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South Jordan, Utah
Dan E. Fischer, DDS, President/CEO, Ultradent Products Inc.
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?
Dan Fischer (DF): The patient has changed most significantly in the last several years. It is really a gorgeous change because our patients are living longer lives! Advancements in medical technology and healthy lifestyle habits have allowed humans, particularly those in the United States, to delay the clock of life another 10 to 20 years. This change has great implications for the practice of dentistry, most importantly, in helping our patients keep their teeth for a longer period of time. I feel that it is our obligation as dentists to design our treatment programs with long-term goals in mind. Because of the need for our patients to stay dentate, our goals should focus on preservation of natural dentin, enamel, and supporting tissues.
I have always been a big proponent of minimally invasive dentistry. As dentists, we know that trauma to a tooth is additive. The more that is cut, the more the tooth is weakened. If the tooth continues to be cut in the same manner over multiple years, the probability that the vitality of the tooth will be lost increases. We must place a greater emphasis on technologies which, first, prevent the infectious disease of caries and, second, keep conservation of hard and soft tissues in mind. The new “minimally invasive, patient-centered” paradigm will require the use of new materials and technologies to reach more of our fellow humans, providing affordable dentistry with long-term results in mind.
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?
DF: The concept of minimally invasive dentistry is central to addressing changes in the oral healthcare marketplace. At Ultradent, minimally invasive dentistry has always been at the forefront in the development of new products. One could easily find evidence of this in our continuum of products, the most visible being our tooth whitening products. Tooth whitening is extremely important to the minimally invasive concept. In fact, several recent studies have shown that Opalescence® PF with Potassium Nitrate and Fluoride actually improves overall enamel health.1 This has great implications for the way tooth whitening is presented to the patient. In addition to the benefit of whiter teeth, the patient can evaluate options on the basis of improved enamel health.
Oftentimes tooth whitening enables the clinician to preserve the tooth structure by preventing the need for extensive tooth reduction. For example, it is possible to place veneers with nice translucency on a patient with dark dentin without having to cut away a great deal of the original dentin. The dentist can whiten the patient’s enamel/dentin first to remove some or all of the dark color. This precludes the need to cut the tooth deeper simply to facilitate an esthetic veneer. It can also eliminate the need for unnatural looking, opaque-masking veneers.
Another important contribution to the subject of minimal invasive dentistry is repairability. Repairability allows us to keep all of the “value-bonded” old, whether it is old enamel bonded to old dentin or old composite bonded to old dentin/enamel, preserving more tooth structure and reducing overall trauma to the tooth. Quality, high-strength adhesives enable us to improve restorations and the underlying strength of the tooth structure. The end result is a reduction in the number of invasive and costly indirect restorations. Adhesive repairability, particularly with the aging population, enables us to “keep the tread on the tires” and “preserve the sidewalls” in caring ways. It also enables our patients to remain dentate when the alternative could be the complete loss of dentition and replacement with dentures.
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?
DF: Our greatest social responsibility is to enrich the quality of life and improve human oral care around the world. We cannot claim progress in the marketplace by raising the level of care for a select few who can afford expensive treatment options. In examining the United States alone, 35% of the population only visits the dentist on an emergency basis. Our greatest opportunity to reach these individuals is to develop materials that facilitate less expensive, direct reconstruction of the teeth, which otherwise might require treatment with more costly indirect methods. The end result is dentistry that is more affordable. We must invent and develop ways to deliver these exciting technologies to reach the masses. Ultradent communicates this vision through distributors in more than 100 countries, reaching individual dentists, dental schools, and laboratories. We also sponsor continuing education seminars and trainings for dental students, practicing dentists, prominent dentists, and lecturers from around the world.
Ultradent also strives to improve the quality of life and health of individuals beyond the dental community. We contribute financially through charitable programs and by donating dental products to humanitarian efforts on an international level. “Smiles for Diversity” is a progressive outreach program committed to teaching the values of our diverse humans in America and elsewhere. The program is designed to counter challenging problems such as intolerance and hate crimes while at the same time promoting diversity and fostering multi-cultural awareness.
Question No. 4
ID: There are many challenges facing dentistry and oral healthcare today. How is your company helping to resolve them?
DF: One of the main challenges in dentistry is simply providing the patient with adequate time and attention. In an effort to help resolve this, Ultradent has embraced technology to seek innovative ways to make standard practices in the dental office more efficient. In the end, efficiency is what allows us to have more time to focus on the patient. I first learned the importance of efficiency in my early days of practicing dentistry. I started my practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. At the time, the average family consisted of 4 to 6 children. Treating large families can be quite challenging at times. In an average day, I would have a waiting room full of kids. This was the real inspiration behind finding new methods to save time!
With the help of my family, I started experimenting with unique delivery systems in the basement of my home. It was not long before we became US Food and Drug Administration compliant with the appropriate facility, good manufacturing procedures, etc. Ultradent soon became one of the first dental companies to manufacture syringe-packaged materials. As the demand for syringe-delivered products grew, Ultradent developed a molding division and opened an adjacent injection molding facility. In addition to supporting Ultradent’s growing needs, the molding facility produces a variety of plastic materials and devices for other companies. These materials range from syringe tips to all-purpose stacking containers. For customers in the oral healthcare marketplace, Ultradent manufactures packages and distributes more than 500 materials, devices, and instruments on a worldwide basis.
Question No. 5
ID: How has the extreme makeover influenced or changed the landscape of dentistry in the past few years?
DF: As dentists, if we can contribute to the process of self-improvement by providing tooth whitening services, crowns/bridges, orthodontic care, etc, we can consider our effort as valuable. In this way, I think the extreme makeover trend has the potential to contribute positively to dentistry. Ideally, we should take the trend a step further by demonstrating to our patients that changes or self-improvement can often be facilitated without the need for extreme or invasive procedures. While there are significant mental health benefits in improving an individual’s self image, we must consider improvements in light of long-term health benefits. It is important to begin treatment programs with procedures that stay on the side of conserving natural tissues. Procedures such as veneers and dental implants should be final options with our dentate and smiling patients!
The demand for esthetics with the increase in quality of life occurred long before the extreme makeover trend. Tooth whitening became an integral part of many dental practices and obviously an important product family for Ultradent. The invention of comfortable whitening trays held in place by a sticky, viscous, long-lasting whitening gel made whitening comfortable for the patient and affordable to the masses. By adding fluoride and potassium nitrate to the formula, the result is improved enamel health and less discomfort during whitening. With this improvement, more people will want to embrace whitening. We often hear stories of how something as simple as tooth whitening encourages our patients to smile more often, which is life changing. As dentists, we should take great pride in knowing that we have this sort of influence.
In addition to raising esthetic awareness, the extreme makeover trend has brought patients into the dental office. These patients might not have scheduled appointments otherwise. Having them in the dental chair enables dentists to reach out, educate, and treat them for other oral health issues. If someone were to ask me what the most rewarding part of being a dentist or manufacturing dental products is, I would say “we have the rare opportunity of changing people’s lives for the better.”
References1. Al-Qunaian TA. The effect of whitening agents on caries susceptibility of human enamel. Oper Dent. 2005;30(2):265-270.
|Ultradent headquarters in South Jordan, Utah.|
|Dan E. Fischer, DDS |
South Jordan, Utah