Dental News - EAS Congress: “We reflect on the invisible and in return we just need a smile”

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EAS Congress: “We reflect on the invisible and in return we just need a smile”

Met in Venice at this year’s congress (from left): EAS President Dr Francesco Garino, immediate past President Dr Graham Gardner and EAS Scientific Chairman Dr Tommaso Castroflorio. (Photograph: Mauro Calvone)
Nathalie Schüller, DTI

Nathalie Schüller, DTI

Tue. 27. February 2018


At the second EAS Congress, EAS President Dr Francesco Garino, immediate past President Dr Graham Gardner and EAS Scientific Chairman Dr Tommaso Castroflorio took the time to sit with Dental Tribune editor Nathalie Schüller and talk about what EAS means to them and what they aim to achieve.

Schüller: The first EAS Congress took place in Vienna in Austria in 2016. We are meeting on the first day of the second EAS Congress in beautiful Venice. How was the idea of EAS born?
The original idea arose back in 2013 during an Align Technology advisory board meeting, where Dr Les Joffe, Dr Graham Gardner, Dr Tommaso Castroflorio and I were present. Les shared the idea of creating a European society, because at that stage there were only a few national societies. This idea was presented to a group of 40 to 50 doctors, all experts in aligners, and Les asked them if they wanted to be part of this project. Everything started from a couch. We saw someone passionate about this idea and Tommaso and I decided to join and support Les to bring this idea to life. Graham and Dr Clemens Fricke joined as well. Dr Juan Carlos Rivero Lesmes was the sixth member of the board until he left, at which time Dr Alain Souchet came on board.

Castroflorio: The common idea was that it was time for a European platform to give the opportunity to share ideas and projects.

Gardner: It was also the case that everything was revolving around Invisalign as a clear aligner system and we wanted to make it a neutral body that was not just about Invisalign; it was to engage everybody involved in aligner therapy, and that’s technology, so 3-D printing, 3-D planning. It is not just about aligner therapy, and we felt that we would like it to ultimately be that neutral body that funds research on aligner therapy.

Garino: That was the biggest challenge. All of us were Invisalign users. So, we decided on a neutral platform to give all companies, all aligner techniques, the opportunity to present their systems, and we would not during our tenure as members of the board be lecturing, to also stay neutral. We invited the aligner companies with greater success and more users and asked them if they would send one of their best clinicians to present and introduce their system. Some companies were not interested, thinking it would be an Invisalign congress.

Gardner: Coming back to the beginning, being part of something that is a vision and making it a reality requires a great deal of perseverance, hard work and passion. After five years, having 500 attendees is astounding because we are only five people on the committee. This shows that one can achieve a lot if one has people committed to working towards a common goal.

Invisalign is still the first system one thinks of when it comes to aligners. Was Align Technology keen to come on board?
: It was the right time for Align Technology as well. If a company wants to make clear aligners, the future of orthodontics, it has to start communicating about clear aligners. Universities have to come on board and they did. All the clinicians and professionals involved in aligner orthodontics, even if they work with different systems, showed that it was the right time to create something like EAS and they supported us from the beginning.

Gardner: Align Technology has been a big supporter of EAS. I think the company needs to be seen to be part of the aligner community and to be able to show where it is and say, yes, bring the competitors.

Garino: Competition is good. Our goal is to show what can be done with every system, so it is very fair. As a clinician, one can see what all the different systems are able to do and then one picks the systems that are good for the different cases one works on. We started the first congress at time point zero and we needed to learn how to grow and see what were the lessons from the first event to improve on the next one. So, this time we have more national associations who came, Japanese, Taiwanese, Spanish, Italian, French, Swiss, etc., many already affiliated with the EAS. It should be our ambition to be the aligner version of the European Orthodontic Society, a sort of hub of interaction.

Castroflorio: The speakers are few at the moment because there are not many true experts. Collaborating with the national societies is useful to attract more speakers, to bring variety. We evaluate doctors lecturing in the short communication sessions because there are many young people, students from universities or young professionals, and we want to hear them speak, a sort of scouting for future conferences.

What have you learnt between the first and this congress?
: We learnt that we don’t have to have a competition between lectures and courses and that is the reason we have the pre-congress courses, not together with the lectures in the plenary room as we did in Vienna. We knew people wanted to come to Venice, most likely some decided then to also attend pre-congress courses now that these were not competing with the plenary room lectures. The second lesson was to increase the spectrum of choices, topics. The third lesson was to have new speakers.

Castroflorio: The first congress was mainly a congress where we decided to promote all available systems on the market. Every company had a speaker; it was not commercial, but each company had the opportunity to promote its product. We decided for this congress to be a true scientific congress, so we did not want systems to be presented, rather a discussion of clinical issues or research projects in order to have a more scientific environment.

Gardner: It is not just what we learnt to improve, but also what we did right. My feedback from peers I spoke to at the first congress was that they liked our format of many speakers and short presentations. The speaker has to give his or her message in a short, concise way. We had, which is most unusual with plenary sessions at congresses, a full hall on the first day and it stayed full until the end. Attendees were staying and not getting bored. So, we kept this for this congress, and I have no doubt that on Sunday the plenary hall will still be full. Unlike other congresses where the lectures take place at the same time, here attendees do not have to choose; they get to hear everybody.

You had 360 attendees for the first congress in Vienna and for this one almost 500, even though you expected around 400. How did you promote the congress?
I think at the first one, people were curious, just checking it out. The success is about the programme, so we tried to give a wide selection, offering a selection of short communications on Friday afternoon, plenary sessions on Saturday and Sunday and then on Monday the whole day on digital smile design and aligners, a very hot topic today. Second, it is important to have good topics and good speakers from different continents. Now, we have people wanting to come to EAS and we are still a young conference. We have a good communication team, the dottcom team, and conference organiser, ICO with Marco Moschin, who has had wonderful organisation here in Venice.

You all teach, have your own offices and took on this big project to host a yearly event. How do you manage it all?
Gardner: There is no politics between the members of the board; we share a vision, a passion. We have one task to solve and when one needs help, the others step in. With the increased interest and growth in aligners, where does that leave conventional orthodontic treatments? Do you think that eventually aligners will replace fixed appliances? Do we still have a need for both modalities?

Garino: Change is always a challenge and the fact that the use of aligners is increasing is because, as knowledge has increased, the number of users has increased. Therefore, the number of cases that can be treated with aligners has also increased and the quality has increased as well.

Are there still cases that can only be treated conventionally?
What is going on is that the collaboration between clinicians, researchers and companies is moving towards aligners or making a big place for them in orthodontics. Universities teach about aligners as well.

Gardner: It is I think a question of time. I use aligners in 80 per cent of the cases I treat. There are certain things still harder to do with aligners, but others that are much easier. We’ve got to the stage where, clinically, I believe there are cases that should only be treated with aligners. Some cases still require the rigidity of fixed appliances, but I am sure there will be something to come along and replace that. At the end of the day, dentistry is part of the world, and as with everything else, it has to evolve; it will not be left behind.

Garino: The key is about asking to what extent the dentist is prepared to leave his or her comfort zone. People don’t like change. Change is scary.

Gardner: At the end of the day, the patient drives the changes. I would hate to think of my great-grandchildren having to have metal elements in their mouths. The question is, will it die out? Whether it is aligners or some new laser-based treatment or something else, we do not know what is around the corner, but right now aligner therapy has distracted the normal flow in orthodontics.

Drs Garino, Gardner and Castroflorio, thank you for taking the time to sit with me and share what EAS is about.

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