Interview with Andrew Robinson and Melanie LeCours of Dentsply Sirona at DS World 2022

Participants: Andrew Robinson, SVP North America Regional Commercial & Chief Digital Officer, Dentsply Sirona;
Melanie Lecours, VP/GM Canada;
Melissa Summerfield, Oral Health

Date and Location: Friday, September 16th 12:30-1:00 pm

OH: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. How do you see Digital Dentistry continuing to grow? What changes, if any, do you see for the competitive landscape?

AR: Having only been in the role for 6 months, I’m still learning a lot about Digital Dentistry, but what I have learned, and what is really exciting, is that Digital Dentistry is here to stay. In terms of where it is headed, what was portrayed on stage today (with a live patient surgery) is a perfect example of what digital dentistry can do for practices: streamlining and expanding workflows, giving dentists the confidence to perhaps perform procedures they haven’t done previously and, now, because of technology, they’re able to do that with more confidence. That helps expand financial opportunities, especially for some of the smaller clinics and practices, and allows dentists to expand their range of services offered to patients and deliver really great results to those patients. I think moving forward, we’re going to see more of that.

OH: Can you share with us any ideas of what we might see coming down the pipeline? How might some of these developments impact dental practices?

AR: While I can’t talk about ALL the specifics of products coming in the future, I would say Primeprint is a great example and you will see more options coming out of Primeprint on what you can print. We’ve also seen Primescan Connect, and we have DS Core, which is our digital ecosystem. And that is just the beginning of our ecosystem that we are building; a lot of our products and technologies will be linked to that –all designed to make the whole workflow a lot more efficient for our customers and help them provide better outcomes. Big picture, that’s where it is going to continue to go and where we are innovating.

OH: What do you see as the changing future for dental offices and dental labs? Do you see more in-house dental labs coming into dental offices? What do you see in terms of 3D printing? Obviously AI technologies are just starting to hit dental offices and AI is quite new to many dentists, some of whom aren’t even sure what AI is, never mind how to use it in their practice.

AR: I think the biggest thing in the dental industry that I’ve recognized is that it is all about partnerships. There are going to be clinicians who want to do everything chairside, in-house, and that’s great. They have opportunities to do that with either Primeprint or Primemill, but the lab plays a huge part for a lot of other customers. There will always be that relationship and that is why Primeprint is really made for dentists, their technicians AND labs. So the lab can be utilizing Primeprint to help their customers as well. We’re really trying to make sure that what we bring to market enables all those different types of workflows, whether you do it all in house or you do it through a lab. We’ll continue to focus on that.

ML: I completely agree! I think there is an opportunity to partner with labs as well – with “DS Core,” which is also coming soon – specifically for Canada, a little bit later in the fourth quarter. However, it will be generally a different approach and a different offering to the market by partnering and really elevating the customization experience.

AR: Everything begins with a scan. So even the dentists that are just starting out and rely 100% on the lab, the scanner (Primescan Connect) is going to be a great entry point for them and its just going to connect to the lab even more with the images, to keep that relationship strong.

OH: Dentsply Sirona has always been a leader in CE and has always done a lot of CE. Have you found changes post COVID? Are you doing things differently than before? What do you see for the future of and the delivery of Dental CE?

AR: We will 100% continue to focus the same or more on CE and education opportunities. One of the strengths of DS is not just product but it’s also, maybe more importantly so, the education piece that goes along with that. Coming out of COVID, we did a lot of virtuals. We see that continuing, but we also see the face-to-face. We have a massive investment in North America in our Academy in Charlotte and we also now have an Academy in Canada as well, so I think those are just great examples that we’re going to continue to invest in face-to-face opportunities, but also provide that virtual as well if it’s needed. But there’s nothing like learning face to face!

ML: Agreed! And there’s a renewed appetite for it, post-COVID. Just to brag a bit about our Academy – (in Canada) for 2023 we have over 300 programs. We will continue, when it makes sense, to be offering both through webinar and a live experience. We’ve also done some programs specifically for Hygiene on live platforms – we’ve done Instagram Live, RDH Live, online panels with interactions, so we did adapt our offering to the market. It is our duty also, as a global leader, to put out high quality CE.

OH: I agree, I think there is a huge appetite for people. I think they want to want to get back to being in person.

ML: I have to say the in-person courses fill up very quickly. I think the challenge will be how do we scale that across the country and offer the same level of experience in every region in Canada.

AR: The good thing about COVID is it allowed us, and it actually allowed technology companies as a whole, to improve their offering from a video conferencing standpoint. I don’t think we would have seen the development in Teams, for example, if it hadn’t been for COVID, because the requirement was there. Now we have stronger platforms to do virtual and people are much more familiar with using the technology.

OH: In addition to CE, another area that Dentsply Sirona has always been very strongly involved with is working with dental students, preparing them for the practice of the future. Going back to what we’ve said: that Digital Dentistry is here to stay, it is going to grow and become more and more of the normal workflow, what is Dentsply Sirona doing, or planning to do, in terms of working with dental schools (and particularly Canadian dental students) to make sure they are prepared for the future world of Digital Dentistry?

ML: We’re doing significant work with them. Dental schools across the country need to play a bit of game catch-up when it comes to Digital Dentistry, so we do have a team focused on helping them grow within Digital Dentistry from coast to coast, and I know we are making some significant progress with several faculties. We also need to adapt the curriculum to incorporate Digital Dentistry – I think this is the biggest challenge – while still maintaining that high level of excellence in the educational curriculum. Moreover, they’re also challenged with attracting classes of students, so there’s a little bit of competition going on between the different faculties as to who is going to get to the finish line first.

AR: It takes time – it’s not the fastest segment of the market that adapts to change and we see that in the US as well. The other interesting fact about students coming out is that DSOs are a big attractor for new students, so we also partner quite a bit with the DSOs in training some of their new hires, who are coming right out of dental school and probably need to get up to speed on Digital Dentistry as well. So there are opportunities there.

OH: Looking at the broader picture, how do you see Canada and the Canadian dental marketplace, within the larger North American landscape? Do you see differences between the Canadian and US markets and, if so, how does that impact your marketing and selling efforts?

AR: There are certainly some differences but I’d say there are more similarities than there are differences between the US and Canada. We share a lot of information back and forth between the two teams on a lot of the things that we’re doing, strategies and so forth. I also think you’re going to see more and more partnerships of people that we work with in the US that will start to extend into Canada as well, so it just brings us closer together on how we manage those partners.

ML: I completely agree! I think, with Andrew and me being new in our roles, we also get to learn and build together what it looks like, in terms of partnership. I think the main difference to me, between Canada and the US, is Canada being who we are – the geography and our population not being as heavily concentrated – so we have this level of intimacy with our customer base that would not be realistic to achieve in the US. I think we can develop very strong relationships in the Canadian market, that comes with responsibility as well, but I think this is the main difference. For everything else, we have a lot more in common than we have differences.

OH: If you were to look at summing up Digital Dentistry – it’s future and it’s impact in just a few words – what would you say?

AR: I think it’s going to create greater efficiencies and outcomes for clinicians and their patients. At the end of the day, all of this is about outcomes for patients and giving clinicians the tools to do that, and that is what Digital Dentistry is about. If it doesn’t do that, then we don’t have any purpose in investing in that type of innovation. It really has to improve the outcomes for patients.

ML: Three words: empowerment, predictability, outcomes!

OH: Thanks to you all for your time and for sharing your thoughts with us!