An Interview with Mark Maier
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): How have recent technological changes been disruptive to the dental technology industry?
Mark Maier (MM): For nearly a half-century, dental technology was a very stable and predictable industry. Dentists weren’t particularly interested in the materials and processes used in the laboratory—their primary concerns centered around whether the restoration fit properly, whether the esthetics were right, and if it was it delivered on time. Then in the 1990s, and certainly with the advent of CAD/CAM technology, life in the laboratory began to change quickly. Material manufacturers started branding their materials and marketing directly to dentists. As a result, laboratory owners lost control of their pricing options and rushed to lower prices in order to compete with CAD/CAM-produced restorations and offshore options. It has been a real challenge for many laboratories to incorporate these expensive technologies into their workflows, not to mention the financial difficulty of keeping up with advances in software and hardware. Digital technologies have changed the way that we, as an industry, produce, market, and sell our products.
IDT: Do you think that digital dentistry is here to stay?
MM: It’s a foregone conclusion. CAD/CAM has become, and will continue to be, the dominant manufacturing process in this industry. New material developments are being tailored to that reality. This is not a bad thing—the technology makes production easier to control and much more predictable. However, just how quickly the industry decides to adopt these processes is another question. We may have unrealistic expectations regarding the speed of change, as well as underestimating its significance. The market is experiencing some confusion regarding the use of digital technology as a strategy, thinking that it can be used as a replacement for a skilled technician. At the end of the day, the dentist is looking for a positive restorative outcome. How we achieve that outcome may be changing, but the fundamentals of tooth design remain the same.
IDT: As the industry transitions to a digital workflow, how will laboratories differentiate themselves and their businesses?
MM: It is imperative that laboratory technicians become a resource and supportive force for their dentists. The best way to achieve this is through education. Being knowledgeable regarding complicated, high-end dental procedures, having information about the latest material innovations—these are the things that make a laboratory valuable to its clients. Currently, Core3dcentres is helping technicians become more educated via our Core3daCADemy™, which offers technicians continuing education programs and accreditation opportunities to advance and differentiate their digital skills and abilities. Additionally, laboratories have to focus on business fundamentals. Service counts. Economics count. If you want to survive, you must understand your market and how to compete.
IDT: How can laboratories keep abreast of a rapidly changing business environment?
MM: There are a few avenues that a laboratory may take, but being informed is of the utmost importance. This can be achieved through in-person classes, attending tradeshows, or even through webinars. Not all digital solutions are the same, and laboratories need to have all the information in order to make the best economic and service decision.
IDT: Your father founded the very successful Aurum Group over 4 decades ago. Core3dcentres entered the arena much more recently. How does Core3dcentres fit into the Aurum family?
MM: With so much experience in the dental laboratory industry, we were able to anticipate the direction in which the industry was going. Back in 2008, we could see that digital was becoming a key component in the manufacturing process, and that the software and materials being developed were tailored to the digital trend. Looking at the speed and evolution of digital technology, we decided to separate that aspect of the business from Aurum and that became Core3dcentres, a global partnership on four continents. Overall, the timing was perfect because the economic landscape in 2008 caused laboratories that had never before considered outsourcing services to start using them on a regular basis.
IDT: What differentiates Core3dcentres?
MM: Core3dcentres offers smaller laboratories just entering the digital realm an exciting opportunity. Many outsourcing centers are so focused on selling scanners and equipment that they’re not investing the time or resources in the needs of the 1 or 2 person laboratory that might not have financial resources, bandwidth, time, or ability to harness all these digital tools and the benefits of the full digital workflow. The technicians working in these small laboratories know what a tooth is, they just don’t have access to all the new tools that they need. Core3dcentres is giving these technicians the strategic opportunity to compete in the digital world, not just with low-margin commoditizing quadrant dentistry, but more importantly, on higher-value-added comprehensive esthetic and implant dentistry to grow their business and that of their customers.
About the Author
Mark Maier is President, North America of Core3dcentres in Las Vegas, NV and Calgary, Canada.