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A chat with two Marks from 3M ESPE

June 1, 2010
Dr. Dalin: This month I am talking with Mark Farmer and Mark Gates from 3M ESPE.
For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: Mark

Mark A. Farmer
Vice President and
General Manager
3M Digital Oral Care
3M ESPE Dental Products
[email protected]

Farmer, Mark Gates, 3M ESPE, dental materials, OMNI, Dr. Jeff Dalin.

Dr. Dalin: This month I am talking with Mark Farmer and Mark Gates from 3M ESPE. I have always been impressed with 3M ESPE and its leadership in the research and development of dental materials that are used daily in our practices. Gentlemen, what do you think will be the most dramatic changes for dentistry in the next several years?

Farmer: Probably the single biggest change that we are facing in the next several years is the incorporation and adoption of digital technologies into oral-care practices and laboratories. This is going to have a significant impact on productivity and the delivery of more materials options to meet patient demands. The adoption of these technologies and innovative new materials should make various treatments more cost effective and accessible to more patients. It will also require some new skills and training. This really is an exciting time to be in oral care.

Gates: I could not agree more. It is interesting to look at the possibilities, especially when you look at other industries and how they have evolved as society has changed. Hardware stores used to sell tools and fasteners. Now you have the big box stores that sell all this, but will also install your carpet, build your garage, and teach you how to install wood flooring. In this industry, we have dentists who do not want to be all things to all people; however, we have a society that is ever-interested in the “one stop shop” mentality.

Will the same consolidation that we are seeing with dental labs happen with dental practices? I don’t know that
Mark M. Gates
Vice President
Sales & Marketing
3M ESPE — Dental Division
[email protected]answer but I do believe Mark is right when he says digital technology is a game-changer. Expansion of services for the general practitioner seems a must, and we will be there every step of the way to support customers, whether that’s through materials, digital technology, or education and training.

Dr. Dalin: I have been a fan of digital dentistry since I bought a Dexis system some 11 years ago. But I am still surprised to see how slow dentists are to move to this technology. When do you think the dental industry will hit the true tipping point with digital oral care? Do you think dentists will eventually become adopters?

Gates: The industry is at the stage where the early adopters have come on board and the mass market is poised to follow. The economy may have slowed things down a bit, but I believe we are going to see some drastic changes in the next 12 months. As a company, 3M ESPE is prepared for the future on both fronts. Our research and development will continue to advance our materials as we move closer and closer to a complete digital revolution.

Farmer: The transformation has definitely begun, and we believe 3M ESPE continues to lead this transformation. We have 50 years of clinical history, collaborating with doctors to help them improve dental procedures. We understand that the transition can be difficult. Not many people like change. They need someone they can trust to help them. We have established a network of doctors who have already made this transformation and are ready and willing to talk with doctors about how to approach it. You can connect with this nationwide network of doctors simply by asking your local 3M ESPE representative.

Dr. Dalin: What can we expect in your core business: restorative and impression materials?

Gates: We recently launched the next generation in our Filtek™ line of composites — Filtek™ Supreme Ultra Universal Restorative. This nanocomposite epitomizes 3M ESPE’s approach to marrying technological innovation with customer collaboration. For obvious reasons, we cannot tip our hand too much, but 3M ESPE will continue to put heavy emphasis on innovation in its core categories.

The product pipeline is robust and there are several new products on the horizon. We are excited about the possibilities that digital technology is bringing to the table, but traditional materials science is still a major focus for our company.

Dr. Dalin: 3M ESPE entered the preventive area a few years ago with its acquisition of OMNI. What can we expect to see in this area?

Gates: You might remember when 3M and ESPE first combined. People were anxious to see what this new company could do with the R&D firepower. It took a little while to advance the product pipeline, but the new organization introduced such groundbreaking products as Filtek™ Supreme Universal Restorative, RelyX™ Unicem Cement, Elipar™ LED Curing Light, Lava™ Crowns and Bridges, and more.

When 3M purchased OMNI, it was with the intent to introduce the same 3M innovation and technology into the OMNI pipeline. Beginning this year, you are going to see that innovation roll out. We are bringing core technologies into the prevention arena, and while this takes time, we think the results will be exciting.

Dr. Dalin: For the fifth straight year, 3M ESPE ranked as the “Most Innovative Company in the Worldwide Dental Industry,” according to the Anaheim Group. What does this say about 3M ESPE as an organization, and more importantly, what does it mean for the practicing dental professional?

Gates: At 3M, you have a company with a culture built around innovation. And it is not just innovation in dentistry, it is innovation spanning hundreds of diverse industries in which labs around the world communicate across divisions and markets to share information and technological expertise.

It is this internal collaborative approach that we also use with customers. Every day we are communicating with dental professionals to gain valuable feedback on how to innovate current and future products.

Farmer: Our dental business’ success is, in part, founded on the fact that we have successfully tapped into many of the technical platforms within the company, including nanotechnology, optics, and adhesives. What this means for the practicing dental professional is that he or she can count on 3M ESPE to constantly improve and invent new materials, procedures, and devices that will enable the dental professional to deliver faster, easier, and better care to patients.

Dr. Dalin: Has 3M ESPE done any number crunching to determine how physical materials and digital technology stack up against each other?

Farmer: The cost of traditional versus digital impressions is close, but you also need to look at opportunity cost when comparing the two alternatives. The additional key benefits of the digital option are improved productivity, improved patient satisfaction, and improved outcomes. I hear from doctors that going digital has made them better dentists.

One of the biggest complaints from dental labs continues to be poor impressions. This adds time, cost, and results in rework and remakes. 3M ESPE is so certain that the improved accuracy of its digital impressions will result in improved productivity that we recently announced a Fit Guarantee.

Gates: Absolutely, the Fit Guarantee is exactly the type of intangible you need to look at in order to gain perspective on the full return of investment of digital versus traditional impressions. Even if the actual dollars and cents come out neutral, digital still has a leg up in patient experience, lab relationship, speed, and quality.

Of course, the digital transformation takes time so we will continue to innovate around traditional materials. 3M ESPE is the worldwide leader in impression solutions, and whether a dental professional chooses traditional or digital procedures, we want him or her to view our solutions as the best.

Dr. Dalin: Thank you. Dentistry will benefit from what you and the other dental manufacturers do on our behalf. With your assistance, we can provide the best dental care for patients.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He is a cofounder of the Give Kids A Smile program. Contact Dr. Dalin at [email protected].

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