The Cosmetic Dentistry Roundtable

Leaders in aesthetic dentistry and materials share their insights and knowledge.

Leaders in aesthetic dentistry and materials share their insights and knowledge.

We are continuing our discussions with leading trendsetters in cosmetic dentistry. This month, Dental Economics interviews Dr. David Gane, vice president of dental imaging for PracticeWorks, Inc.

Dr. Gane has more than 15 years' experience in dental digital imaging. He previously served as the CEO of DICOM Imaging Systems, Inc., and was the co-founder of Image FX Software Solutions Inc. He is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario with an honors degree in physiology and a doctorate in dental surgery. Dr. Gane, one of the pioneers of imaging technology in dentistry, has authored numerous articles, videos, and publications on digital imaging in dentistry and has lectured extensively on the topic worldwide. You may contact him by phone at (604) 531-2521, Ext. 222, or by email at davidgane@practiceworks.com.

Dental Economics: Do you think the Aesthetic Revolution is still going on? Has it slowed down?
Dr. Gane: All trends seem to indicate that the Aesthetic Revolution is growing at an incredible rate, and that this growth shows no signs of abatement in the foreseeable future. I truly believe that this revolution will continue to gain momentum until aesthetics achieves a preeminent position in our profession worldwide.

Dental Economics: To what do you attribute this expansion?
Dr. Gane: I believe this expansion is fueled largely by three things:

  1. An increased level of sophistication among patients and a growing demand for aesthetic treatments
  2. Our ongoing quest for knowledge and an improved understanding of dental and dental-facial aesthetics
  3. Breakthroughs in clinical methodologies, dental materials, and technology

Today's patients are highly informed. They clearly understand the importance of dental aesthetics and the role it plays in their sense of well-being, in their careers, and in their relationships. The ongoing effort to meet their high expectations with state-of-the-art treatment and technology represents the forward momentum of the Aesthetic Revolution. The importance of the technologically advanced materials and clinical techniques that give dentists the ability to restore the original beauty of teeth cannot be overstated.

Dental Economics: Speaking of technology, your company is emerging as a leader in bringing imaging technologies to the marketplace. How do you plan to maintain that leadership?

Dr. Gane: Our company has become the largest dental software company in the world, by offering state-of-the-art technology and delivering innovative solutions designed to enhance every area of dental practice. In this same vein, we have strategically structured our imaging products with the benefits every practice needs to enhance patient care, save time through added efficiency, and reduce costs.
We focus on three areas:

• Product– The first is quality and innovation in products. The recent acquisition of the imaging software formerly owned by DICOM Imaging Systems gives PracticeWorks and its base of more than 61,000 dental professionals the very best imaging software in dentistry. This software provides the functionality of image management, editing, annotation, and treatment simulation in an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. PracticeWorks also offers its customers with "best of breed"imaging hardware technologies. An example is our strategic relationship with Olympus America for digital dental cameras and Trophy Radiology for digital radiography solutions.

• Support– PracticeWorks is dedicated to providing the best software support in the industry. Today, we have 242 full-time employees supporting our customers to assist them in protecting their imaging investment. We receive more than 25,000 calls a month from customers. To manage this call volume properly, our support locations are equipped with state-of-the-art information technologies to assist customers promptly. Strong customer support is key to maintaining our leadership position.

• Pricing– PracticeWorks offers its digital imaging technologies on a subscription-based pricing model. This option permits customers to have access to the benefits of imaging technology without the usual upfront costs, giving them an immediate return on investment.

Our subscription proposition consists of complete dental software, technical support, upgrades, and ongoing training. It's basically an insurance policy against technology obsolescence, and it fits nicely within our customer service business model. As technology blazes ahead, our clients can feel comfortable that their software platform will continue to provide the solutions they need.

In short, we plan to maintain our leadership position the good old-fashioned way, by offering an outstanding product and world-class support services, coupled with competitive and innovative pricing options.

Dental Economics: It has been said that the economy is in a recession. Is this affecting the Aesthetic Revolution? Is it affecting your business?
Dr. Gane: I think any significant downturn in the economy like the one we have just witnessed will have some negative impact on the Aesthetic Revolution. Aesthetic dental procedures often are elective and rarely are covered by third-party payers. As a result, these services compete with other goods and services for our patients' discretionary income. When people tighten up on their spending, it's bound to have an impact. But I would guess this to be a minor bump in the road.

With respect to the recession affecting our business, PracticeWorks was "born"in March 2001, just as the U.S. economy sank into a recession after a record 10 years of growth. Despite this recession and the economic downturn associated with the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy, PracticeWorks has continued to enjoy sustained growth. The company's recent financial performance continues to be very positive and has exceeded industry analysts' expectations.

Dental Economics: Your company is now very focused on dental imaging. Do you see imaging software as a growth opportunity? If so, why?
Dr. Gane: I definitely see imaging as a growth area for our company. The published purchasing intentions of the market are very high with respect to imaging technologies, and we are just getting started. This fact should be no surprise, however, when we consider that images are fundamental to just about everything we do in dentistry. From diagnosis to treatment planning to case presentation to interaction with labs, specialists, and insurance companies, images are concise, efficient ways to communicate.

Case in point: Look at the rapid, deep penetration of the intraoral camera into the market over the last decade. A large number of dentists are currently interfacing intraoral cameras with their computers and imaging software. On another front, dentistry is experiencing a rebirth of clinical photography, attributable to the easy-to-use, affordable, digital dental cameras. As the early adopters of digital photography continue to espouse the benefits of taking a standard set of images on each patient from podiums and study clubs across the country, the mass market will follow. As the hassles associated with film-based photography give way to instant, high-resolution digital images, I predict that digital photography eventually will become the standard of care for the cosmetic dentist.

These dentists, of course, will need quality, easy-to-use software to acquire, manage, edit, annotate, and communicate using their images, as well as create compelling aesthetic treatment simulations for patients.

Dental Economics: Based on the dental industry trend of an ever-smaller number of providers, how do you plan to increase your imaging business?
Dr. Gane: Although the growth rate for digital imaging in dentistry is high, the market penetration of imaging is relatively low. This represents a significant marketing opportunity, and we are well-positioned to take advantage of it. I anticipate that we will be very busy in the next three to five years assisting our customers' transition to imaging and other back-office technologies. Furthermore, many customers choose to purchase our products, including imaging technologies, via subscription. This gives us a growing, recurring revenue stream to fund ongoing development and support services.

Dental Economics: What percentage of the current dental workforce is doing cosmetic dentistry?
Dr. Gane: Virtually all North American dentists are practicing some form of cosmetic dentistry, including tooth whitening, bonding, and all-ceramic indirect restorations. However, relatively few practitioners focus on aesthetics to the extent that it is an essential element of the process from case presentation through treatment to the final result. This group, though, is growing rapidly, as more dentists move from performing occasional cosmetic dental procedures to becoming true "cosmetic dentists."This movement is fueling the cosmetic dentistry industry and is responsible for the health of the Aesthetic Revolution.

Dental Economics: Over the next 10 years, it is predicted that we will see a tremendous influx of women in dentistry. How do you see this unfolding, and how will it affect your company?
Dr. Gane: In the late 1970s, less than 2 percent of dentists in the United States were women. Today, approximately 40 percent of all dental students are women. Enrollment trends suggest that the proportion of women in dentistry will continue to increase. I think this is a tremendous benefit to the profession.

The advantages to having more women dentists are many. It is not that women have exclusive skills that make them better dentists, but, in general, women are excellent communicators; they naturally possess instincts that match up well to the needs of patients. Many women have a natural eye for aesthetics, and, in fact, some of the finest aesthetic dentists today are women. Here is an interesting emerging statistic: Women have been shown to accept technologies more readily than their male counterparts. I believe that the trend toward more female dentists will continue. We consider this to be positive for the profession as well as our business.

Dental Economics: How do you see your company and aesthetic dentistry in the future?
Dr. Gane: The demand for aesthetic dental services and technology will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. We will continue to invest in the areas of product development, customer service, technical support, and training. And we will bring the next generation of software products and technology to clients in an affordable, cost-effective manner.

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