Dreamers & Doers: SDI – “We want to be one of the premier esthetic companies in the world”

October 1, 2020

Volume 54, Issue 10

Special Advertising Content: SDI CEO and Managing Director Samantha Cheetham discusses what drives this Australian dental materials maker.

Q: To start off, can you tell me about the history of SDI?

SC: Sure, absolutely. SDI started in 1971 here in Melbourne, Australia. We started as an amalgam company, and my father who started the business, quickly got into composites, glass ionomers, and tooth whitening. Today we export from here to over 100 countries. We are totally passionate about research and development, about innovation, and pioneering, and driving the science behind the restorative and the tooth whitening categories.

Q: What do you hope people associate with the SDI brand?

SC: We want to be one of the premier restorative companies around the world with a focus on composites and all their accessories. We’re really very passionate about making sure we offer dentists have easy to use products that offer the latest technology.

In the tooth whitening category, we strive to create products like Pola that are safe for the patient with no sensitivity and are easy for the dentist to dispense.

We have a whole R&D team focused on composites, glass ionomers and whitening, plus the complementary products like adhesives and LED lights. Our focus is on helping the dentist perform faster, easier procedures that deliver better results for patients.

Q: What major challenges has SDI had to overcome?

SC: I think the biggest challenge is how far we are away from out the rest of the world. We are so far away, and to overcome that we’ve got distribution points all around the world. Just to get to LA, it's 15 hours on a flight, and the US is one of our biggest markets. Even to get up to Asia, it's 10 hours. We are so far away, and to overcome that we've got distribution points all around the world. Today distribution, it’s one of our key strengths, and we’re in over 100 countries. In the U.S., we have a distribution center in Chicago and all the dental distributors around the country.

Q: How does SDI’s focus on R&D drive innovation?

SC: We have a huge pipeline of products for the next 5, 6 years, and other products that we’re working on to follow. We invest about 5% to 6% of our sales into R&D. That’s a commitment we’ve had for many years. We’re very focused on those three categories of composites, glass ionomers and tooth whitening. This ensures we don’t have to delve too far out of our expertise to bring out new products. And we’re getting quicker in terms of product releases. So we can keep upgrading the products for the dentist so they get better and better every few years.

Q: What does SDI do to try to stay ahead of the curve in the competitive dental materials market?

SC: Many different ways. Market research. Sales teams calls. Watching the market. And of course the feedback from our teams in all the different countries. We get feedback from each different country across different levels – which is a diverse set of opinions. We're entrenched in the areas where a lot of research is happening on dental materials, so we watch quite carefully. Luckily, communication is easy, and we can also adjust our pipeline if required.

Q: What new things will SDI be announcing soon?

SC: We're about to launch our new Pola light system, which is a new version of our tooth whitening system available only through dentists. It's a very powerful tooth whitening system that doesn’t require the dentist to make a customized patient tray. The patient simply performs the whitening. The patient puts the Pola gel into these two trays, activates the light and waits by watching Netflix for 20 minutes. They are very powerful take home gels, carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, and the Pola Light is a very comfortable LED light that helps with the whitening process.

If the dentist doesn't have time or can't see the patient, especially during these COVID-19 times, they can just ship them one of these Pola Light systems. We love the custom tray systems and because they can be perfectly fitted to teeth – and that's the best option. But Pola Light is going to be a really fun and exciting product for the dentist because they don't have to make the trays. The Pola Light can only be purchased from their dentist or picked up from the dental office.

Q: How has the pandemic impacted SDI?

SC: Like everybody we have had a hard time, but we’ve actually found some real advantages. We’ve had heaps of webinars in different languages—all focused around the non-aerosol generating procedures. We’ve also got a super product, a silver diamine fluoride (SDF) product called Riva Star. It’s a proven incredibly powerful next generation of SDF and it is applied without the need for an aerosol procedure. The clinician just uses hand instruments to get rid of the decay, puts Riva Star on and stops sensitivity immediately. Then they add our glass ionomer (Riva Self Cure) and the patient can leave quickly. There’s no drilling required. It’s a fantastic procedure. Very quick and totally stops the pain for the patient.

Q: Have you seen increased interest in Riva Star?

SC: Yes, absolutely. SDF has been around for around 50 or 60 years. One of the disadvantages of Silver Diamine Fluoride is that it turns caries and teeth black. And that's probably one of the reasons US dentists haven't really embraced it. Our Riva Star is a second generation SDF, which received FDA approval a few years ago.Step one is the SDF placement and then the dentist immediately places Step two, the potassium iodide (KI), over it. Potassium iodide helps to minimize the stain. In many cases the staining won’t even happen. That is the real advantage of our Riva Star SDF product. It is a new category, it's very much a preventative and becoming a very easy way for the dentist to really help their patients and stop tooth decay instead of having to cut out healthy teeth.

Q: How important is online education for SDI?

SC: We are doing more than before. I think Dentists have probably found that the webinars are a great way to save them time. They don't have to leave their house or practice in order to help their patients. At the height of COVID, Dentists were able to learn from the comfort of their own home—not have to go get in a car and drive for an hour to get to a seminar. We've had a super response, thousands of Dentists have been watching our webinars, and I think that's a real game changer in the industry.

Q: To conclude, can you sum up SDI once more?

SC: It’s really about the new products that we’re focused on. We’re very committed to innovation in all areas of our work. SDI is focused on pioneering and driving the science of dentistry. That’s really our vision. We are focused on improving composites, glass ionomers and tooth whitening so dentists can deliver faster, better patient outcomes.

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