Materials innovation in dentistry

Solvay Dental 360™ sat down with Gary Iocco, President of Dimension Dental Design, to discuss materials innovation in dentistry.

“The evolution in materials is happening very rapidly. Over the last ten years, metal-based units made up 83% of lab case-work. For the first time in 2015, metal-free units eclipsed metal-based workloads, 60% vs. 40%, respectively.1

What is your perspective on innovation in dental materials?

“As a lab owner for 35 years it’s my responsibility to stay updated on the latest materials. If I want to stay in business for another 10 or 20 years and be successful — I need to learn more about the new metal-free materials and understand their benefits.

“At LAB DAY, evidence of materials innovation was everywhere. I saw PMMA, PEEK, PEKK and other polymers discussed in a number of the sessions. Polymers are especially personal to me right now as I’m getting ready to have hip replacement surgery. I’ve done my research. I know I don’t want low-grade plastics in my body — and I do want the safest material possible. At a certain point, I need to ask myself…how many hip surgeries do I want? The answer is just one so I need something that’s going to last and that’s why I want a high-performance polymer implant.

“The sessions I attended on polymers helped confirm what I already know. What really resonated with me is that these materials are clearly so much more than just plastic. Sure, they’re a great replacement for patients with metal allergies, but they also have similar properties to bone and are lightweight, durable, and biocompatible.

“One statistic I heard really stuck with me: When consumers are visiting our lab websites, the second most frequently-visited page is the one that contains information on materials.2 Dentists, and their patients, are looking for alternatives to metal and it’s our job to not only provide them, but to recommend them to our customers.”

What do you need to consider when adopting new materials for your lab?

“With any new material, I’d ask a number of questions: What does the research say about the product? How does it fit into my existing workflow? Will I need new equipment? Will it be labor-saving? Will I need staff training? What’s the cost of the material? How will the cost of the finished product compare to other materials? Ultimately, I need to evaluate the answers to all these questions to decide if this will increase profitability for my business.”

How do you introduce new materials to your dentist?

“Our dentists will be asking me how well the new material works, what research has been done, how much it costs, and whether it will help their practice. I need to be prepared to answer those questions and would expect marketing support from the manufacturer to help me do that.”

Gary Iocco, President of Apex, is a very familiar and recognizable person in the dental laboratory industry. Prior to forming Apex, Gary owned his laboratory, Dimension Dental Design (CDT) in Hastings, MN for over 30 years. During that time, he acquired and integrated two laboratories into his lab. More visibly, Gary is the Past President of the NADL, Past President of the Midwest Dental Lab Association, and currently serves as a Trustee on the Foundation for Dental Laboratory Technology (FDLT) and Co-Chair of the NADL’s “What’s in Your Mouth” public relations campaign. Gary also sits on the Board of Directors of the Identalloy Council. In 2016, Gary received the NADL’s Hall of Fame Award, the Association’s highest honor, for his contributions to the industry.

1LMT Research Department (2016, February). The Answers Issue. LAB Management Today, page 48.

2LMT Research Department (2016, February). The Answers Issue. LAB Management Today, page 74.