As one of my mentors would say, “You must respect the materials that you are working with. You cannot expect them to do something that they're not intended to do, and you have to handle them properly.” I thought of him many times when I had the honor and privilege of visiting a few manufacturers over the course of the past year. I have visited GC America in Alsip, Illinois; Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio; and most recently, Ivoclar Vivadent in Buffalo, New York.
The overwhelming theme around these visits was the care, attention to detail, and science that goes into manufacturing products. In addition to the lovely aromas of MI Paste and MI Paste Plus or Crest Pro-Health toothpaste that I was able to enjoy during my tours, I was impressed by the sterility of the facilities and the extent to which these companies go to keep their standards so high. The efficacy of these products is certainly not by mistake; each company puts its products through stringent testing that ensures the products are safe and effective before they get into our hands.
By visiting these companies, I also modified my opinion of manufacturers' research. I think we were all taught that manufacturers might present research only to highlight the superior characteristics of their products. Although this may still hold true in some instances, I have a new perspective that should be considered when reading research that is conducted by a manufacturer. For starters, scientists—not members of a marketing department—test the products. While speaking with representatives from each company, I also learned that, if a product prototype is tested and does not perform as intended, the results inspire the manufacturer to make a better product, not tweak the findings to overpromise the product's capabilities to dental professionals.
I was also amazed to learn how many resources are available to us: Each company has an extensive website to teach us how to use products, and many of them offer online continuing education (CE) courses taught by respected experts. Check them out:
Ivoclar Vivadent even has an app that will direct you to an interactive website that will guide you in cementing every kind of dental restoration. If you don’t already know about Procter & Gamble’s app, which syncs our patient’s brushing habits via the Oral-B Bluetooth-connected toothbrushes, you must check it out at connectedtoothbrush.com. Ivoclar Vivadent also has a training facility on site, where we can take CE courses and workshops on a variety of topics. When I was there, there was a smile design course going on. The training facility is state-of-the-art and gorgeous!
Manufacturers also give us those little material safety data sheets in every box of product that we get. Have you ever taken the time to unfold it and read the manufacturer’s recommendations for the proper use and storage of a product? It was interesting to learn that many of our failures in dentistry are due to using a product in a way that is not recommended by the product's manufacturer. For example, did you know that some curing lights that are considered to be broad spectrum and will cure a greater range of photoinitiators in our visible light-cured resins than curing lights that can only cure a narrow spectrum? It is vital for us to use resins and curing lights that are compatible. These visits helped me realize that so many ducks have to be in a row for our work to have successful long-term outcomes . . . there's so much to consider! Next time you open a new box of product, take a look at the instructions. You may find that you can improve your outcomes by using the product per the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you aren’t into reading instructions, you can always check out the sites I mentioned, or pick up the phone and call the manufacturer; manufacturers have representatives waiting for your call to help you troubleshoot.
Finally, if you have the time or happen to be visiting the city of one of your favorite manufacturers, set up a tour. For me, tours have resulted in a few things: I have gained a greater admiration and respect for the manufacturers of some of my favorite products, but more importantly, I have made better product choices for my patients and have become a better clinician by learning the proper ways to handle some of my favorite materials. I will continue to visit manufacturers whenever I can. It’s always such an eye-opening experience and I learn so much!
Thank you to GC America, Procter & Gamble, and Ivoclar Vivadent for taking the time to show me around and to my mentor, who taught me early to "respect the materials that I work with." I’m a better dentist for it.
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