Paul Guggenheim, president of Patterson Dental

Industry interview: Sitting down with Patterson Dental president Paul Guggenheim

April 23, 2013

At the California Dental Association’s spring session in Anaheim, I had the chance to sit down with Paul Guggenheim, the president of Patterson Dental.

Kevin Henry: What challenges have you seen for the dental industry over the last year?
Paul Guggenheim:
Even though, overall, the economy is showing signs of improvement, there’s still some uncertainty out there. The unemployment rate is a barometer when it comes to how the dental industry is feeling about the economy. If people are unemployed, we know they don’t have dental benefits to use. We’re all pleased about the stock markets and the way they are performing right now, and that is boosting optimism. We know patient flow is still a little soft and that many dental offices aren’t completely booked out, so there is room for growth.

Henry: How does the economy’s impact on dental practices affect a sales rep on a daily basis?
It is the sales rep’s responsibility to understand where the opportunities are for each dental practice. Patients are out there who need to be reactivated, and reps can help practices understand how to do that most effectively. Dental reps also need to help their practices address the latest advances in cutting-edge technology. Where are the ideas for growth and the opportunities to invest for their clients? That’s what the rep needs to know and explain to his or her customers.

Henry: You mentioned technology, and I know that has been a big focal point for you and your company over the last few years.
Technology is the one segment of the dental industry that has continued to do well, in spite of the economy. There is still a tremendous appetite for technology, and dentists know that technology can help their production and efficiency. We are seeing the dawn of a complete digital migration in dentistry. Dentists are optimistic about what can be done in their practices with technology, and we want to be there to help them. We feel that we have the best technology products available. Through our unparalleled vendor partnerships, we are able to bring clients exceptional technology offerings. Additionally, with the Patterson Technology Center, we have made a substantial investment in telling the story of how we are able to optimize all of these digital platforms and integrate them to help the dental practice.

Henry: Dentists can often seem confused about what role technology can play in their practice. How do you explain its importance?
Make no mistake that dentists are aware of technology. They just have to take a step back and see the significance of the integration and the support that comes with it. We are always looking at how platforms can work together seamlessly, how technology can be optimized, and what exactly the impact of these investments is on the patient experience and practice lifestyle.

Henry: What do you see in the coming months regarding technology trends?
We see the continued migration to digital dentistry, and we think there is a huge opportunity there. We also think it’s a great time for dentists to finally make those investments that they may have been putting off because of the economy. Much of the older equipment in so many practices around the country needs to be replaced. Now is the time. It’s also time for dentists to consider the benefits of building a new facility and investing in tomorrow’s technology today.

Henry: Since we’re at the CDA, I can't help but ask you for your thoughts about the direction of dental trade shows.
There is a generation of dentists who love trade shows, but there is also a generation of dentists who will only come to trade shows if they need to. They seem to be finding their education in other places. The days of dentists packing into trade shows are over. With the Internet, you don’t need to come to a show to find what you are looking for.

Henry: Finally, it’s hard to come to CDA without thinking about your father and his annual golf tournament.
Absolutely. We celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Clifford R. Guggenheim Golf Tournament this year, and we had 145 golfers who enjoyed some great weather on the Tuesday before CDA. It was a fantastic day followed by an excellent banquet that evening, and I think everyone had an outstanding time.

Paul Guggenheim became president of Patterson Dental in 2010. Paul has spent more than 25 years working in the dental supply industry, in posts that include president of Guggenheim Brothers Dental Supply Co. He joined Patterson in 2000 upon selling his dental supply business to the company. In addition to his management responsibilities with Patterson, Paul has held numerous influential leadership roles in the dental industry over the years, including chairman of the American Dental Trade Association (now the Dental Trade Alliance) and president of Dental Dealers of America.