Dr. Denise Estafan: Spreading Knowledge

We are excited to introduce our Editorial Spotlight series, which will feature some of the academics behind the scenes who help make SciForschen’s journals stronger by serving on our board and working as peer reviewers.

For our first spotlight, we had the pleasure of sitting down with a truly inspiring leader in her field, who believes in the power and importance of mentoring.

Dr. Denise Estafan, Associate Professor of Cariology and Comprehensive Care, NYU

Denise Estafan-Sci-ForschenDr. Estafan graduated from Cairo University College of Dentistry in 1969 and moved to Ireland, where she completed her residency. From there she moved on to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where she earned her stripes working in an outpatient clinic in general dentistry. In 1980, she moved to New York City where she was hired as an assistant clinical professor to the Department of Operative Dentistry at NYU.

New York University became her long-term academic home, and she has since risen to the top of her field as an expert in the area of restorative dentistry and CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) technology. Dr. Estafan is the Director of Esthetic Dentistry in the Department of General Dentistry in the Division of Reconstructive and Comprehensive Care at New York University College of Dentistry.

She is especially proud of the contributions she has made in the advancement of the CAD/CAM system. Of particular note, her position allows her to bring CAD/CAM machines into the classroom to give dental students direct experience with cutting-edge technology in the design and creation of dental restorations. The machines’built-in ability to let students self-assess their work has proven to be revolutionary in the learning/teaching process.

The Importance of Mentorship

Dr. Estafan sees the role of mentorship as a fundamental aspect of the research and knowledge transfer process at NYU. She has helped to foster a system of peer evaluation at her institution, in conjunction with a specific mentor, believing this peer-to-peer and student-to-mentor framework to be the key to a truly meaningful education.

In addition to serving as a mentor herself, Dr. Estafan also works to groom other mentors to share her philosophy that a proper education is not simply working toward a degree, but working toward having the actionable skill set and confidence to serve the greater global community by contributing to the flow of scientific information and expertise. In this way, the cycle of mentorship can have a profound impact on both research quality and the advancement of the dental field in general—something she is most passionate about.

The Future of Dentistry and the Global Knowledge Exchange

While Dr. Estafan teaches dentistry in the US, she still makes the time to speak throughout Europe and the Middle East. Looking ahead at the major trends arising in her field, she believes that digital dentistry will continue to be infused with traditional dental methods. She goes so far as to boldly state that with the influx of new technologies and a unified push toward advancement, traditionally used instrumentation could become obsolete in the next five to ten years.The United States is largely defining the trajectory of this research, but Dr. Estafan believes it is her duty, and that of others, to spread its findings throughout the world, through conferences and publications.

She sees firsthand how other global academics soak up and benefit from what is produced in the US, and she understands why widely accessible research publications are so important to the global knowledge exchange. Knowledge sharing enables dentists who are less fortunate or more isolated from the greater community to learn about advancements and pool resources to determine the value of new technology and instruments. For Dr. Estafan, leading-edge research areas in her field – such as real-time digital camera use, the utilization of CAD/CAM systems and laser technology– allow her and other researchers to elevate the discourse of development throughout the entire dental community. With knowledge sharing and mentorship, each advance can raise the bar on dental sciences for all.

Benefits of Open Access

Dr. Estafan points to the benefit of open access journals as compared to traditional scientific journals as an important piece of her overall research philosophy – highlighting their ability to publish quickly and spread knowledge much faster and to a broader audience.

Through mentorship teaching models, global lecturing and conference sharing, and open access journals, previously isolated researchers can now begin to keep up with new developments close to the time they are happening, and contribute their own sometimes marginalized but no less important voices to the discussion.

Coming from Egypt, to Ireland, to Saudi Arabia, and then working her way to a tenured position at NYU, Dr. Estafan understands this more than most, as she continues to work so that others might find their own paths to influence in the dental field.


  • NYU College of Dentistry Faculty Council Teacher Recognition Award In recognition of outstanding teaching and dedication to dental students, 2013
  • Recognition Award for valuable contribution as course director and instructor for Invisalign, 2006
  • Student Council Appreciation Award for outstanding service and commitment to the student body of NYUCD, 2005
  • Recognition Award for valuable contribution at the New York Academy of Oral Rehabilitation, 2004, 2005
  • Recognition Award for valuable contribution at the first annual Cerec University Symposium, 2003
  • Recognition Award as President of the New York Academy of Oral Rehabilitation, 2003
  • Recognition Award for valuable contribution at the conference of Operative and Esthetic Dentistry Cairo, Egypt, 2002