September 13, 2016
by Oral Health
This year, the most prestigious award for dental industry companies, will transition sponsorship from the Pride Institute to the newly launched Cellerant Consulting Group, founded by Dr. Lou Shuman.
The Cellerant “Best of Class” Technology Award, formerly known as The Pride “Best of Class” Technology Award, recognizes innovative game changing technology offerings, services and devices. Since the inaugural presentation in 2009, the “Best of Class” Technology Awards have grown to occupy a unique space in dentistry, by creating awareness in the community of manufacturers that are driving the discussion as to how practices will operate now and in the future.
Prior to founding Cellerant Consulting Group, Dr. Shuman served as President of Pride Institute where he created and developed the “Best of Class” Technology Awards.
In just eight years, the “Best of Class” designation has become not only a coveted honor for industry, but as importantly, a trusted criterion for dental professionals to make educated, informed product and technology investment decisions for their
practices and their patients.
The selection process relies on an expert panel of dentists recognized as thought leaders and educators that includes Drs. Paul Feuerstein, John Flucke, Marty Jablow and Parag Kachalia. Over the course of each year, panel members seek out and conduct research on potentially practice-changing technologies, with deliberations on nominees and final voting taking place in February. Panelists are precluded from voting in any category where they have consulting relationships. The entire selection process is conducted and managed on a not-for-profit basis.
“Best of Class” Technology Award winners are showcased at the ADA annual meeting. Dental professionals have the unique opportunity to speak with each company and interact with the award-winning products at the Technology Expo in the Exhibit Hall. The Technology Expo also offers free continuing education taught by the leading experts in technology integration and social media. More information can be found online at
Technology is not the enemy but are we (as a society/economy) addicted to constant evolution/progress in technology? Is there are saturation point or a ‘sticker shock’?
As a society we are surely addicted to the technology around us. Watching people walking, eating, driving etc. with their smartphones is an epidemic, but a way of life today. Few people can function in a normal day without checking something on the internet. We are driving “smart” cars and soon they will drive themselves. Getting back to dentistry, Dr. Drill and Fill is no longer acceptable to the profession and the public. Digital diagnosis is helping set up minimally invasive, preventive and even remineralization procedures which are saving tooth enamel. Better tools and chemistry are changing the landscape of what we as dental practitioners do. New restorative materials are not only filling holes, but rebuilding some of the lost enamel. 3D imaging gives us information we never had access to before. Digital impressions and digital lab procedures have increased accuracy as well as allowing the use of stronger and more aesthetic restorations. In this case some of the costs are being reduced (once the costly infrastructure is purchased). The cost of setting up a new “digital office” is surely far above the year’s past equipment. It is not limited to the devices- the dental chairs, lights and other standard devices have new technology embedded and surely cost more than a foot pumped Ritter. The costs will stabilize and perhaps drop as the core technologies are more efficient and less expensive, along with international competition.
Can a company outsmart itself or price itself out of the game?
Certainly there are more luxurious products available to us. Dental equipment can be likened to automobiles. You can have all sorts of peripheral processes but a decent car will get you to where you want to go. There are offices that cater to a higher profile and income individuals or might want to attract them, and might construct a magnificent office. The truth is though that no matter who the patient is, once in the dental chair the goal is excellent treatment so some of these frills become superfluous. The marketplace will determine who survives. Dentistry is a small vertical market and some of the higher end companies realize that there may not be enough buyers to support them, or may have to raise the prices to make up the minimal volume. Over the years large manufacturers have come into dentistry with unique high priced products only to pull out of the marketplace for the reasons just noted. A simple example was a well-known international camera manufacturer who created a magnificent device to determine the shade of a tooth. There was a spectrophotometer which created a tooth color map as well as a photo that the lab technician could follow. The product retailed for over $6,000. They dropped it after about a year and a half.
How much room is left in terms of ‘practical innovation’?
Many practitioners come up with great ideas as they work through procedures. They often develop new instruments, materials, software or other ideas and product prototypes. In this world of 3D printing, a working model of a device can be developed in a short time at a reasonable cost. The problem we often see though is that many of these inventors see a local problem or one unique to their office and do not have universal appeal. They have to realize that every dentist works differently and may not have any need for this product. They often bring these to dental meetings, try and present them to existing manufacturers and distributors or bring them to our group here. There are many sad faces that leave the meetings such as those seen on TV shows like The Shark Tank. Still there are some clever new ones and do go further into development.
Are we tweaking/refining or are there still opportunities for true ‘new technologies/never-before-seen categories’?
Never say never. There are a multitude of patients who present with “impossible” dental situations. As the new minds are coming into the industries, fresh ideas appear. Many of the new tech products we have seen lately are developed by new dentists who never “did it the old way”. They are not trying to fix an old technique- they are inventing new ones. For example we are seeing numerous intraoral impression scanners in the marketplace. They are all similar in using a hand held wand and going around the arch. The challenge or digital impressions was given to a group of engineers in Spain a couple of years ago. They were not dentists and had never seen an intraoral camera and took the task to mean they had to take an impression of “the teeth”. Their prototype looked like a mouthguard and took a scan of the whole arch at once! It is still in development. There is also a company developing an ultrasound “impression” that might be able to do the same thing, just as ultrasound can image other parts or the body. And there are non-dentists who come up with amazing ideas that we never even thought of. The trite saying “think out of the box” is a reality.
How do you, as judges, educate/influence dentists to embrace ‘often expensive, complicated/confusing technologies’ and how can you help them educate their patients? After all, if the patient doesn’t buy in, all the technological innovation in the world won’t see the light of day…
What we try to do is look at the products and processes that are proliferating in the profession and first try and validate the claims. Fancy graphs and anecdotal studies don’t always tell a true tale. We report this back to the profession throughout the year with published articles as well as presentations at dental meetings and study clubs. Sometimes we present as a group, but more often, individually. Also as practicing GPs we often have the luxury of receiving a product on a trial basis to use in our practices. We all have dental teams and those assistants, hygienists and office staff members can give real world comments on the actual usefulness of these products and processes. We all have typical general dental practices (although with a lot of extra cables and flashing lights). We also try and get feedback from the patients and often send those comments back to the manufacturers. Patients on the whole are usually impressed and inquisitive about what new technology we are using. We always get comments like “what new thing will you be using today doc?” Of course in our situation it is expected, but there is no reason for anyone to explain better treatment options to their patients. Unless there is a “scary” procedure in the first place, there is very good acceptance.
Where do you see the next frontier for innovation in dental tech (the extremely hot area of oral/systemic health, for example)?
The biggest push right now is 3D digital diagnosis. We have seen Conebeam technology explode and used not only for larger surgical procedures but things as simple as looking at small fractures in teeth. The initial units were huge, very costly and used fairly high radiation. They have come down in all areas but more importantly have enhanced the diagnostic experience. Hand in hand are advances in the software and integration with the 3D digital impression scanning devices. This also has led to the development of new restorative material with properties we have never seen before. Also as you mention, there is a big push for risk assessment along with DNA markers in saliva and tissue. Many new tests are arriving and hand in hand will also be invaluable for looking at systemic issues. It is often said that the mouth is the window to the rest of the body. Correlations between periodontal disease and cardiac help are certainly an example. And of course there is the unknown. Lab studies are growing new teeth and we are seeing processes with biological areas like stem cells. As long as people out there are thinking about their oral health we will see the advances. OH
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