An industry perspective on the oral healthcare arena
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Michael Nordahl, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing
Question NO. 1
Inside Dentistry (ID):The dental industry and the oral healthcare arena have been changing rapidly within the past 5 to 10 years. What do you see as the most significant of those changes?
Michael Nordahl (MN): Dentistry has undergone a renaissance over the past decade in both material sciences and technology. The treatment options available now encompass a vastly wider range of materials for restoring the teeth as well as highly predictable methods for replacing teeth. The pace of technological advancement within the dental office has also shifted rapidly. Most offices now run computers to handle the back-office procedures, and the equipment that is used daily in the operatory has reached levels of sophistication that seemed unlikely 10 years ago.
The evolving dental consumer is another facet of the change equation. There now exists a group of patients who not only seek dental health but also extend that desire to highly cosmetic transformations. Some patients visit the dental office not only to have certain things fixed, but with a list of demands or questions about how to change other aspects of their teeth or smile. This has been a wonderful modification of the dentist-patient relationship in offices that provide cosmetic procedures.
The last change, and one that cannot be ignored, is the demographics of the patient base. The largest population group in the United States—the Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964—are beginning to reach retirement. As a group, Boomers share a great concentration of wealth, they are prolific consumers, well educated, living longer, and very conscious of beauty and health. All of the characteristics of the Baby-Boomer generation bode very well for the desire and use of dental services over the next few decades.
Question NO. 2
ID: In what ways—both internally and in dealing with the broader oral healthcare marketplace—has your company responded to these changes?
MN: We have a significant group of material scientists, chemists, and engineers located on different continents who are all engaged in the process of developing new products or improving existing ones. At any given moment there are dozens of projects under consideration, from simple, incremental product improvements, to other projects that are best described as "science fiction." Regardless of how they are explained, it is this open environment with a free exchange of creative ideas that leads to real innovation.
We expand our product categories to offer a complete, state-of-the-art spectrum of products that addresses clinicians’ unmet needs. For example, most rotary burs are made of two-piece construction brazed together. The brazed joint is weak, sometimes resulting in breakage. Our new Alpen® carbide burs are manufactured from a solid piece of premium carbide. This eliminates the brazed-joint breakage, resulting in a stronger bur that functions better—our burs cut faster than our competitors’ and last longer, saving the dentist time and money.
We always gain knowledge from the field. While developing ParaCore™, our all-in-one post cement and core build-up material, we gathered feedback from opinion leaders and made observations in clinical dental practices that led us to create a unique mixing-tip delivery system that allows the dentist to apply the material directly into the root canal, simplifying the procedure and saving valuable time for both the dentist and patient.
Another example of listening to the dental community is Magic Foam Cord™, our cordless retraction material. Magic Foam Cord is an expanding VPS material, providing retraction and compression of the gingival tissue before final impressions without the time-consuming and often-traumatic placement of retraction cord. It provides an effective, simplified procedure for the dentists and additional comfort for the patient.
Question NO. 3
ID: What do you see as your biggest responsibility to the marketplace, and why does your choice rank as your first priority?
MN: At Coltène/Whaledent we are believers in shared responsibility. The dental industry can be described as a community, and we can all grow by giving back to this community. There are issues in dentistry that need the help of the community and addressing these issues will make dentistry a stronger, more secure profession for the dentists, hygienists, manufacturers, dealers, and laboratories, if we address problems from within.
Two issues that immediately come to mind are education and the underserved. Education—through the dental schools, hygiene and assisting programs, laboratory training, etc—is fundamental to the future of our profession. A pool of well-educated people entering the profession is necessary for the stability and development of our dental community.
Another issue of national importance is access to care for the underserved populations in our country. Again, dentistry as a whole is strengthened if we all give back in some way to help those in need. Coltène/Whaledent has a wide range of initiatives that are designed to give back to these struggling populations. We view this as a principal responsibility to the marketplace and hope everyone in the dental community will find some way in which to give back to a profession that has served us all so well.
Question NO. 4
ID: What do you see as the best approach to the research, development, testing, and ultimate delivery to the market of product advancements?
MN: It starts with staying close to the end-user to fully understand their needs, and having competent people who can see the opportunities that exist. We have a seasoned executive team that understands dentistry and a research staff that spans the globe. A significant amount of the company’s assets are invested in development activities. When targeting products of the future, development work must be planned long in advance.
We validate product concepts and ideas through research and customer interaction to produce consistent, best-in-class products like our BioSonic® product line. Before we launch any product, we want to ensure that the clinician will be successful with it, per the product specifications.
Every new product undergoes extensive field-testing done by dentists and opinion leaders. In addition, Coltène/Whaledent actively engages in collaborative projects with dental universities and other research institutions. We are likewise extremely interested in joint research on basic materials in cooperation with public research facilities.
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