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An Interview with Michael Rynerson
The abundant innovations already happening in dentistry just make Michael Rynerson, Chief Operating Officer for Dental Wings, more eager to see what’s next.
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): What is your perception of the state of dentistry?
Michael Rynerson (MR): I have been involved in a number of industries, and I can say without hesitation that dentistry is fantastic. The pace of innovation and quality of the people and organizations are simply tremendous. I believe many share my perception that dentistry is changing rapidly, as we are seeing an acceleration of the acceptance of digital tools and workflows across all segments of the dental patient care-value chain: from dentist, through laboratories and production centers, to industrial organizations. This acceleration brings enormous opportunities for companies providing digital dental solutions to help their customers further increase the quality of patient care.
IDT: What is driving this acceleration?
MR: The dental industry is experiencing a confluence of enabling technologies simultaneously reaching a state of acceptance that together drive faster adoption of digitalization as a whole. A few examples are dental prosthetic design software linked to surgical planning software, advanced intra-oral scanning, low-cost 3D digital x-ray, low-cost in-laboratory CNC milling, and 3D printing. In just the last few years, each of these enablers has started to cross the chasm between early adopters and the broader market, which in aggregate is tipping the industry into broad use of digital tools at every level. Lastly, of course, is the human aspect. We are all much more digitally savvy than even a few years ago, which has increased our acceptance of digital tools in the workplace significantly.
IDT: What challenges will the industry face during this transition?
MR: For me the key challenges for dental and industry professionals are to focus our efforts on solutions that bring meaningful benefits to patients and generate sustainable economic benefits to all involved. Innovation for innovation’s sake rarely brings lasting value. Likewise, creating solutions that are beneficial but unaffordable for patients, practitioners, and laboratories is a waste of energy. The key is to strike a balance in developing innovations providing exceptional value at an affordable price point. This is further complicated by the heterogeneous nature of the global dental industry and the relentless pace of change.
IDT: How important is it for the dentist, laboratory technician, and manufacturers to successfully collaborate?
MR: In comparison with other industries, restorative dentistry is an amazingly complex ballet of multiple professionals collaborating, typically in geographically distributed locations, to produce customized highly accurate medical products under extreme time and cost pressures. For this to work consistently, excellent collaboration between the parties is essential. Today specialists, dentists, laboratory technicians, and industry professionals perform very well working with largely disconnected systems. However, in the future when each person and activity is digitally integrated and information is available to all stakeholders when and where it is needed, we will see significant additional increases in productivity, reduction in wasted effort, and ultimately improved patient outcomes.
IDT: What is the industry’s interest in improving collaboration?
MR: Because of the fundamental importance of effective collaboration, concepts such as connected workflows, real-time communications, and interdisciplinary dentistry are all increasingly in the focus of technology providers. As more of dentistry goes digital and the amount of information transferred per case increases dramatically—treatment protocols, digital images, digital x-rays, intra-oral or impression scans, 3D design proposals, production orders—everyone throughout the value chain will need improved tools for managing these data. Reaching the ultimate objective of providing truly seamless integration, by which I mean simple and immediate use of case data at any point in the value chain, will create significant value and differentiation for technology companies and enormous benefits for professionals and patients.
IDT: Where will we be in 10 years?
MR: I firmly believe that the dental industry will achieve seamless connectivity between digital tools across the entire restorative dental process. Most dental practices will have a suite of in-house options. Practically all laboratories and production centers will have access to a wide range of digital design, milling, and additive production technologies, enabling technicians to apply their expertise in ever more creative and productive ways. Similarly, industry will provide a much broader range of complex digitally enabled solutions including patient-specific material compositions simply not possible today. For me, this is an extremely exciting time to be in dentistry.