Who can you trust?

March 21, 2012
Renee Knight
Issue 2

It all can be a bit overwhelming. It seems like there’s always some new product to try, adding to the other countless options you already had. While innovation and new product development is great for the industry and your patients, it can be difficult for you and your team members to know what’s up to par, and what products are best suited for your patients and your practice.

It all can be a bit overwhelming.

It seems like there’s always some new product to try, adding to the other countless options you already had. While innovation and new product development is great for the industry and your patients, it can be difficult for you and your team members to know what’s up to par, and what products are best suited for your patients and your practice.

Before you make that new product purchase, there are a few things you should consider. Here, we break down exactly what you need to know before you buy, and how to know when you’re looking at a product you might want to skip.

Check the research

Research is key for any product, and it’s even more important that anything you put in your patients’ mouths has the research to support it, said Dr. Sabiha Bunek, editor in chief of The Dental Advisor. But you also have to look at the type of research. Was all the research done within the company, or was the product sent to independent labs for testing? Was there any U.S.-based research? That’s an important question because the U.S. has different standards than other countries and you need to know how a product holds up to those standards.

“The other thing to consider is many companies that do research don’t have a high number of patients, restorations and recall of those restorations,” said Mary E Yakas, Executive Director of The Dental Advisor. “It’s important to look at the depth and breadth of the research. When you look at the research and they used the product in 15 cases in two indications, that’s not enough.”

And of course, you need to make sure products are FDA approved, and if they have the ADA seal of approval that’s an added bonus.

Do some research of your own

Before you buy any new product or equipment for your practice, you need to put in the time to make sure you’re making the right decision. 

So where to start? Check out the online forums and see what other dentists using the product are saying about it, said Dr. Tanya Brown, Consultant and Speaker for Miles Global. Learn about their successes and their failures. Talk to colleagues in your area already using the product about their experiences and talk to your sales reps about what they’re seeing and hearing. Read articles, look at the clinical studies and attend hands-on CE classes.  Ask for samples and try the product out for yourself.

It’s also a good idea to check out reviews from places like The Dental Advisor. Nonbiased reviews are key to helping you make purchasing decisions, and the Dental Advisor can even help you know what types of questions you should ask about certain products to make sure you’re making the best possible choice for your patients.

“We like to look at a product from a 360 degree view,” Yakas said. “When we review a product, what we look for is a combination of things.  Research should include benchtop laboratory science, but equally important are how a product handles in a clinician’s hands, and how it performs in the mouth over the long term.  We look at many products equally using the same criteria.”

Doing your research will help you determine if the product or equipment you’re interested in is something you’ll use in your practice, or something that will just sit in your closet. Just because a product has all the research to back it up doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for your practice. But even if it is, you have to put in the time to learn to use it effectively, and that means training and research.

“Dentists are gadget oriented and love when something new comes out, but they often buy these new gadgets and then don’t use them,” said Dr. Rhonda Savage, CEO of Miles Global. “That’s what we call true overhead. In looking at the big scheme, if you’re interested in purchasing a product then I would recommend you do the research on it, take classes before jumping in, and make sure it’s a technology you’re going to use.”

Wait and see

A new product that offers an easier, faster way of doing something can generate a lot of excitement and buzz, but that doesn’t mean you should buy it as soon as it hits the shelf.

If you’re thinking of incorporating a new technology into your practice, waiting a few years can not only save you money, but by the time you’re ready to make the investment you’re likely getting a new generation of the product that comes with fewer kinks and growing pains.

Dr. Savage was a practicing dentist for 19 years before taking on her current role, and she said she would typically wait five to eight years before purchasing a major piece of equipment. She wanted to see the technology develop, and that held true when lasers first came out. She was concerned about the laser’s control of heat and depth of the cut when they first hit the dental market, so she waited to see how the technology would be refined before adding the technology to her practice.

The wait time doesn’t have to be as long if you’re talking about materials. Dr. Savage recommends buying new bonding systems or composites after reviews are available by reputable sources. That way, you can get a feel for dentist satisfaction and the material’s level of failure before you use it in a patient’s mouth.

“There are other products I put into place right away. As an example, there are companies that can help your staff confirm appointments, allow patients to pay bills online and also confirm appointments via text and e-mail,” Dr. Savage said. “There are so many different ways we can work with our patients, and those are technologies I jumped right into. I see no harm. The ones I didn’t jump into are the ones where there was a possibility of risk for the patient.”

Remember it’s about your patients

While it’s great to listen to KOLs talk about the benefits of the products they’re using and to get a feel for what your colleagues think, remember product purchasing decisions ultimately come down to what’s going to work best for your practice. Don’t just go to one source for your information; just because you heard one KOL talk about his product experience doesn’t mean you have the whole picture.

“If you’re going to look at a product in the market, look at who’s talking about this product and how are they compensated. That’s the first thing you want to know,” Yakassaid. “Have your peers looked at it? What do they think? If a product is failing in one way or another, many people are out there talking about it. While seminars and KOLs may not be mentioning it, it could be something as simple as poor instructions or a technique issue. In our evaluation process, we have learned to identify those areas early on and share it with the manufacturer so they don’t hear it from distributors or sales reps getting returns. ”

And while brand loyalty can be great, especially if you’ve found companies and products you trust, don’t let that keep you from checking out new products. Look at products based on what they can do for your patients, and consider what a new product brings to the market and how it’s improved over previous versions or other products in the category.

At the end of all the research and all the wait and see, it all comes down to the patient and making sure the products you invest in meet their oral health needs. That is worth the time it takes to ensure you make the right decision.