Are digital technologies going to cause a dramatic change (a tipping point) in dental delivery or will these technologies evolve over time to merely create a shift in the way dentistry is performed?
This summer's Dental Trade Alliance meeting in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, gave attendees ample opportunity to explore this question. Based on Malcolm Gladwell's bestselling book, The Tipping Point, the theme of the meeting was: The Tipping Points: Grow Your Business in Explosive Proportions. Gladwell, the meeting's keynote speaker, acknowledged that our industry is fragmented and it could benefit from "a trusted voice" to sort through and make sense of the overwhelming deluge of available technology and dental services. In this way, he set the stage for detailed discussions about the increasing availability of digital technologies and the growing interest in CAD/CAM.
"This is a very confusing time for laboratory owners," speaker Mike Girard told more than 340 attendees consisting of manufacturers and suppliers of dental materials and equipment. "There is market clutter--a proliferation of systems and there are more on the way." Girard is vice president/dental for Brontes Technologies whose company is poised to introduce ImpressionFreeTM 3D intraoral imaging technology.
"Digital impressions will enable 'mass customization,' enabling restorations to be more accurate and offering patients a greatly improved dental chair experience," Girard explained. This is an exciting development "especially since inadequate impressions are a laboratory's biggest obstacle in working with dentists according to a survey conducted by LMT magazine," he said.
Although traditional PFMs still own the market, Girard told attendees he believes that digital design will be the tipping point. "There are 50 million crowns made every year in the U.S.; nine million are all-ceramic and one million of those are CAD/CAM produced."
In fact, according to Mike Augins, CEO of Sirona USA, in-practice Cerec systems currently represent six percent of the market, a statistic echoed by financial market panelists. Augins said he sees Sirona's 20-year history of its chairside CAD/CAM system as an evolution--a shift--rather than a revolution or tipping point.
Using the terminology from Gladwell's book, Augins explained that when Sirona introduced the system to the market, dentists who would be categorized by Gladwell as "early adopters" were eager first buyers. Now Sirona is reaching out to mainstream markets, which are less homogenous than early adopters and require multiple targeted approaches. "This market," he noted, "is much more risk-adverse than 'early adopter' dentists.
"Highly relevant for members of the dental laboratory community, this year's DTA meeting was organized through the efforts of two of the laboratory community's well-known networkers: National Dentex's Vice President of Technical Services Gerry Mariacher, who served as the 2006 meeting program chair, and National Dentex President Dave Brown, DTA's 2006 chairman of the board.
At meeting's end, Brown passed the gavel to incoming Chairperson Vickie Waitsman, vice president/general counsel of the DentalEZ Group. Next year, the meeting will be held July 24 through July 27 at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in southwestern Pennsylvania. For more information about the Dental Trade Alliance, click here to visit the website.