Dental community mourns death of Prof. Norbert Gutknecht
AACHEN, Germany: Members of the global dental community learned on 19 July of the death of Prof. Norbert Gutknecht, one of the pioneers of dental laser technology. Gutknecht, who was born in Germany in 1954, devoted his professional career to scientific research in the application of lasers in dentistry and, from the early 1990s, helped to educate generations of dentists in the responsible use of this technology.
Lasers have been used as an instrument for therapy and diagnosis in medicine and dentistry for more than 40 years now. Their advantages over conventional methods are undisputed today. The dental profession owes the breakthrough and the growing recognition of this technology to visionaries such as Gutknecht, who published over 200 scientific papers and books on the use of laser light in the oral cavity over the past few decades.
After graduating from RWTH Aachen University in 1989, Gutknecht came into contact with dental lasers as a young dentist. The technology was completely new at the time, and Gutknecht was one of the first dentists to explore dental lasers scientifically. He soon recognised the potential of the use of monochromatic light in the oral cavity. However, at the beginning of the 1990s, laser technology was still in its infancy in Europe and was considered a rather controversial technology in dental therapy.
Through his passionate research activities, Gutknecht helped coin the term “laser dentistry” and became an associate professor at the Clinic for Dental Conservation, Periodontology and Preventive Dentistry at RWTH Aachen University in 1998 and a full professor in 2003. In 2004, he initiated the first ever master of science in lasers in dentistry programme, which was presented at RWTH Aachen University.
Gutknecht held leading positions in various scientific organisations, including the German Society for Laser Dentistry and the World Federation for Laser Dentistry, and was always actively involved as a speaker and organiser of various congresses in order to keep attendees up to date on the state of laser dentistry.
As the scientific director of the Aachen Dental Laser Center (AALZ), founded in 1991 and the first dental laser education institute in Germany, he endeavoured to establish the training levels that dental professionals needed to complete in order to use lasers competently in dental practice.
After the recent death of Gutknecht, the AALZ honoured his achievement and wrote on its website: “His life was dedicated to building up knowledge, from his pioneering works in laser dentistry at RWTH Aachen University, debunking the dubious laser claims of the early years and researching what really worked and how to use this amazing technology, on to his school project in Kenya and his last stay in Namibia, where he helped establish the dental school at the University of Namibia.”
Condolences from the dental community on social media