You don’t need me to tell you that the dental industry is in the middle of extreme change. The question I pose to you is: Who will make the changes?
Industry changes happen when those who have shaped it over the years either:
- Continue to design it for themselves.
- Follow others who come in with new products and define how industry will use them.
Change is critical for any business to grow. Make sure you are the one who makes the changes.
Let me step back and introduce myself and share why I believe this is a critical time in the dental profession. Like many of you, I have been around the dental industry from birth. I spent more than 30 years manufacturing restorations, owning dental-related businesses and patenting dental products.
I purposely left the dental market seven years ago to explore the building of products through CAD design and CAM fabrication. I saw things that convinced me that the dental laboratory market would remain a fulfillment manufacturer and not a creator of new solutions for the market without substantial change. I would encourage all of you to step outside of your world to see how it is done in other industries. This will truly help you see a clear path toward your future.
My defining moment came when I saw the predictability, versatility and quality of collaborating using CAD software. This was an eye opener that brought me back to the dental industry four years ago and has me now working for Patterson Dental.
If you decide that CAD/CAM may be a change you want to make in your practice, there are five things you should consider before investing:
- Educate yourself about digital manufacturing. Step outside your world. Look at the leaders in other industries that are using digital manufacturing. Many of them will be in your own backyard.
- Develop a new five-year business plan. Build your plan for the next five years using insight based on what your patients say they need and want – more than likely these will fall into either being faster or developing more efficient
- Get a technology assessment. Make sure you will speak the language that will dominate the type of technology you choose. If you look at other industries you’ll see that a few operating programs (languages) control how most of the computer hardware communicates. The dental market will be no different.
- Partner with experienced companies. Work with companies that have a vested interest in your success. Stay focused on companies that have created technology to fit the needs you will experience while you grow. Make sure your reason for change is consistent with the needs of patients who will benefit from your commitment to produce the best restorations. There are two very important questions you need to ask before aligning yourself with a large dealer or manufacturer: Will they be there as you change, to support and guarantee your success, and have they been part of this technology for a significant amount of time?
- Take the next step with conviction. Accept the fact that new technology will change your working practice. Take the time to embrace it so that the disruptive nature of change does not stop you from seeing the value change can add. The platform you choose may determine the role you play in the new dental market.
If you buy technology that is designed to manufacture just substructures, then your focus on change will be limited to what that technology does.
The future is bright for the dental industry. Even with better oral hygiene resulting in fewer cavities, the oral environment is just getting the attention from patients who demand more. With all the technology available to dentists, it will be important to have the resources and the expertise to solve the problems. Changing can be difficult, but you need to be the designer of how your world will look in five years.