10 Questions: Captek by Argen
A Q & A with Nick Azzara, VP of The Argen Corporation, Director of Captek Division
01 Do you think of Captek crowns and bridges as PFM restorations, or do they belong to a category all to themselves?
The Captek metal-composite technology has fascinated me for close to 20 years. I was fortunate to be exposed to high-quality metal ceramics and metal-free alternatives early in my career. I am eternally grateful to the great companies, technicians and dentists I worked with and learned from. What influenced me so dramatically with Captek have been the positive results we witness with patients over time and how this material fits so many important clinical needs; needs, in my opinion, that could not be met as effectively by other options.
Dr. Itzhak Shoher and Aharon Whiteman, the co-inventors, developed Captek with their own patients in mind and clearly understood how important a thin, warmly colored, bio-friendly core was to long-term clinical success. There have been many variations of high-purity gold in sintered, plated or cast forms over the years and there have been numerous versions of pressed and milled ceramic for that matter, yet Captek has thrived for two decades. In today’s world of shorter and shorter product cycles, this is an amazing achievement. So yes, I believe Captek fills a unique and important position within the restorative options that are available today.
02 How has the Captek product line changed over the years?
The basic technology of a high-purity gold that is internally reinforced by hard, stable particles of platinum and palladium is still the same, yet almost every process within the Captek system has been vastly improved and refined. To start, the basic material was re-engineered in 2007 to incorporate Nano particles.
The Nano series incorporates 100 percent more hard particles to strengthen the gold. This allows for thinner yet stronger copings and bridges, with less gold. Because of the increased stiffness, the new Captek materials are easier to handle and finish. The Nano Captek materials account for 98 percent of our sales now. In addition to the Nano Captek materials, refinements include wider firing parameters, better build-up materials, improved methods for collars and porcelain support and a tougher ceramic/composite bonder.
For bridges, the new Inconnect® bridge connection method replaces a two-material technique with one, superior material. The Captek system has really been completely updated and improved during the past five years and is stronger, more cost effective and more technician friendly.
03 How do you keep Captek front and center for dentists and technicians as all-ceramic restorations gain marketshare?
Metal-free options that can be automated are very attractive to labs these days. Yet, we have found that when dentists understand the benefits of Captek, such as how it solves so many clinical situations and how healthy and esthetic restorations can be when produced by a quality Captek Certified Lab, they absolutely prescribe more and more Captek. Our strategy since mid-2011 has been to reconnect with clinicians through journal ads, articles and lectures. We started repositioning Captek ads with the large clinical books last April. We will continue with this strategy in 2012 and balance it with more support from top clinicians and more cooperative marketing initiatives with our quality and committed Captek Certified Lab Partners.
04 With the price of precious metals continuing to increase, how can labs make Captek an attractive option for their dentists?
Unstable precious metals markets have historically been a benefit to Captek sales. Yet, during the past two years, gold moved up and down with economic confidence. When fear was high, gold was high. What historically was an opportunity for Captek became a liability, but not because we couldn’t control our costs. In fact, with the help of The Argen Corporation, we have controlled our costs better than ever before. More so, it was the perception that gold was too risky. Now I see that relationship changing. We see signs that the economy is stabilizing. Gold is not on the front page every day. We see firm evidence that our messages are getting to the dentist with more acceptances. Doctors are getting the message that Captek is a great option no matter what the current price of gold.
05 Is there a type of case or a type of lab best suited to working with Captek?
I believe our clients appreciate that our team has a firm understanding about material selection and solving clinical challenges. My brother, Lou Azzara, was one of the founders of the original Captek Company, and in conjunction with Dr. Shoher and Mr. Whiteman, always took a high-level approach when it came to living up to our responsibility for being a great clinical resource. Needless to say, the reputation of Argen and the Woolf family is beyond reproach when it comes to being corporately responsible as well. Why is this important? When it comes to selecting materials, there isn’t one single material that will work in all situations.
If someone dissects the various clinical challenges that exist, it makes complete sense where Captek fits. There is a long list of clinical situations when Captek should be considered including:
- Dark preparations
- Margins that are subgingival
- Endodontically-treated teeth
- Patients with high caries and/or perio risks
- Patients with dry mouth, are on meds, have systemic concerns like heart disease or allergies
- Patients who need restorations over implants
- Restorations fabricated on all types of margin designs - including bevels
- Restorations where we are closing gap and changing contours
- Esthetic, strong, accurate and bio-healthy bridge work
Captek Certified Labs have a great opportunity to attract new accounts or provide better solutions to their existing accounts with Captek. I see recalls on cases that have performed really well in tough, tough clinical situations almost every day. This is where the rubber meets the road. When dentists see these types of results, it is beyond question what an important role a great Captek lab can play in a doctor’s career. So, is there a type of lab that is better suited to offer Captek? When the clinical situations exist, any lab should consider offering a Captek restoration.
06 How do you make the Captek system appealing to a younger technician who has been digitally trained?
Younger dental technicians are easily attracted to digital design and the high-tech area. In the past, Captek was always a great product for people with talented hands to contribute right away to the success of a dental lab. Someone without full knowledge of frame design could produce a great Captek coping and learn about clinical dentistry along the way. The knowledge that someone was working on such an esthetic restoration that was clinically proven to protect teeth and gums from harmful bacteria is inspiring.
Fabricating a nice Captek restoration has a higher purpose. It offers a healthier option. In fact, many times a skilled Captek technician will evolve into a great overall technician. It is a challenge for us to continually train new people, but that is a challenge that we accept whole-heartedly.
Today, Captek is still a very efficient way to get a PFM done well without utilizing the highest-level technicians in the lab. Labs do have great options to incorporate Captek into their product offering. Domestically, there are many fine labs that offer copings for other labs. Many international labs have developed high-level Captek departments as well as another proven method of accessing Captek restorations. And, we do a huge amount of business with labs that manufacture in-house and are committed to keep it that way.
07 Will Captek be fabricated within the digital workflow?
In the very near future, we believe there will be more viable methods to fabricate Captek restorations even more efficiently and more cost effectively. The process will continue to become easier to manufacture for technicians and we fully expect to have Captek firmly available within a digital workflow protocol. The research team at Argen is making tremendous progress every day in this direction. This is really exciting for us and I know it will help our clients dramatically.
08 What has been the biggest change with Captek since being acquired by Argen?
The biggest challenge was to shift the manufacturing to San Diego from Israel. The technique is very specific and specialized. This contributed to the transition taking more time than initially anticipated. The transfer process started in July 2011 and was not fully completed until December. This was a mixed blessing. On one hand, this sacrificed a few months time of our research and development goals. Yet, on the other hand, we have tremendous confidences in our understanding of the process. We all believe this will help us to improve and innovate at a faster pace. Looking back on the experience, it really reinforced the admiration we all hold for what Dr. Shoher and Mr. Whiteman actually accomplished with this special material. Through it all, the original inventors of Captek developed tremendous respect for the Argen team’s amazing talent and resources. Many in the industry know how amazing Paul Cascone and Arun Prasad are. If you are not familiar with these two gentlemen, they are in an elite category of dental material specialists in the world. Adding to the expertise of Paul and Arun is the experienced support from Chris Lowthorp, CDT, and Al Fillastre, CDT, the backbone of the U.S. Captek education team along with an incredible group of engineers and material specialists in Argen. As I said before, I am glad it took a few more months than expected to all come together. The collaboration process is always interesting. If it had gone too smoothly in the beginning, we would not have such a collaborative team today. A team poised to accomplish great things.
Other than that, the transition has been tremendous. Between having my brother Lou’s oversight as a senior vice president of Argen and so many from the executive team to work and learn from, such as Selwyn Moss, Andy Ravid and Neil Weinstein, it has been a great experience. Our Captek team has the full support of Bertie and Jackie Woolf and amazing leadership from Anton Woolf. Now that we have the manufacturing nailed down, we are integrating very quickly with Argen representatives in the U.S., Argen Canada, Argen Germany and many dealers around the world. Our team is excited and ready for the challenges.
09 What new resources does Captek have at its disposal as a result of the acquisition and how are they being put to use?
Argen brings financial power to purchase precious metals for Captek at the best price points, provide great marketing knowledge and commitment, and have a strong global network of representatives around the world. We will continue with our high touch, high intimacy service model. Argen’s backing has enabled us to reconnect with important technical and clinical relationships that will help clients with education and guidance when it comes to Captek. Examples of these resources include: UCLA Center for Esthetics with Dr. Ed McLaren, Dr. Robert Lowe, Dr. Ross Nash, Dr. William Piskorowski from the University of Michigan, Dr. Mike Melkers, Dr. George Kirtley, Dr. Barry McArdle, Dr. Rodrigo Escalante from Acapulco, Mexico, Romeo Pascetta, MDT, from Chieti, Italy, and so many other great clinicians and technicians.
10 What does Captek by Argen have in store for the rest of 2012?
The year has started off really strong for us. Even though we made great strides last year, we were really putting the pieces together. I am very grateful to everyone within Argen and the Captek Division for the hard work and dedication they give every day. We have great people that are fully committed and engaged. They truly understand how important this innovative material is. Now that the pieces are assembled, we will be in better position to help our clients utilize Captek to maintain and grow their businesses. For this reason and many others, I am very optimistic about the future.