Dr. Gordon Christensen, founder of Practical Clinical Courses and CEO for Clinicians Report, shares insights on dental technologies and how dentists can embrace identifiable trends

May 12, 2012
Thais Carter

Issue 5

No dental professional sets out to become Gordon Christensen - not even Dr. Christensen himself. And while today he is able to fill conference rooms, influence product development, and help direct attention to key trends and causes, it wasn’t something that happened overnight.

No dental professional sets out to become Gordon Christensen - not even Dr. Christensen himself. And while today he is able to fill conference rooms, influence product development, and help direct attention to key trends and causes, it wasn’t something that happened overnight.

“My research orientation started in dental school at USC in Southern California,” he remembered. “As a senior student, I delivered a ‘table clinic’ in the Dentsply student table clinic program. From that point, the speaking grew from local to national and on to international.”

The CRA Foundation – now Clinicians Report (CR) – was founded in 1976, as an outgrowth of Dr. Christensen’s serving on a variety of national and international committees, through which he recognized just how much the profession needed fast dissemination of practical research information.

Related Article: Dr. Edward Zuckerberg, the dentist dad of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, talks social media and the latest in dental technology

“At that time my wife, Dr. Rella Christensen, and I founded Clinical Research Associates (now Clinicians Report) for non-profit evaluation of products,” he said.

These accomplishments came out of Dr. Christensen’s passion for communicating and, over time, have built his reputation as an industry icon. Just because the role he inhabits now seems so super-sized doesn’t mean there aren’t aspects from which any dentist can learn.

Evaluating new technology
Dr. Christensen acknowledges that after years of evaluating products he has developed a “sixth sense” about whether or not a product will be successful. However, the principles he prioritizes - that a product must be “faster, easier, better and preferably less expensive” for optimal sales potential - are things all dental professionals can look for and make part of their personal product evaluation.

When it comes to technology, those characteristics are a good place to start, but Dr. Christensen also encourages dentists to look at new equipment through the patient’s eyes to help frame its purpose.

“Technology is attractive to some patients, while other see just extra expense and higher fees associated with an office filled with technology,” he explains. So, when incorporating something new, dentists also should consider “whether or not the technology is easy to implement and use, moderately priced or has an engaging return on investment, and able to satisfy a task that could not be done as well with conventional techniques.”

The willingness to embrace a new product or technique comes down to whether or not it is, in Dr. Christensen’s words, “visibly better.”

“Dentists do tend to use what they were taught in school and, sometimes, those products or techniques could be better. But, by attending CE courses, dentists are introduced to new concepts. This is important because, as in any endeavor, without change the practice of dentistry can become boring and the dental professional’s interest in his or her work can diminish,” he said. “New techniques and products can stimulate the practitioner and provide improved patient care.”

This, in turn, becomes the animating force behind the lecturing, the reviews and the evangelistic zeal Dr. Christensen brings to talking about technology. But the message is two-fold. Be bold, but also, be smart.

“Folks should not rush out to be the first to get a new product or concept. Assurance that a product is working comes from initial in-vitro research - which is only a suggestion of a product’s value - consumer use observations, and long-term use,” he explained. “CR does all three types of research. When CR says a product is working, that is a good guide to its value.”

Chairside CAD/CAM is one of those technologies. Work by CR has proven over the years that the restorations fabricated from these systems can produce equal or better results than conventional methods.

What’s on his list?
Interacting with so many different technologies, we asked Dr. Christensen what trends he is most excited to see dentists embracing.

“There are several very identifiable trends. Among them is CAD/CAM technology, such as E4D, CEREC and others, which are finding popular acceptance; 2D digital radiography; and 3D cone beam radiography which is growing rapidly and will soon be the standard of care for many procedures,” he started. “There is also the rise in full-zirconia  and lithium disilicate restorations. Glidewell, the largest lab in America, produced 38% full-zirconia restorations in 2011 out of more than one million crowns.”

He easily could have gone on.

Looking at CAD/CAM specifically, we asked him to lay out some of the main points that could drive greater adoption of a technology he believes holds so much promise.

First – Cost efficiency. Since its introduction in the mid 1980s, the overall cost of implementing CAD/CAM dentistry has come down. Even more importantly, though, with a strong core base of users, there is a model for ROI that makes the initial upfront costs justifiable for nearly any practice.

Second – More user friendly, easier software. The development on this side of CAD/CAM technology is extraordinary. For those dentists who haven’t seen a demo of the E4D Dentist System, Sirona’s CEREC 4.0 or others in the category, it would be wise to arrange a demonstration, visit the companies and see just how far usability in scanning and design has progressed.

Watch this video featuring the E4D Dentist System:

Third – Networking and connections. The ability to network and communicate amongst dental professionals, with processes like E4D’s Sky and CEREC’s Connect, dentists and dental laboratory technicians can see and speak the same language.

Fourth – The combining of expertise.  More and more companies are maximizing their capabilities by working together. Enterprising companies like D4D Technologies (E4D Dentist) have partnered with established leaders Ivoclar Vivadent, 3M ESPE and Henry Schein Dental to showcase all that is possible for the modern dental practice.

Last – the assurance that the devices can be financially successful in the practice. The success stories are out there and, believe it or not, they don’t all sound the same. Dentists across the country, in a variety or practice set-ups with divergent patients bases are finding true ROI in their CAD/CAM purchases. Mentors in CAD/CAM mastery are out there, if you and your team are willing to embrace technology - learning and implementing.

Innovation can be contagious
Dr. Christensen excels in bringing excitement and credibility to technologies that might otherwise be easy to dismiss. In the same way he uses his influence, as the leader of your practice, consider how your passion for new technology can inspire your team and patients to something better. 

The Difference Makers series is brought to you in partnership with D4D Technologies, makers of the E4D Dentist System.