Corporate Profile: Q&A with DENTSPLY Midwest

March 21, 2012
Issue 8

A veteran of DENTSPLY Midwest, responsible for many category-creating innovations, Chief Innovation Engineer Gene Novak has split his time between Manufacturing and R&D during his 30-year tenure. Gene has seen the Midwest brand change ownership many times, while staying loyal to the principles of innovation, quality, reliability and durability laid out by founder Martin Staunt.

A veteran of DENTSPLY Midwest, responsible for many category-creating innovations, Chief Innovation Engineer Gene Novak has split his time between Manufacturing and R&D during his 30-year tenure. Gene has seen the Midwest brand change ownership many times, while staying loyal to the principles of innovation, quality, reliability and durability laid out by founder Martin Staunt.

Tell us about the history and heritage of Midwest.
In the early 1920s Martin Staunt started a repair business for belt driven handpiece attachments. He acquired a reputation for workmanship that actually exceeded the quality of some of the manufacturers of that time. Seeing a need for improved quality and durability, he started the business of manufacturing and designing dental handpieces. They were so finely crafted and meticulous in every respect, it was like fine jewelry.

After developing geared angle attachments, Mr. Staunt and his engineers turned their attention to highspeed handpieces and introduced TruLine, an air turbine handpiece based on the original Borden concept. A few years later came Quiet-air. Many budding dentists used Quiet-air at dental school and went on to take it to their practices. First introduced in 1967 Quiet-air continues to have a strong loyal base.
Midwest also modified the Borden connection that is today’s 5-hole configuration hose, the current ISO standard. The purpose of the 5-hole design was to eliminate exhaust air leaking from the end of the handpiece. The leaking would put the oil and lubrication on the dentist’s hands.

We were the first with fiber optics and first with a lever actuated chucking mechanisms. Midwest has many firsts and these have gone on to be today’s ISO standards.

On the highspeed side, Midwest went on to introduce the 1000s, 8000s and today’s best selling handpiece, Tradition. Tradition evolved in 1985 from the need for greater access and lighter weight demands by the clinicians. We were also the first to offer a repair service for handpieces through Air Repair. And here we are once again…we introduced a major breakthrough with the Stylus ATC and its technology. Many firsts and proud to be a part of it!

How does Midwest make it happen for the dentist and hygienist?
Quite the simple formula…it is the involvement of clinicians-understanding and interpreting the needs of the clinician. It also is not about what the clinicians say to you directly but observing what they don’t say.

While we were researching customer needs to develop the RDH handpiece, I observed a hygienist massaging a finger. Inquiring why she was doing that she showed me a callus. This led to the unique design and ergonomics of the RDH handpiece. The RDH grip pattern and the balance is a complete departure from previous lowspeed designs. The RDH handpiece was meant to be a niche product, but ended up creating a new product category.

The hygienist is a moneymaker for the practice, but most often use the low-speed handpieces designed for the dentists. The hygienist’s needs are different. Our findings were that a dentist might use a lowspeed handpiece for 1-2 minutes, while a hygienist would use a lowspeed handpiece for 4-5 minutes. Therefore, the clinician did not experience the fatigue element the hygienist did.

Why Midwest?
Innovative differences…our heritage of delivering innovation, quality, reliability and durability! We have been the leaders for decades and continue to be leaders because we meet the clinician’s needs. With marketing, R&D, manufacturing and its supporting functions located in Des Plaines, Ill, we design solutions. We are clinician and patient centric, and pride ourselves on being easy to do business with!