Inside Dental Technology
An Interview with Dr. Robert Gottlander
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): As you look ahead at the dental industry, how will the structure change in the next 2 to 5 years?
Dr. Robert Gottlander (RG): Dentistry finds itself at an important juncture in the history of the industry. Today, rapid advances in technology have the ability to capture the patient’s intraoral situation and to produce the most precise and functional restorations dentistry has known. However, the continuum of new technological developments far outpaces the adoption rate of these tools both clinically and in the laboratory.
At the same time, the population in the United States continues to increase. With this increase in the population base will also come increased demand for dentistry. So the industry will be challenged in the next 5 years and beyond to find ways to meet that demand. It will have to adapt and rethink how best to meet the restorative needs and demands of these patients. Just look back at the last 5 to 10 years and how technology has influenced the methods, workflow, and materials used to fabricate dental restorations to glean how rapidly an industry can transform.
IDT: Are you saying that when it comes to meeting future demand, new technologies are a solution to the challenges that dentistry will face?
RG: It’s not that simple. The industry is comprised of tens of thousands of independent businesses, each with its own unique business model and each needing its own solutions. And not all businesses will adopt the same technologies. The key here is to rethink our focus. Our focus should be on the patient—what the patient needs, and what “best practice” tools are available to treat that patient. So that means we have to develop and adopt new next generation devices, materials, and methods so that we can better treat the patient and work in concert as an industry to meet our patients’ needs and demands. The development and adoption of these innovations has not and will not happen overnight, but the need to optimize patient care and maximize practice efficiency will certainly motivate the dental industry to embrace present and coming technological change.
IDT: Do you believe then that patient demand will be a major driver behind the changes you see coming down the road?
RG: Absolutely. You already see it happening in this industry. Patients receiving implant treatment demand a real-looking and functional tooth-like structure in place after implant placement versus a flipper-type provisional. This innovation in the implant treatment procedure also aligns with patients’ increased exposure to digital impressioning devices, which will spur demand for this technology over the conventional and much less pleasant impressioning procedure. Additionally, the patients whose dentists use digital impressioning devices will share their treatment experience with family and friends. The demand produced by patient word-of-mouth will help to drive the adoption rate of this technology.
IDT: What role will Henry Schein/Zahn Dental play in the future of the industry?
RG: As a global provider, we are committed to keeping at the forefront of new developments in order to provide the industry with not only the latest innovations, but also with a variety of solutions within the various product segments. We recognize that each dental practice and laboratory is different and has different needs. However, incorporating new tools and materials into the existing business model can be disruptive. If it is not understood how to integrate a device into a laboratory or clinical workflow in such a way that it enhances efficiency while simultaneously improving the quality of care provided to the patient, then the device provides far fewer clinical and business benefits than it would if it were integrated properly. As such, we work very closely with our customers to define what is best for their business model and offer guidance on how to make it work most effectively and profitably within the space that they have carved out.
IDT: What opportunities do you see for dental laboratories and practices that make the decision to invest and incorporate new technologies into their business models?
RG: In 5 to 10 years this industry will look quite different than it does today. This will bring about new opportunities for both the clinical and technical sides of the equation. Currently, we are just at the beginning of this transformation. The types of technologies we are using will be challenged by the continuous development of new innovations that further improve how we diagnose, plan treatment, and carry out the restorative process. But regardless of the new business models that will form to take advantage of these changes, the core of the industry—the clinical and technical knowledge required to treat our patients’ dental needs—will remain the same. This is the only constant in our industry, which continues to strengthen and grow.
About the author
Dr. Robert Gottlander is Vice President, Global Prosthetic Solutions at Henry Schein, Inc. in Melville, NY.