The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Mark Twain's words—repeated by Dentsply's Chris Clark—appropriately describe the gist of the Cal-Lab Group's 86th annual meeting in Chicago. Or, to use Clark's own words, "The lab market is here to stay.
"There's been a lot of gloom and doom of late, with some saying laboratories are headed for extinction. But this market is viable and strategic, and you provide the dentist with services, partnership, education, technical expertise and a knowledge base that can't be duplicated," said Clark, President and COO of Dentsply, to more than 800 attendees.
Adding to the positive outlook, Clark cited several factors driving growth, including an aging population, new technology, the recognized link between dental health and systemic health, and the ever-growing cosmetic demand. "All-ceramics are growing faster than PFMs, removable partials faster than full dentures, metal-free partials faster than cast frameworks, clear aligners faster than other ortho appliances," he said. "The patient is ultimately the driver because he is typically willing to pay more for enhanced esthetics."
Steve Casper, CEO of National Dentex Corp., also acknowledged the challenging climate of the last few years, but said the key to success is understanding market forces—technology, globalization, competition from multiple angles and, on the positive side, an aging population—as well as your market position. For example:
Strategy: What makes you unique? Is your market position sustainable long-term?
Operations: Casper urged "prudent and timely" investments in technology: "You don't want to find yourself behind 12 to 18 months, but you don't want to be ahead 12 to 18 months either."
Culture: "There's a saying in business: 'culture eats strategy.' If you don't have the right employees, your strategy doesn't really matter," said Casper, who pointed out that culture also includes how you manage client relationships. "It's no longer good enough to just meet their basic needs; be a positive presence in their offices."
Other Hot Topics
A three-part presentation on full contour zirconia had attendees leaning forward in their chairs as Don Cornell from Jensen Dental, Dmitri Brodkin from Ivoclar Vivadent and Robin Carden from Glidewell Laboratories looked at the future of the material. "Nobody has a crystal ball, but as a scientist, I look at the future of full contour zirconia in terms of scientific principles as well as industry needs," said Brodkin. "And the real breakthrough will come with the development of a more translucent zirconia."
Carden agreed we'll see more translucent zirconia down the line and said simply, "We love this area and it is the future." At Glidewell—the developers of BruxZir®—38% of the 1,056,561 crowns fabricated last year were made of the full contour zirconia material. Fifteen percent of Glidewell's anterior restorations are now also BruxZir restorations.
During FDA and Dental Laboratories: a 2012 Update, NADL President Warren Rogers and NBC Chair Laura Sheppard, CDT, warned that random inspections of dental laboratories are increasing. They urged attendees who haven't implemented a quality system to undertake the effort in order to satisfy the FDA's Good Manufacturing Practice requirements. "The worst FDA inspections are the ones where the laboratory owner looks like a deer in the headlights," said Sheppard. "It makes a huge difference if you can demonstrate you're making an effort to comply."
The chock-full meeting also included technical presentations--David Garber, DMD, on esthetic dentistry; Paul Rotsaert, RDT, on thermoplastics; and Lou Azzara and Dr. Paul Cascone on digital PFMs—as well as entertaining presentations by Dr. Howard Farran of Dentaltown and Mike Golic from ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning. During Cal-Lab's traditional cocktail hour, attendees perused exhibits from nearly 60 manufacturers and suppliers.
Next year's meeting is February 21-22; for additional information on Cal-Lab, please visit www.cal-lab.org.