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Innovation in Dentistry: Putting New Dental Products to the Test

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Many of the new dental products introduced each year are excellent. Some are simply “me too” products based on existing technology. Some offer minor changes to existing offerings. Others, however, are so innovative as to be game-changing.

Innovation is vitally important in the dental field

What makes a product innovative? In our opinion, innovative products are those that (a) provide a new way to solve a problem that you may have in your workflow and (b) work well from the end user’s standpoint. The problem solved can be one that you’re aware of or an issue you didn’t realize you had that has been discovered through research.

A great example of an innovative product is Ivoclar’s BluePhase PowerCure curing light. Thanks to Dr. Richard Price’s research on light curing, dentists who thought they were properly light curing their restorations learned that they were not. Dr. Price’s studies showed that improperly cured restorations can result in post-operative sensitivity, de-bonding and other problems.

That said, this research raised an important issue: How can you be sure that you are light curing properly? The BluePhase PowerCure addresses this problem. If you’re not directing the light properly, it will vibrate. Plus, if you’ve shifted your angle so that you’re not going to get the full cure, it will increase your curing time by 10 seconds. It’s an innovative product that’s easy to use, solves a common, high-impact problem—and is one of the reasons why DENTAL ADVISOR recently named Ivoclar Inc. the 2022 Innovative Company of the Year.

How are products tested and evaluated?

As dentists we’re always looking for new ways to solve problems, streamline our procedures and provide excellent results for our patients. Each year a host of new products hit the market that claim to do all of these things. But how can you be sure that they do? A great starting point is to find out if the product has been evaluated.

DENTAL ADVISOR is one of the top and most respected companies that do these evaluations. Each year DENTAL ADVISOR reviews hundreds of products, testing them both in the lab and in the field. We spoke with Dr. Sabiha Bunek, CEO of DENTAL ADVISOR (and also a clinician who maintains a private practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan) to find out how this organization tests and evaluates products. Here is what we learned…

· The evaluation begins pre-market. “The most successful companies in my eyes,” Dr. Bunek shares, “are the companies that work with us pre-market. That means even before things are FDA approved, they’re going to take their claims—it could be their research—and have us use it in our lab. As soon as we can validate their claims, now they’re onto something.” Sometimes DENTAL ADVISOR also does focus groups in order to provide additional feedback regarding packaging, instructions, button location, ease of disinfection and other issues that are so important in the field.

· After any changes have been made, products are brought to a biomaterials research center. Strength, compression and a host of other factors are carefully tested.

· Finally, the product moves to clinical evaluations. DENTAL ADVISOR has about 350 clinical evaluators located throughout the country. A given product will be sent to 30 or 40 consultants, each of whom will try it out for a few months and then fill out a clinical survey to report on their experiences. “The biggest thing we do,” states Dr. Bunek, “is take the research that we’ve done in our biomaterials lab and tie it in with our clinical evals.”

Based on the combined results of the laboratory and clinical testing, products are given a rating on a “1 through 5” scale. Each product must pass certain category-specific standard levels. “It’s important to note that we don’t publish a 1 or a 2,” says Dr. Bunek. If a product only scores a 1 or 2, DENTAL ADVISOR goes back to the company with feedback they can use to improve and then resubmit the product.

So as clinicians, it’s important for us to do our homework before we incorporate new products, equipment and technology into our workflow. Part of that process would be to look for the DENTAL ADVISOR rating on the products themselves. You can review the company’s full evaluations at