Speed of Innovation

Last week I wrote about the commercialization process in the dental industry and the rate at which new products and technologies are introduced. Speaking as someone who just has to have the latest stuff – yes I’ve got an iPad (and love it), this is something I think has a lot of parallels to my personal life. You probably saw the commotion when the iPhone 4 came out recently, and if you’re like me, you might be lamenting the inferiority of your older-generation iPhone. But in truth, it hasn’t been that long since we watched the debut of the iPhone 3G. How quickly our heads are turned by the shiny new thing.

This is something we often discuss with customers, and a recent conversation with a lab manager provided a unique perspective on the matter. The manager was discussing why some dentists may be hesitant to adopt the “latest and greatest” technologies, and he noted that around 15 years ago, when all-ceramic restorations were first hitting the market, a lot of the dentists who were early adopters got burned when these original technologies didn’t live up to their expectations. (This characterization does not include 3M ESPE’s all-ceramic system, thank you very much.)  

Since then, many dentists have been cautious about jumping on the bandwagon for new products in their early generations. Even now, with 10 years of clinical history supporting Lava zirconia, it’s still a challenge to get some dentists on board. With an even newer technology like the Lava Chairside Oral Scanner, it seems that some dentists are immobilized, and don’t know whether they should act now or wait for the next generation.

Do you agree?  Does the innovation machine create new products too quickly to allow the dental community adequate time to evaluate them? Does it seem like just when you’re getting comfortable with a product, the next generation is introduced and you have to make adjustments? I’d like to hear your experiences.


4 comments so far

  1. Warren on

    I have been in the industry all my life. I blame the manufacturers from years past – too many products were brought to market early and caused issues. After so many years of trusting the products being presented to them, many doctors were excited and willing to try the newest products (like self etch bonds for example).
    Just like ceramic crowns – the issues did not happen immediately – many issues came back a year or two later. There was a lot of money spent on marketing and building excitement for new product lines, but not enough money put into making sure the products performed as promised.

    I also believe many reps get a little too excited to be the first guy in the door with the latest new product without fully understanding what they are presenting. There should be some healthy skepticism with a new product that promises the world. Personally I like to see several years of independent studies and further like to wait until the general market has accepted the new product before I recommend to my customers.

    It would be great if the dental suppliers themselves would allow customers to “vote” on product lines and leave comments live on the websites about products. Think Amazon…its’ nice to see a review of a product from someone other than the company or a sales person before you buy it. The most powerful sales tool is that of referral. If a product is good and gets good reviews, it gets shared.

    Such is the power of the new Social Media and why Twitter and Facebook are growing leaps and bounds. People truly want to know unbiased opinions on various subjects – dental products included.

    The other reason many people wont change is because what they are doing is already working so well. If you were taking impressions using a vinyl poly and you have’t had a remake in as long as you can remember – how motivated are you to try something new? Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken – especially in health care! My docs are rarely willing to ‘try’ anything new – and I am rarely willing to sell them anything new.

    My blog covers mostly tried and true products, or products that deserve a look.

    I appreciate the forum Keith! This alone is an excellent way to get the market to share and to become better!


    Warren Bobinski
    Success in Dentistry and Life.

    • 3M ESPE on

      There’s a lot of noise out there. It certainly is a challenge for the dentist to separate the “wheat from the chaff” – sorry my English upbringing coming through there. Facebook announced last week that it had passed the 500 million member mark. I agree with your comments about the influence of social media. It is pervasive and powerful phenomena that we all need to embrace as it is here to stay.

  2. Mark Jackson, RDT on

    I think there are a few foctors at work here Keith.

    One is the conservative nature of dentists, and the nearly cult like following that key opinion leaders create. I’ll use a product as an example: IMAGEN was a high-noble gold coping made on a 3D printer. The product was good and had significant advantages over the product it superceded technology wise; Captek.

    Even though we sold the product at the same price as Captek, the fact that the manufacturer never hired or recruited opinion leaders to talk about it, it had no name recognition, and nobody wanted it. The company was new to the dental industry and did not understand the mind of the dentist, and though they were hugely successful in other industries, they sputtered out like a candle in dentistry.

    Dentists are a fickle bunch, and they are ALWAYS looking for the next better thing.

    Lava for example, enjoyed a normal popularity cycle. It rode the bell curve all the way to the top, when the counterfeits and generic products came along. My own statistical data shows that Lava had failure rates equal to, or in some cases better then PFM’s yet bad press about chipping and fractures tainted the Lava brand, even though it was probably the inferior products that were having problems. Ivolclar capitalized on this, and emax began it’s popularity climb began riding a bell curve of it’s own, while Lava demand dried up.

    But emax has it’s problems too, and like Lava before it, the demand is leveling off and BruxZir is the new star.

    The problem is that while many of the manufacturers CLAIM they speak to dentists, I’m wondering who they are talking to, and how long they wait to move on that information?

    Don’t give us/them products they don’t want. If Lava DVS is supposed to quell the fears of dentists about chipping of veneered zirconia frames, I’m afraid it’s too little too late. Monolithic crowns already solved that problem as far as the dentist is concerned. They’ve moved on.

    Low cost 3M branded zirconia that is still twice as expensive as the generics that soured the milk? Too little too late.

    Marketing to dentists needs a strong offense. Look ahead and anticipate the need. If you are big enough, you can create demand, but it’s an expensive gamble, and as far as 3M is concerned, on the restorative side of things, it’s only worked once (Lava). Can you repeat the performace?

    If it’s based on trying to restart the fire of a product that has already enjoyed it’s time in the sun…I doubt it. What can we find wrong with the popular products on the market TODAY? BruxZir and emax?

    If I were a betting man, I’d put my money in resins. But I’ve been wrong before 🙂

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