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Culver City, California
Robert Cartagena, Chief Operating Officer
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?
Robert Cartagena (RC): It’s amazing to see how fast the industry is changing these days. Clearly technology is the biggest driver for the rapid change. Advancements in CAD/CAM dentistry, implants, and imaging continue to provide us a blueprint for the future of dentistry. Some of my closest friends are dentists and inevitably our conversations always lead to shop talk. Most of them tell me that they couldn’t imagine practicing dentistry these days without things like digital radiography, soft tissue lasers, and rotary endodontic instrumentation. These were all new technologies in dentistry 10 years ago, but today, they have become necessities in a productive and efficient dental office. On the healthcare side of things, the average dental patient is much more informed than they were 15 years ago. Patients are now walking into dental offices requesting oral care solutions by name or brand, not unlike what has happened in the pharmaceutical sector with drugs like Celebrex, Lipitor, and even Viagra.
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?
RC: I believe Discus has played a major role in creating and sustaining consumer-oriented brands in oral healthcare with products like Zoom!®, BriteSmile®, and NiteWhite ACP®. Since our inception 16 years ago, we have been consistent in communicating to the general public that “Only a Dentist Can Get Your Teeth Their Whitest.” We firmly believe this, so we continue to allocate a significant amount of resources toward creating awareness and increasing education among the general public specifically in the area of tooth whitening. When a patient wants to have a brighter smile, our goal is to have them visit a dental office and ask for our whitening solutions by name.
Question NO. 3
ID: What do you see as your biggest responsibility to the marketplace, and why does your choice rank as your #1 priority?
RC: It may sound like a cliché, but our biggest responsibility to the marketplace is to create and distribute progressive dental products that are of the highest quality possible and that deliver on every promise we make. Discus historically has been recognized by the dental community for its aptitude in marketing and innovation. We intend to compliment these strengths with an energized focus on product quality and exceptional service. We believe that that the future of our company requires us to make quality the number one priority followed closely by ensuring that we exceed customer expectations and provide a pleasant and effortless customer experience. In the last 12 months we have completely revamped our product development and release processes and we are continuing to make changes to our internal systems to not only make it easy to do business with us, but to make it a pleasurable and memorable experience every time. Every customer contact point from a telephone call, to the online shopping experience, to the billing system is being designed to generate a great customer experience.
Question NO. 4
ID: What product categories—whether preventive, restorative, operative, auxiliary, diagnostic, etc—do you feel are most in need of innovation based on what’s currently available?
RC: Virtually every category of dentistry is undergoing some form of transformation but there are some categories that could benefit greatly from new technologies. For years, researchers have been working on technologies in the area of salivary diagnostics for both prevention and early detection of diseases and disorders beyond the oral cavity. Over 50% of the US population sees the dentist on a regular basis, far more than the rate at which people see a physician for wellness and prevention. This equates to nearly 250 million dental appointments per year. There simply is no better venue or opportunity for patients to be tested on a regular basis using salivary diagnostics for things like oral cancer, diabetes, and more. There are several emerging technologies that look very exciting and very promising, and it will be yet another positive change to the field of dentistry when these technologies are in clinical use.
Question NO. 5
ID: What do you see as the best approach to the research, development, testing, and ultimate delivery to the market of such needed advancements?
RC: Perhaps the best approach to bringing a technology to market is to allow those individuals who specialize in certain areas to do what they do best. We quite frequently see products delivered to the marketplace that have not been vetted properly by the people who were intended to use those products—the dental professional. Product development requires an adherence to guidelines and phases with strict gating items. From concept to launch, those gating items should include significant input and approval from the intended users, whether they are dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, or laboratory technicians. This year, we instituted a 5-phase New Product Development System that includes required documents, focus groups, market surveys, field testing, detailed design review, verification, and validation. Moving forward, our goal is to get it right, up front, while being disciplined in our ways.
Question NO. 6
ID: There are many challenges facing dentistry and oral healthcare today. How is your company helping to resolve them?
RC: I see so many “direct-to-consumer” dental solutions being offered that it is beginning to get scary. Tooth whitening in the middle of the shopping malls between Cinnabon and The Gap®, mail-order do-it-yourself veneers, what’s next, self-service endo? Driving patients to the dental office for treatment has always been an underlying goal in everything we’ve done. Whether it is through radio or television, online activities or PR, Discus is committed to making people understand that dentistry should be done by dentists, and that no one is better equipped to help make your smile brighter and healthier.
Discus Dental Headquarters
Culver City, California
Chief Operating Officer