Professional Courtesy: Too Many Trade Shows by Dr. Thomas Giacobbi

Professional Courtesy: Too Many Trade Shows

by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, editorial director

A frequent topic of discussion among dentists and manufacturers alike is the future of dental meetings. Less than a year from now, IDS will celebrate its 100th anniversary. If you’re not familiar, this is considered by many to be the best dental meeting in the world, and it’s held only every two years. The meeting has hosted more than 2,300 exhibitors and more than 160,000 attendees in normal times, and I hope the 2023 show will approach those levels. Having a meeting every two years has been a powerful driver for attendance and enthusiasm from dental professionals all over the world.

I recently returned from the longest continuously running meeting in the U.S.: the Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting (“Chicago Midwinter”), which was celebrating its 157th year. Many meetings have been canceled, rescheduled or scaled back over the past two years, and both exhibitors and attendees are taking stock of whether they even need dental meetings.

The obvious drop in attendance has some exhibitors wondering if they should continue to attend so many meetings each year to maintain relationships with the dental professionals who support them. Several large companies are using this transition back to normal to test that theory by either presenting a smaller footprint or skipping the meeting completely.

Is organized dentistry prepared to respond to this change? Will all dental meetings assume they’re essential yet sit idle while their attendance numbers wither away?

I believe dental meetings will continue to be a necessity because none of the current virtual modalities can replicate the experience of in-person CE, the ability to be hands-on with new materials and the inimitable personal interactions that provide dental professionals with a break from the isolation of our practices.

The financial support from sponsors and exhibitors makes these dental gatherings possible and the past two years have provided them with a glimpse into a world of fewer meetings. The initial impressions suggest that this is the time for our profession to make some changes.

The U.S. dental market would be better served by eight regional events (or fewer) throughout the year. This would allow dentists to attend a meeting within a short drive or flight from home and still provide a robust exhibition, because manufacturers would be able to focus their support on fewer events.

I’d suggest the following meetings: Yankee Dental Congress; Chicago Midwinter; Hinman Dental Meeting; California Dental Association Presents; the American Dental Association’s SmileCon; the Pacific Northwest Dental Conference; the Texas Dental Association Meeting; and the Greater New York Dental Meeting. (This list could be further streamlined if some organizers agreed to hold events in alternating years.)

Smaller, topic-focused, niche events will continue to exist and serve the necessary function of community building for dental professionals with a particular passion. Dentaltown is proud of its position as the original online gathering place for dentists and an early pioneer in online CE. These virtual tools will continue to bridge connections among dental professionals in the spaces between in-person dental meetings.

What are your thoughts on the current state of dental meetings? Do you think the profession will act proactively, or simply watch and wait while this incipient decay of dental meetings continues to grow?

I would love to see your comments below. You are also welcome to reach out to me via email at

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