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An Interview with Chris Holden
Chris Holden, President of Heraeus Kulzer North America, says the changing economic environment will continue to drive the adoption of digitization in dental laboratories.
Inside Dental Technology: What factors impacting dentistry are pushing the envelope on adoption of technology in the dental office and laboratory?
Chris Holden: So-called corporate dentistry is forcing cost reduction. As a result, manufacturers of hardware, software, and chemistry products are facing market forces that compel technological advancement. In addition to ‘corporate’ ownership, we see labor shortages in laboratories that continue to drive automation needs. The convergence of these two factors coupled with the megatrends of rising student debt, demographic changes, and the expansion of commerce via the Internet really alter the landscape as we know it today and ought to accelerate the advancement and adoption rate of technology for both the dental office and the laboratory.
IDT: What indicators are impacting the need for digitizing the removable segment of dentistry, and why is digitization important for the future of the industry?
CH: Simply stated, economics are impacting the need to digitize the removable segment. As mentioned before, automation through digitization provides scalability to every laboratory while providing a way to deliver high-quality dentures in a shorter period. As for the dentists, Pala Digital Dentures will provide them a cost-effective denture solution by eliminating wasteful, unnecessary appointments, thereby shortening treatment and chair time, and by utilizing “digital dentures” to expand billing revenue in two ways: 1) attracting new patients with a novel and advanced treatment method; and 2) creating a stronger value proposition for patients, enabling the practice to increase its patient acceptance rate.
IDT: What are the specific benefits of digital dentures for the patient, clinician, and laboratory?
CH: For dentists and patients, the benefits are greater accuracy, better fit, and fewer appointments. Chair-time savings are a huge motivator for the laboratory’s clients.
For laboratories, the benefits include greater gross margins and scalability without fixed overhead growth. Capital can be expensive and, at times, difficult to acquire. When laboratories do not have access to expensive equipment, they need to be able to turn to someone who has invested in the most advanced technology. Laboratories can leverage that infrastructure without having to bear the capital cost alone. Outsourced automation through digitization has proven to be an effective method for laboratories to compete with offshore business as well as to lower their fixed overheads, translating into greater profitability. Laboratories can scale their business needs without having the burden of legacy costs.
IDT: What new technologies are on the horizon that may integrate into the digital denture process?
CH: We plan to deliver automation from design through production, available to every laboratory, along with cutting-edge materials that allow for rapid, inexpensive production methods. In addition, we will deliver screw-retained appliances along with removable appliances to complement our full denture portfolio. At each juncture, we intend to deliver on two promises: to continue to reduce the terribly high denture production costs, and to continue to provide services that help grow our customers’ businesses. If we cannot deliver on those two promises, we have no place in this industry.
IDT: What future trends do you see?
CH: Relating to digital dentures, we see a number of advancements. We will see a number of competitors attempt to offer digital dentures. The most important advancement will be cutting out time while improving the delivered appliance with respect to fit, form, and function. Driving costs out of this process will continue to be our focus. We see a number of changes happening with materials science that will allow for faster production methods harmonizing with cost reduction. And finally, we see a combination of both centralized and decentralized production servicing denture case needs; both of these models will support the disparate business models we see in the market.
Outsourced automation through digitization has proven to be an effective method for laboratories to compete with offshore business as well as to lower their fixed overheads.