by Paul Feuerstein, DMD
For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: Dr. Doug Yoon, IDS, manufacturers, distributors, marketplace, Dr. Paul Feuerstein.
Many of us look at dental companies and associate them with one product. When you think of KaVo, you think of the DIAGNOdent. When you think of Air Techniques, you think of air compressors. Planmeca, of course, makes panoramic and cone beam CT units.
Each of these companies and many others have an array of equipment and materials that are excellent but overshadowed by either the featured product or perhaps competitors in the distributor's “stable.” Sticking with these examples, KaVo has a line of lab equipment and cabinetry, as well as a sophisticated CAD/CAM system called Everest. Air Techniques has intraoral cameras and is developing a caries detection unit called Spectra. Planmeca has intraoral sensors, dental chairs, lights, and stools, among other items.
As you go around the booths at dental meetings, you have to look beyond the familiar products to see some hidden gems. In reality, the dental companies only have limited advertising budgets, and the distributors only have limited time to talk with you when they stop in your offices. They often play favorites and show the most common best sellers, unless you ask. So it behooves you to do a little homework.
All companies now have sophisticated Web sites with 3D photos, animations, videos, and complete details to help you make intelligent purchases. Then there are people like me who spend their “spare” time running around looking at these products up close and then reporting on them.
There are also some small companies that do have only one product and, in fact, do stay under the radar. Chances are you just pass by their tiny booths. Among these is a digital radiography company called XDR, which has a passionate scientist in the booth named Dr. Doug Yoon.
Those of you who have had a chance to meet Dr. Yoon will grin after experiencing his overwhelming enthusiasm for dentistry and mathematics. The offshoot, though, is sophisticated software that seems to show images with remarkable clarity. This goes hand-in-hand with a new sensor that features no box. The electronics are built into the sensor so that all there is a wire and USB connector — and a thin one at that. There are fewer wires necessary with the company's design, thus the thinner wire. More information is available at www.xdr-radiology.com.
I recently studied one multiproduct company in depth. When you think of Sirona, the first thing that comes to mind is CEREC. Second, perhaps, is the new Galileos Cone Beam CT unit. (Sirona is integrating these two technologies. Watch for some clever announcements.)
I had a chance to spend some time with members of Sirona when I was at the IDS meeting in Germany this spring. I was amazed at the array of the company's products that I actually knew existed but had not put in perspective. Sirona also has a few new products about to hit the market that I will preview in this column. For years, Sirona has had a digital X-ray sensor. Unlike the one I mentioned in the tiny booth, this one can be viewed in a large booth at dental meetings. But for some reason it is rarely discussed. I don't think the company has done a good job of marketing it.
Sirona recently introduced a new and improved sensor called Xios Plus. Above the quality of the image, it has options for connection via USB or directly into a network via ethernet. The larger sensor has a unique shape with beveled edges on the front end. This helps with patient comfort. Also, for those of you who look at technical specifications, it uses a CMOS sensor.
The company's Heliodent X-ray unit has been around for years, starting with the Siemens days (of which I still have two units operating in my office). This is a sleek workhorse. The newer units (Heliodent Plus) have incorporated the latest in digital radiography compatibility.
I also was shown the dental units that are totally digital and have what I call a “sleek European design.” If you are looking to make a statement of elegance, these units — with some interesting colors — will do the trick. Sirona's new operating light, the LEDview, is as the name states. It uses high-intensity LEDs, is low maintenance, and is cool (in temperature and design).
We recently reviewed the Pelton & Crane Helios 3000 as the first LED light. Obviously, this is the future. The company has the electronic controls integrated, along with computer monitors, built-in intraoral cameras, and integration with its digital radiography systems. In an office where I have had to add tech toys, it was a pleasure to see no wires hanging out (although it does give my treatment rooms a sort of geeky charm).
Continuing along, I saw a new handpiece maintenance center that will soon be released in the U.S. The DAC Universal unit automates the cleaning, lubricating, and sterilization of handpieces by cleaning internally and externally in a 12-minute cycle. Flushing, back flushing, and power washing are a few of the cycles that will extend the life of handpieces, as well as to keep them looking new.
I have learned, though, that some states require handpieces to be sterilized in sealed pouches, so be sure to check your state's regulations.
The electric handpiece system has an amazing number of attachments and flexibility for processes. A new endo attachment has a built-in apex locator that reads right through the files in a handpiece. The company also has a line of air turbine handpieces, SIROPure, that use no oil. This would seem to be a big advantage in critical bonding situations.
The most novel instrument I saw at the IDS was the PerioScan, another product that has not quite made it to this country. Like other new sonic and ultrasonic scalers, it allows a variety of irrigants to flush as the unit is being used. The PerioScan also has a built-in calculus detector that allows the operator to essentially “seek and destroy” areas of subgingival calculus. The operator can now clean and “see” what he or she is doing.
I have only touched on this product line. There is also a diode laser, beautiful dental cabinets, and more. In essence, you could have the entire treatment room set up with only one company involved and still be totally integrated. Add the CEREC and Galileos and you cover many aspects of the latest in high tech. In this industry, there are certainly many companies with an array of products. And of course, there are many practitioners who would rather pick and choose the various components from a variety of companies. I liken this to building a home theater from either a variety of components in which you choose the specifications of each section, or a totally integrated system in which everything matches electronically and esthetically.
I will be diving deeper into the manufacturers' catalogs as the year progresses to see what other gems I can find. I am intrigued by a few new developments that I have seen from companies in France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and Korea. So I will be getting a few of those Rosetta Stone disks this year. Hey, Joe, can I borrow a few bucks for plane fare?
Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught technology courses. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www.computersindentistry.com) and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.