Inside Dental Technology
An Interview with Peter Pizzi, cdt, mdt
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): As you evaluate where the dental technology industry is today and envision where we need to be tomorrow, what do you see?
Peter Pizzi (PP): This industry is on an extraordinary evolutionary course that is radically changing how we communicate with our clients and how we produce the products we deliver. We now have an array of new digital tools that we can use to share information and collaborate with our clients on the diagnostic and treatment planning aspects of our cases. And, for the first time in history, these same tools have provided us with the potential to see the patient in the chair without having to travel to the practice, which allows us to play a more prominent role in patient care. We now also have computer-aided tools that offer unprecedented accuracy and consistency in the products we produce. However, that said, I think for many of us we are losing sight of our core business.
IDT: In what ways is the industry losing sight of its core business?
PP: Even though the tools we have today help us produce restorative solutions faster, and in most cases less expensively, we have to be mindful that our role is being played out in the healthcare industry. Every manufacturing business has undergone a production revolution with the advent of new technologies that allow us to produce or acquire from outside sources the products that are delivered. However, the dental technology industry is different and cannot be compared to any other industry in the world. We are not producing cars on an assembly line or manufacturing identical parts in volume batches. We are restoring the health of individual patients, each needing a unique solution. Our job is to replicate what nature created. What concerns me about our profession is that today so much emphasis is being placed on product and production processes that our focus is being shifting away from the healthcare of the patient and the artistic core of who we are as dental technologists.
IDT: Do you believe this shift may be a natural short-term outgrowth of economical pressures impacting the dental industry, or are you concerned this is may signal a permanent shift in the mindset of technologists and dentists?
PP: Let’s be realistic here. There will always be a segment of the dental industry and consumer patient base that is more focused on market price and will shop around to find the lowest cost provider. If that arena is where you want to position your business, then you will always be looking over your shoulder because someone, somewhere else in the world will challenge you by making products faster, cheaper, and perhaps better with the use of technology. There is always a sacrifice in quality level in the high volume, low price game and a sacrifice in customer loyalty, which is already non-existent in this business segment.
IDT: If high volume/low price and quality are mutually exclusive, how can businesses competing in our current economic environment thrive?
PP: By becoming an education resource center for your clients. Technologists today and in the future cannot simply be a supplier and vendor of product, regardless how esthetically beautiful that end product is. That mindset is no longer a value proposition for our clients. We need to partner with our customers and help them build and grow a successful business. The strategic question today is not, “What else can we make” but rather “What else can we do for our customers.” Customers and the market—not the manufacturing process or the product—now stand at the core of our business today and will keep this industry strong and thriving. For laboratory owners this new center of gravity demands that we rethink some long-standing pillars of our business strategy.
IDT: This “new center of gravity” takes the competitive advantage that has always driven this industry out of the laboratory and away from the product-centric focus it has always had?
PP: That is correct. It’s no longer about who can produce the most or prettiest products. The new focus is on the needs of the customer and your position relative to their purchase criteria. It is a team philosophy based on experience and knowledge. The more you know, the more competitive you will be in the market. The beauty of this philosophy is that you own that knowledge; it is cumulative and can’t be eroded by a prettier product or higher volume. You now have the power to choose your customer base and to decide with whom you are competing.
Tomorrow’s technologist will need an artistic bent, but more importantly has a curious mind that is hungry to learn and take on new information. Someone who can pick up a brush or a mouse and visualize the depth of the fossae, understands the complexity of anatomy and the physiology of the periodontium, and can guide their customers through myriad patient-centered restorative solutions and processes. Those are the dental laboratory professionals who will survive in the years to come.
About the Author
Peter Pizzi, CDT, MDT is the owner and manager of Pizzi Dental Studio in New York, NY.