January 31, 2018

View from the Dentists Chair – Technology Changes, We Need to Change With It

Nokia and the iPhone – a Story for the Ages

Now that the iPhone is 10 years old, it’s got me thinking about the history of smartphones and how you can apply these lessons to any industry (including dentistry – but I’ll come back to that).

Back in 2007 mobile phones were very different. Smartphones existed, but were not as all-pervading as they are today.  Many of us relied on our trusty Nokia (who didn’t own a Nokia 3310 at some point?) for taking calls, sending messages, and taking grainy pictures (which we rarely posted anywhere or did anything with).  We were happy – we didn’t feel like we desperately needed a new technology that would keep us constantly connected to our emails, Facebook and the internet wherever we went.

The iPhone was such a technological leap that Apple’s rivals did not take them seriously at first.  The Microsoft CEO at the time, Steve Ballmer, went as far as the state that there was “no chance that the iPhone is ever going to get any significant market share.”  Since then Apple has sold over 1 billion iPhones around the world.  They ignored the naysayers and went on to dominate the market. Smartphones have made us all productive, gave us better connections to our friends through social networks and are ultimately much more fun than a clunky old handset.  In many ways they have defined an era.

What has this got to do with dentistry?  There are plenty of lessons we can learn, particularly in regards to bone grafting and bone regeneration.

“We’ve always done it this way” is not a good enough reason to do something

When I am lecturing about bone regeneration, I am regularly asked “why do we need to regenerate the patients’ bone, we usually just a filler like allograft / xenograft / HA?”  The answer is basic biology – the human body is amazing, we just need to give it an environment to heal itself.  The patient’s own bone is a better solution than a foreign substitute in almost every case.  Patients prefer it too.

We have the tools now, with the latest synthetic materials like EthOss, to give the patient a better outcome.

“Normal” can change very quickly

When I look at my grafting procedures now, “normal” is 50% new bone at 12 weeks.  “Normal” is not using a collagen membrane.  “Normal” is patients that don’t complain about pain, that don’t have any ethical problems with the grafting material.  “Normal” is an implant success rate of over 99%.

5 years ago I would not have said any of these things were “normal” (I would probably have used the term “pipedream”) but then I started using EthOss and it completely changed the way I can treat my patients, and all for the better.

Patient expectations

In some ways my patients are all the same.  They want less pain, less surgery, less swelling and faster healing.  They want excellent aesthetic results.  They want me to use ethical products.  A material like EthOss means I can tick all of these boxes, and give them the experience that they are looking for.

Patients are coming into the surgery more educated and more informed about their procedure then ever before.  As a result they are more demanding, they will not settle for the “same old” treatments that have been used for years.

I often use the iPhone analogy when I lecture. Through pushing boundaries and developing new technology, Apple very quickly completely changed a market.  EthOss is doing the same thing to implant dentistry.  The changes these materials have made to my routine practice are every bit as ground-breaking as the iPhone was to the mobile industry.  It is an exciting time to be an implantologist!