A personal story of dental product excellence

June 3, 2013

An inside look at DENTSPLY Professional/Midwest's approach to R&D.

An inside look at DENTSPLY Professional/Midwest's approach to R&D.

In our own right, we’re all artists. We may not have exhibited the talents typically associated with being an “artist,” our stick-figure family portraits and unidentifiable drawings of animals leading those to believe that one side of our brains just wasn’t up to the challenge. But whether laying out a circuit board in a smart phone or crowning a tooth, there is an art to our respective craft.

Every artist uses fundamental tools of their trade. Many tools may appear simple in nature to those unfamiliar with the craft, but in the vast majority of cases these tools have been refined over many years by countless artisans in their own right. And each artist, over time, develops a keen appreciation for well designed tools that allow them to excel at their craft.

A select few artists practice their craft on a human canvas. The medium of the human body is delicate, unforgiving and leaves little to no room for error. The mental and physical challenges of being entrusted to practice one’s craft on the most prized medium there is are enormous. There is no backspace, eraser, correction fluid or “undo” selection in a drop down menu. These artists must be able to channel their entire focus to the task at hand and place their every trust in the tools of their trade.

A dental handpiece is a wonder of engineering: stable while rotating at incredible speeds, an extension of a highly skilled artisan’s own hand, maneuvered about a canvas residing inside a human’s body. Unlike most tools, dental handpieces are classified as medical devices and are thereby developed under very strict guidelines, governed in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration.

Dental handpiece manufacturers are required to follow, at a minimum, rigorous procedures beginning at the inception of a design and ending only years after a product has been discontinued. This strict development regimen is ultimately intended to ensure the safety and efficacy of each instrument meets a minimum standard and that the manufacturer has performed their due diligence over the course of the entire product life cycle.

Even though dental handpiece development is highly regulated, minimum standards are exactly that. There are many dental handpieces to choose from, widely ranging in size, power, price and quality just to name a few attributes. Manufacturers who set standards above the minimum create the distinction between merely a device that is used to complete a task and one that facilitates the creation of a masterpiece.

One of our resident product experts at DENTSPLY Professional/Midwest, who has been in the dental industry for more than 20 years, signs his emails with the phrase, “It matters WHO you buy your handpieces from.”

This statement speaks to the differences between those manufacturers that meet the minimum standards and those that go above and beyond. At Midwest, the “beyond” spans the rigors placed on every facet of product development, manufacturing, sales and customer service. Our customers continue to tell us that they look to us for reliable, quality handpieces and unsurpassed customer service and maintenance. While a wonderful position to be in for a company, this reputation does not come easily and stems only from setting a very high bar internally.

The Midwest Stylus ATC is a great example of going above and beyond. There is so much ado about “power” relative to highspeed handpieces, everyone trying to squeeze that additional Watt from their designs. But Midwest got in the trenches with doctors, and discovered there was more to the power mantra.

Engineers discovered that the true customer need behind the demand for more power was actually a call for more usable power. The addition of the seemingly simple qualifier “usable” means everything in this context and sparked a very different approach by Midwest, ultimately resulting in the development of Adaptive Torque Control for air highspeed handpieces, which perfectly addresses a previously unmet customer need.

What makes a quality, reliable handpiece? The answers to that question come from our customers, with whom we spend countless hours initially surveying, observing and analyzing solicited feedback to identify their needs.  It is at this initial stage where high standards are set. Some manufacturers do not make the significant investments in resources and dollars that are required to compete at such a high level, instead being content to offer decent products that follow the trends of others.

These “decent” products, seemingly cost effective in the beginning, typically fail to meet a customer’s needs or expectations. And while the user initially saves some money, the manufacturer makes a profit and meets minimum regulatory standards, a gap exists and a connection is not made with the user in that their needs or expectations are not met.

There are many purchase and repair options available to the highspeed user, varying widely in cost and quality. For example, consider the turbine/bearing set as the “engine” of a highspeed handpiece.

One wouldn’t take their expensive, high quality vehicle to some backroom engine rebuilding service to have a “bandit” replacement engine installed. Do you think the generic engine uses the same materials, designed to the same specifications, tested to the same standards as the Mercedes engine is?  And likewise, who would be most qualified to replace the engine in your high quality handpiece? Midwest  Air Repair, of course. Midwest knows all of the original specifications of your handpiece, checking for fit and wear to mating components to make sure your new, factory engine will perform at the level you have come to expect.

It matters who your buy your handpieces from, indeed...and it matters where you have your handpieces maintained and serviced and what components are being used as replacements. Remember that a set replacement is not analogous to an oil change in your car where the quick change service chains are as good as the dealers. A highspeed set is the engine of your handpiece and for it to perform as designed it should be serviced by those that created it and understand it best, using parts that are exactly like the originals.

A true artisan will excel given high quality tools, those tools essentially created by other artisans in their own right. The passion and rigor required to perform the work of a dental professional requires products that meet the high standards set by Midwest, at which point a connection is made, the gap is bridged and art is created.