Sooner or later digital technologies will prevail in all areas of dentistry. How has this trend transformed the dental industry and how will it continue to do so?
Dr. Pascal Kunz: The digital revolution is changing the way we do things in many fields, and in our daily lives. A great example of how technology introduces new behaviors is GPS. In the past, getting from A to B was time consuming and involved a great deal of preparation. You had to buy a map to find your way to a certain destination, ask for directions etc. Today, with GPS technology on your smartphone, you can travel much faster and more efficiently.
You are still in control and you have the same destination but it’s simpler and more effective. In dentistry, we are now experiencing the same thing. Digital technology is already improving treatment workflows and outcomes and will continue to improve processes and results. Our NobelGuide treatment concept, for instance, allows the dentist to digitize and combine patient information. With the click of a button, all information, including CBCT and surface scans, becomes available. This is the kind of automation we see as useful, and it enables clinicians to treat their patients according to the latest standards.
In view of the global dental landscape and the increasing importance of implant dentistry, how will digital technologies continue to bring about greater predictability and quality to both the dentist and the patient?
To come back to the travel analogy, when it comes to predictability, it is crucial that both parties—the clinician and the patient—have the same expectations of the destination they will reach once the journey is over. Digital technologies help visualize the procedure, the positive impact the treatment will have on the patient’s quality of life and the final outcome, and—even more important for the patient—help minimize treatment time. In this respect, we at Nobel Biocare believe that it is our job to provide proven technology and make it part of a protocol that can be established, repeated and taught to others.
In your opinion, what characterizes the state-of-the-art digital workflow in dental practice today?
A true digital workflow is straightforward and as close as possible to the natural way of treating a patient. Ideally, it is closely connected to the clinician’s diagnostic tools. With SmartFusion technology, for example, he or she is able to take any CBCT or intra-oral scan and combine these in a fast and easy way to get a fully automatic diagnostic setup of the missing teeth, which he or she can send to the laboratory and use to order the surgical template from Nobel Biocare.
In short, the digital workflow allows the clinician to use the same technology for diagnostics and communication with the dental technician, reducing the number of visits and therefore the time-to-teeth. The goal is that this technology allows for a three-visit approach—diagnosis, surgery and restoration—and this ensures that the time spent with the patient is used as efficiently as possible. It’s not about counting the seconds when the patient is in the chair; it’s about making every second count.
How does Nobel Biocare encourage dental professionals to adopt digital technologies?
The Nobel Biocare Global Symposium is one of our most important endeavors in this respect. Every three years, all of our experts gather to kick off new solutions and bring them closer to customers. After the event, through our expert sales force at Nobel Biocare, who have been a key part of the digital evolution in implantology, we then continue to train and educate dental professionals on the advantages of digital technologies at a local level.
Our focus is to bring our innovations to those who want to make a difference and share our philosophy that the best treatment can only be delivered through the most up-to-date technologies. This includes digital natives, who understand the technology more naturally, but is certainly not limited to younger professionals.
We have seen that the main driver of change therefore is the customer. For example, since the introduction of SmartFusion three years ago at the last Global Symposium, we have seen a tremendous uptake in North America, as dentists increasingly started to team up with dental technicians once they saw the benefits for all parties involved, including the prevention of costly mistakes in the implant planning and restoration process.
At the 2013 Nobel Biocare Global Symposium, your company announced a new fully integrated digital workflow, connecting NobelProcera technicians and NobelClinician users digitally. How has the system been received?
On a global basis, we have seen a large uptake, and it’s constantly increasing. Of course, adoption of new technologies takes time, but today we already have over 11,500 registered NobelClinician licensees. We can see that the profession really understands the advantages of integrated solutions, namely predictability, productivity and profitability—not only in a commercial sense, but in terms of reducing the time and cost of treatment and restorations, and most importantly increasing patient satisfaction.
What position will Nobel Biocare hold in the global digital dentistry market, and what are the main challenges in the near future?
We are confident that Nobel Biocare will have a very strong position. Within the Danaher group, dentistry is an important business area, and within that dental platform, the Nobel Biocare team has a strong role to play in advancing the global digital dentistry offering and becoming the market leader in the field. Our focus is firmly on continuing to provide value to our customers, who stand to benefit from our synergies with the other brands in Danaher’s dental platform. The future looks extremely bright – for Nobel Biocare, for our customers and for their patients.
Dr. Pascal Kunz received his medical and dental degrees from the University of Basel in Switzerland. He has worked as a doctor in the surgical department at Bezirksspital Zofingen in Switzerland and as a dentist in both private practice and the department of reconstructive dentistry at the University of Basel. In 2007, Kunz joined Nobel Biocare, where he leads the global product management team focused on digital diagnostics, treatment planning and computer-aided surgery.
Original article first published in "Today Nobel Biocare Symposia Edition 2016", republished with approval by DTI group.