Can you describe your current perception of the UK implant market?
At the moment we are basing a lot of our local strategies on the feedback coming from our customers in the market. This feedback is telling us that the market as a whole is more competitive; patients are more cash sensitive; and there is a considerable amount of confusion about the technology coming into the industry. As a company, we must listen to our customers and help them find ways to develop their businesses by overcoming some of the challenges they are currently facing.
In your view what are the main challenges facing the profession currently?
A particular issue for most dentists is that the recession caused patients to be more selective on how they spend their money, and even though we are now seeing the green shoots of recovery, we still need to help dentists overcome these barriers and give them the tools they need to show patients the benefits of choosing the world’s leading implant solution. We consider educating patients as an important part of our remit, we want patients to understand that there are differences in the quality of implants that can be placed so they appreciate why dentists are choosing certain products over others.
Does Straumann plan to market directly to the public?
Dentists often ask me why Straumann don’t advertise implants to the general public, however our focus is the profession. Trust between dentist and patient is incredibly strong and we rely on our customers to educate their patients and recommend the most clinically effective option. So the more important question, rather than ‘When will Straumann advertise on TV?’ is ‘How do we make patients aware of the many excellent practitioners who are performing great clinical work, using reliable and evidence-based products and achieving long lasting results?’ For Straumann, this is a more targeted, strategic approach that will help our customers grow.
Is patient education a point of focus for Straumann?
As the world of litigation opens up, more patients are aware of their need to do some research about a practitioner who is performing elective surgery of any type. Having a dental implant is an invasive surgical procedure and the implant placed will be in situ for a long time. We are proud of the fact that Straumann trains dentists really well, we put in a lot of time and effort, and I believe our education programme is better than other implant companies. Our association with the International Team for Implantology (ITI) is key here, as they make sure that our education and training adheres to strict standards.
Straumann has been a global leader in dental implants for more than 35 years and more people have Straumann implants than from any other manufacturer, and it is this heritage that makes us a company in which dentists can trust. We have the most researched and innovative products, materials and surfaces available, all of which improve patient outcomes.
One of the areas in which we can really help our customers is in educating their patients and we do this using conventional and electronic media. This is another area where we have clear differentiation from many of our competitors. We can answer questions and provide evidence to support the credibility of our products. In contrast, some of the newer entrants to the market only have one argument – cost – and when you consider the type of treatment we are discussing, I consider that to be a very superficial position.
What other challenges are facing your customers?
The concern of our customers as professionals is for the patient and how they can provide the best quality care and help them to make the most appropriate choices. Straumann has always been considered to be at the forefront of innovation with the development of the Roxolid Slactive implant portfolio, which comprises all Straumann implant lines, diameters and lengths, and comes as standard with the well-documented and highly osteoconductive Slactive surface. Straumann Roxolid implants now give clinicians the freedom to offer patients the benefits of this advanced implant for most treatment applications.
Are you noticing a change in the demographic of your customers?
There is no doubt that the dental demographic is changing away from the traditional ‘Straumann’ customer, both from a gender as well as an age point of view. We are delighted to be attracting younger, enthusiastic dentists to work with us because of our commitment to them, both as clinicians and as business people. Younger dentists definitely have a different viewpoint to some of their older colleagues; they want things quickly and are placing implants at a younger age. Our products exactly meet these new demands – Slactive and Roxolid are faster and stronger, but still reliable, predictable and proven with good clinical history to support their use.
Straumann want to find ways to harness the ambition of these young dentists and we are doing this through the development of young ITI study clubs. Our aim is to help build a new generation of professionals who will create networks and learn best practice from each other.
What new product innovations from Straumann can you tell us about?
One of the most exciting things we have in the pipeline is around ceramic implants, which we are calling Straumann Pure and are currently on limited market release in the UK. Ceramic implants are being driven mainly by a demand in some european markets where patients are looking for an alternative to metal in their mouths. Ceramic implants are 100% non-metal and close to 10% of the german market is now ceramic, with some practices making this a point of differentiation for themselves. There are some design limitations to Straumann Pure at present, but used properly it is an excellent option for some patients. The mechanical strength of Straumann Pure is the same as our titanium implants. The implant is currently one piece but we are looking at the design and researching whether it is possible to create a two-piece implant. Although this is currently a niche market in the UK, it is an example of how Straumann continues to expand the possibilities within implants and bring the treatment to a new group of patients.
Our association with Createch – a high quality engineering company in Spain, of which Straumann is now partial owners – is another really exciting development and represents another step along the digital pathway for us. Createch are manufacturing high quality Straumann components for us, giving us access to technology we didn’t have previously and thereby allowing us to make inroads into this market. It has taken Createch’s capability from the engineering side of its business and applied it to precision milling, which through Straumann, it is now bringing to the dental market. As a partnership this is working really well and enables us to offer more complex, customised milling that provides a complete solution, which is something we weren’t able to achieve previously with our components.
What is Straumann’s main objective for the future?
Our objective is clear – to maintain our number one brand status, by making our business more customer-focused and aiming to help our customers become the best that they can be via a wide range of strategies.
On a lighter note, you are leading the Straumann Charity Bike Ride again this year, why is this challenge important to you?
Last year was an incredible experience and we raised more than £30,000 for our chosen charities: Bridge2aid and the Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA). I feel it is important as a leading dental brand that we have a wider remit and support these charities in anyway we can, and as many of our clients are very keen cyclists, riding some of europe’s most iconic and challenging hills seems like a good idea, if not a little crazy, but we will have a great team sprit and I am sure the industry and profession will support us by making generous donations.
Steve Booth has been involved with the dental industry all his working life and has a background in dental technology. Since joining Straumann UK in 1997 as an area business manager, Steve has progressed from head of UK sales in July 2003, to then join Straumann Canada in 2008 as director of sales before accepting a promotion to managing director of Straumann in 2009. Steve enjoys spending time with his young family and a variety of sports, especially snowboarding.