The big idea

Aug. 1, 2009
Part of the reason I love to work with and speak to dental professionals is because of their ingenuity and creativity.

by Louis Malcmacher, DDS, MAGD

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: Dr. Louis Malcmacher, Common Sense Dentistry, creativity, ingenuity, dental inventor.

Part of the reason I love to work with and speak to dental professionals is because of their ingenuity and creativity. Another big reason is because I know that most dental professionals truly care about their patients and dental offices. Dentists are very interested in providing the best care at the highest level, and I place our caring abilities at the top of the list among all health-care professionals. I hear this from dentists every week when I lecture, and that is why we, as a profession, are such strong believers in continuing education.

Dentists either visit with me or send e-mails after nearly every lecture about new dental inventions and ideas they have or are in the deep recesses of their minds. Dentists are incredibly innovative, and this is probably because our profession is such a product-based profession. We as dentists love to tinker, we love new gadgets, and we love to try new things.

During that process, our minds get to work as we question how we can make our everyday techniques better. Our profession has a high rate of inventors for new products both in and out of dentistry.

The biggest question I get from dental inventors is, “How do I actually get my idea or product to the dental marketplace?” This can be a long and arduous project, especially if you are doing it yourself. The first thing you need to do is protect your invention, and the best way to do that is by obtaining a patent. I know from personal experience that applying for a patent can be a very costly process.

The first question you have to ask yourself is, “If I think my idea is such a good one, am I willing to invest in it myself?” If the answer is no, it probably isn't such a great or marketable idea. Getting your patent is only the first step in a long process of product development, testing, refining, packaging, and marketing your product to the end customer.

A lot of dental inventors' idea of a complete business plan involves putting their ideas down on paper, and then approaching dental manufacturers to sell the idea to them. This is not a business plan!

As a matter of fact, I can tell you that most dental companies get hoards of calls from dentists with the exact same “business plan,” and obviously the idea goes nowhere.

If you have an invention or idea, here are some questions that you need to answer before anyone will even consider the next step of your idea:

  1. A description of the idea, including what pressing problem it solves or great opportunity it presents
  2. The likely customers
  3. What makes the idea/innovation special
  4. The “go-to-market” strategy, that is, distribution targets and mechanisms, for example, phased distribution to North America first, followed by Europe, Middle East, and Far East
  5. Specifically with whom, or what, the proposed product competes
  6. What the invention can do that the competition can't, or that the competition didn't even consider
  7. Key assumptions and metrics such as savings, market size, etc.
  8. Recommended designer, manufacturer, distributor, and other key elements
  9. The source and intensity of the inventor's passion around the idea
  10. Other parties to whom the idea has been disclosed
  11. Three years of financial projections.

There are a number of successful dental inventors. Dr. Dan Fischer, the CEO and founder of Ultradent, probably has more patents to his name than anyone I know, and an incredible array of dental products. Dr. Simon McDowell of New Zealand, the inventor of the V3 Ring and TrioTray, has created some unique products that help dentists every day in their practices. Dr. William Dragan, the founder of Centrix, has built a company with innovative products that have changed the face of restorative dentistry.

Becoming a dental inventor is very similar to being a dentist. It takes hard work and effort to make your dream become a reality. We need more dental inventors to help drive dentistry forward. The process can be well worth it.

Dr. Louis Malcmacher is a practicing general dentist and international lecturer, author, and dental consultant known for his comprehensive and entertaining style. Contact him at (440) 892-1810 or send him an e-mail at [email protected]. Go to for more information on his lecture schedule, audio CDs, to download his resource list, and to sign up for a free monthly e-newsletter.

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