An Interview with Steve Sheehan
As Vice President of Straumann’s Lab Division North America, Steve Sheehan sees technology providing new opportunities to offer more services to laboratories.
Inside Dental Technology: What factors are influencing projections that implant dentistry will be the fastest-growing segment in dentistry?
Steve Sheehan (SS): The US population has 550 million missing teeth; that is a lot of patients who have the potential to access treatment for tooth replacement. As the implant market matures, we see trends such as more general dentists placing implants. Statistics show that in 2016 more general dentists will be placing implants than specialists. General dentists usually place single implants, which remains the largest segment of the market. In addition, with a larger number of competitors entering the implant market, the trend is toward lower-cost treatment therapies, which makes the “value” segment the fastest-growing market segment. Lower cost in turn broadens patient access to implant dentistry. Dental service organizations, such as ClearChoice Dental Implant Center, have focused on full-arch replacement therapy for partially or fully edentulous patients. Full-arch cases are more complex and require a laboratory with skilled technicians to support the restorative needs of the therapy. Laboratories that can support more complex cases have a greater opportunity for growth as this portion of the implant market continues to grow.
IDT: How will digital technologies continue to impact the workflow within the dental laboratory, and what new solutions may be on the horizon?
SS: Digital technologies continue to be developed that further enhance the ability to provide faster and more efficient workflows. Use of in-lab milling and printing systems continues to grow. Newer intraoral scanning devices are also entering the market each year, and more efficient and user-friendly design software systems are being developed. Devices that allow for better connection to patient-planning systems, such as Dental Wings DWOS open architecture, provide the ability to connect to surgical planning and drill guide production so cases can be planned from start to finish. New 3D scanning technologies are enabling faster and more efficient workflows, and digital technologies continue to shape the way modern dental laboratories provide services. Straumann has developed a digital design capability we call CARES® X-Stream that allows a laboratory technician to design both the abutment and the crown in one session, and then send the file to our milling center to be milled simultaneously. This approach saves time and money for laboratories that are looking to compete more effectively in a very cost-conscious market.
IDT: How will the role of outsourcing products to production centers evolve over the next decade? What makes this sustainable?
SS: In general, the more complex cases such as full-arch bars are being outsourced to external production centers. This is the result of several factors, including lack of expertise on the part of the laboratory, laboratories unwilling to accept the risk of incurring the cost associated with products that need to be re-milled, and faster turnaround times by outsource service providers. Despite a strong trend toward in-lab milling systems, outsource production centers offer advantages over decentralized milling. For one, the cost of entry to more advanced milling systems is quite high and requires ongoing maintenance expenses for servicing, parts replacement, etc. Outsource providers are generally high-production suppliers able to provide services at lower costs and can be utilized for all types of production needs including backup production support during peak treatment periods. Outsource production providers are usually at the forefront of new technologies and generally lead the way in production efficiencies, which will keep their services viable for many years to come.
IDT: With the understanding that technology will continue to evolve over the next decades, would you describe Straumann’s vision for the future and future workflow processes?
SS: The vision is to have a “Total Solutions Provider” for dental laboratories. That means continuing to identify products, services, and third-party relationships that will enhance our ability to become a better partner with laboratories. As technology advances, the key is to seek the best pathway, either through internal development or external agreements, in providing a full spectrum of digital and prosthetic solutions to customers. It is crucial to continue to enhance the digital product portfolio with new innovations in digital scanning as well as further develop prosthetic products as new material technologies become available. Our recent investments in leading dental companies such as Dental Wings, which we launched in 2014, and Medentika, which we will launch in the US in 2015, are good examples of the kind of partnerships that can bring added value to our product offering and ultimately to our customers.