been good to me."
What was the purpose of this program? "We wanted to create excitement about the many possibilities open to members of our profession," says Arnold Rosenheck, DMD, an associate dean at UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School, who planned the program. The New Horizons series also introduced students to Dr. Jerry Cardinale, state senator; Dr. Frederic Sterritt, Trustee of UMDNJ; Dr. Richard D'Eustachio, past president of the American Dental Association; and Dr. Robert Ott, past president of the Board of Delta Dental Insurance Company. The program will continue next year with support from the Colgate-Palmolive Company.
The magazine of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey