Patterson Dental and Sirona announced that North American CEREC sales have recently surpassed the $1 billion mark.
According to Scott Anderson, president of Patterson Dental, the exclusive North American distributor of CEREC technology from Sirona, this achievement is a team effort. “To reach this point required many people performing at a high level in terms of taking care of the customer, and from tremendous efforts to change the landscape of CAD/CAM,” he said.
In addition to Sirona manufacturing the product and investing significantly in research and development, major players include VITA/Vident, Ivoclar Vivadent, and 3M, all developing materials to create successful clinical outcomes. Patterson Dental built the service infrastructure to support dentists making the investment in new technology.
“One of the biggest aspects of this success is that dentists know that when they make a purchase this size, their satisfaction is guaranteed and they have a responsive, expert support system behind them — and we have this in terms of our technicians, our support through the Patterson Technology Center, and over 100 certified CEREC trainers,” Anderson said.
Sirona executive vice president and COO of U.S. operations, Jeff Slovin, agreed that the factors for success are many. These include continuous innovation, easier-to-use enhancements, world-class education, training and support, and strong partner relationships to the active community of thousands of CEREC users.
“Patterson has been a true partner since the beginning, making the kind of commitment and investment in time and people required to make sure the product is properly represented, sold, and trained,” Slovin said.
Technology before its time
CEREC (Chairside Economical Restorations of Esthetic Ceramics) enables the dentist to create and seat high-quality, tooth-colored restorations in one appointment. The market’s growing acceptance of CEREC technology is measured in numbers: $1 billion in sales, more than 10,000 CEREC users in North America, and over 20 million restorations performed since the product was introduced almost 25 years ago.
At that time, Siemens owned the dental business before it became Sirona. Dr. Werner H. Mormann, co-developer of the product, presented a personal demonstration of the CEREC technology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, where the product was invented. Patterson Companies President and CEO James W. Wiltz recalled his first impression of the technology. “The concept was intriguing — creating a laboratory-type restoration chairside and providing it to the patient in one appointment. That was more than 20 years ago. The technology was definitely before its time.”
Initially Siemens handled the sales, support, and marketing of CEREC 1, paying dental dealers for leads. Two years later, a routine meeting in Bensheim, Germany, revealed the development of CEREC 2 and its new design software that would enable users to create full crowns in addition to inlays and onlays, which were the only modalities indicated with CEREC 1. With these new advancements Patterson chose to again take a close look at the technology. After a year of discussion, the decision was made — Siemens would serve as the manufacturer and Patterson would import and market the product and provide all the service and support for the sale of CEREC, including hiring a specialized sales force and handling all training.
“The decision to choose Patterson as the exclusive distributor for CEREC was based on the conviction that no other company is better equipped to sell, service, and support this product,” Slovin stated.
The technology began changing and gaining traction in the market with the launch of the CEREC 3 hardware platform, which modularized the acquisition and milling units and the introduction of CEREC 3D — software that enabled users to visualize the preparation and design of the restorations in 3D. “This was a giant leap forward because it was much easier for the dental team to use and understand,” Wiltz said. “The change from CEREC 1 to CEREC 3D was like transitioning from DOS to Windows.”
Aside from its one-appointment capabilities and the continual evolution of this technology, Wiltz said he remains enthralled with another aspect of CEREC. “One of the most attractive features of CEREC is the ability to construct a full crown in a more conservative manner. The entire structure of the tooth does not have to be destroyed. You can do a 3/4 or 7/8 crown and retain the healthy part of the tooth, versus grinding the tooth down to a peg and then cementing a traditional crown. Still today, in my opinion, the ability to save as much structure as possible with the machine is a huge advantage.”
Best is yet to come
The recent introduction of the next major change, the CEREC AC powered by Bluecam, allows users to do both digital impressioning and send these images to a laboratory for fabrication, as well as chairside milling and in-office fabrication. “Doctors who want a competitive machine need to buy one that serves as both a digital impressioning system and a chairside CAD/CAM system,” Wiltz said. “CEREC is the only machine on the market today that provides the capability to do both.”
“CEREC has proven to be an incredible treatment modality and practice builder for many doctors,” Slovin added. “With recent advancements, we believe that adoption of the CEREC method is likely to further accelerate. While $1 billion in sales is a tremendous milestone, we believe the best is yet to come.”
A celebration of this exciting future and accomplished past will take place in 2010 — the 25th year since CEREC restorations were first produced. This Silver Anniversary recognition culminates with a special event that will bring thousands of CEREC owners together late next summer at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Selling technology/equipment in a challenging economy
So what has selling CEREC meant for Patterson representatives? “In the beginning they thought we were crazy,” Patterson Companies president and CEO James W. Wiltz chuckled. But as CEREC’s influence on dentistry grew, success spilled over to the sales force. “Anytime you can add a new product to the list of items representatives sell, it’s like receiving a salary increase without having to take market share from competitors,” Wiltz said.
During adverse economic conditions felt by most industries, it may seem counterintuitive that sales of the most expensive piece of equipment Patterson sells have remained brisk the past 18 months. “The demand for CEREC is revealing that return on investment is very important to customers, and one-visit dentistry is very important to patients,” Patterson Dental president Scott Anderson noted. “CEREC has proven to be an extremely effective solution for dentists to grow their relationships with their patients and attract new patients in a challenging economy.”