Q. How long have you been with Ivoclar?
A. It’s been up to 33 years now. So it’s been a long time but a great career.
So I’m Senior Vice President of Technology. What that represents is everything that relates to technical matters with the company. So in our group we have R&D, Scientific Services, Professional Services, Education, Quality, Technical Support, and Legal and Intellectual Property.
Q. You have a huge facility in Lichtenstein for research. Talk a little bit about that.
A. Our role is to be the leading innovator in dental restorative materials and processes. We survey the parameters as far as identification of trends, what future developments are. We have teams of experts in dental materials that focus on new innovations, new chemistries, new applications. And for our clinical support group we look at processes that an improve and streamline and produce more efficient, more quality restorations. Let me give you some specific examples. Today we prep a tooth for a cavity, we restore it, we provide different methods of restoring it. It can be direct or indirect, through milling or through direct placement. But we look at processes of how we can improve that. So simplifying the sedimentation technique or direct placement of bonding or also development materials that have higher longevity, better aesthetics, and are more tooth-like and perform more similar to natural teeth and provide a more natural restoration for the patients.
Q. Ivoclar is all over the world. What different insights does that give the company?
A. Well, it’s interesting. We’re based here in North America and my role is obviously responsible for North American technology. But as we meet in group meetings and global strategic planning sessions, you realize that dentistry has the same goal but is practiced differently in different parts of the world. So we have socioeconomic factors, cultural differences and different factors but it allows us to pool all those resources together and take a look at what the trends are and then focus on a better outcome for the patient long-term.
Q. Why did you choose this type of career over private practice?
A. It was interesting. I always had an inclination towards research and valued clinical private practice as well as academics and teaching. When I started out my career and doing my graduate work for my Master’s in Public Health, I worked with several dental companies involved with material testing and user behavior, utilization of different technologies, and had an offer to join Ivoclar Vivadent at the time, a small organization, to help them upgrade their clinical trial work and documentation relative to ADA standards. Here I am 33 years later.
Q. How has the industry changed in that period of time?
A. Well, it’s amazing. I mean the thing is, the innovations that are coming in dentistry today are mind boggling and certainly exciting and revolutionary. I think probably the biggest revolution that we’ve seen is we had traditional materials that restored defects. So for example, if we had a broken tooth, a cavity, we had silver fillings, materials that replaced the function and stability of that particular defect. Today we’re much more focused on aesthetic materials that are tooth-like, vital, wear and look and basically replicate the natural behavior of natural teeth. Then from a fabrication process, automation is coming in very strongly into the profession. So the digital world has hit dentistry at a very strong level all the way from capturing images and profiling the information to laboratories for fabrication and then the automation process where we can do digital crowns, we can mill crowns, we can do digital dentures, we can do digital prostheses. So the computerization and the digitization of the profession has been a very rapid onset, has changed our whole workflow process. But at the same time, the expertise of the dentist and the laboratory has to know the dental process and the end outcome. So you can’t just rely on the machine to create a final restorative outcome, we still need the technical ability and this technical knowledge to judge those restorations and modify them so that they provide the final clinical outcome as necessary.
Q. What do you think the consumer thinks of dentistry?
A. I think since the aesthetic revolution that we’re all part of certainly it brought dentistry closer because before the profession was certainly a mechanical profession meaning there was a defect and we repaired that defect for the sake of the repair for function. When the aesthetic revolution came in place a few decades ago, the fact is we brought the patient’s needs into the picture of dental health care. Whether it was aesthetic restorations that didn’t look black or gold or dark, today we have full metal-free restorations that mimic the natural look of teeth smiles and natural anatomy as well as from an aesthetic standpoint of correcting malformations in the anterior. So make pre smiles was a big factor. So the ability of correcting spaces or broken down teeth or short teeth and providing more aesthetic smiles with something that captured the profession and the consumer and brought them in looking for better treatment in dentistry. At the same time, the profession had to elevate their expertise. We had to learn how to do aesthetic or cosmetic dentistry so there was training of being able to assess visualization of translucency, color, smile designs, and being able to deliver that on a predictive basis for that consumer and patients asking for those services. So I think it really invigorated the consumer to look for better dental services and it invigorated the profession to train themselves to provide those requirements and provide those types of services as well.
Q. What’s in the bag for Ivoclar? What’s coming up?
A. Not to go into specifics but innovation in new materials is really critical in processes. So the digital workflow is something that we’re working on very heavily. Trying to streamline the process with better scanners, better milling techniques, and optimize the results of the final restoration so it looks better, it wears better, it fits better and provides a more durable restoration for the patient. And then shortly down the pipeline we’re working on new materials that are more predictable and faster for application. So those are the two avenues that we’re working in. The third one, a very critical factor, is through software developments. We’re trying to build a relationship between the patient, the consumer, and the dentist and the laboratory of course where we’ll have software programs to provide visualization of what the outcomes are so the patient participates in the treatment and can visualize with the final outcome will be and be part of it accordingly.
Q. I did want to ask you about growing teeth.
A. New innovations in biotechnology are here to stay and certainly revolutionary to look at. Bioactive is a very hot topic today in dentistry that incorporates a variety of different elements into that description. So people are all talking about bioactive and how we can incorporate that into dentistry today. There are certainly new materials that release certain ions that help remineralize the tooth so they repair the tooth as well as restore the tooth and minimize leakage and interferences. So that’s one dimension. There are new development on antimicrobial materials that basically repel plaque and bacteria from adhering to the fillings and it could be on dentures or other factors with encapsulation techniques and release mechanisms. And then the big panacea in biotechnology is can we actually take stem cells and incorporate growth of teeth down the line. There’s a lot of work on that and there’s been a lot of animal models that have been successful in that. But the succession into clinical outcome down the line is still far-fetched and a ways off. There are elements of blood banks and different delivery mechanisms. That’s all still being explored. It’s being worked on, but we don’t see it our near future.
Q. So how long are you here now? How long are you going to be at Ivoclar?
A. Several more years. I’m not going anywhere so I’m around for a while, Mike. It’s a great organization, great career, and the fact is that we really change dentistry on a daily basis. I truly believe that and have practiced it now for 33 years. We deal with the profession, we deal with all the organizations, the universities but we develop materials to change and improve dentistry on a daily basis and that’s the success and benefit of being with a company like Ivoclar.