Align Growth Summit: the future of dentistry in a year of momentous change

align growth summitAlign Technology Inc reports on the third edition of its GP Growth Summit, which for the first time was morphed into a futuristic digital format.

The two-day event, conducted from a TV studio on 19 and 20 June, was curated for dentists. Both current Invisalign providers or those aspiring to treat with clear aligners or integrate digital workflows into their practices. More than 1,300 participants from 42 countries could connect live with a number of global speakers. The could learn from clinical, business development and personal growth presentations in an intimate setting. The anchors in the TV studio introduced a series of speakers who delivered their lectures. They then met up with delegates in dedicated break out rooms to interact and ask follow-up questions between sessions in the virtual plenary auditorium.

After an overview of the sector and a year of momentous change from Align Technology’s senior vice president and managing director, EMEA Markus Sebastian, Zelko Relic, the company’s chief technology officer and senior vice president outlined the ways that Align’s acquisition of software specialist Exocad has improved the brand’s digital dental workflow. Practitioners can take advantage of Exocad’s unique open software, in partnership with the Itero scanner and Invisalign system. Users can explore the possibilities of an end-to-end, cloud-based workflow. One that streams from original intraoral scanning through to CAD design and then finally to the CAM manufacturing.

Clinical growth

Dentist, certified dental laboratory technician and founder of Digital Smile Design, Dr Christian Coachman was asked about his vision of the next chapter in dentistry. He believes there will be subtle changes in patient behaviour and bio-safety procedures. But advised that even at the time of recession and economic uncertainty, there has never been a better time to invest in digital technology. This includes intraoral scanners, which are cleaner and safer to use than traditional impression materials.

He believes patients will remain happy to invest in a better smile, but they will want to feel that the dentist cares for their safety. He advised delegates to invest in cleaner technology and think strategically. Invest in digital solutions that allow for more procedures during a single visit. Patients will expect transparency, honesty, efficiency, and most importantly, convenience. Embracing the digital workflow offers the greatest chance to survive and thrive over the next challenging year.

‘Game changer’

Dr Ingo Baresel, author of numerous articles about digital workflows and intraoral scanning, agreed that taking a technological approach was entirely apposite at present. He talked about all the features of the Itero scanner, and lauded its near infrared imaging (NIRI) technology. He called it ‘a game changer’; citing that it was less invasive and avoided subjecting patients to unhealthy and possibly unnecessary radiation.

Dr Baresel pondered the reasons why people are not going digital. ‘Mainly because they have that perception that an intraoral scanner is not accurate, too difficult to use and not fast enough. None of these are true’. The benefits of the Itero scanner, according to Dr Baresel, is that it allows fast and easy scanning, choice of scanning position, time lapse function, which allows you to compare changes from one scan to the next, and Outcome Simulation which is a great communication tool. So many functions to interact with patients and explore their needs.

Align Growth Summit

Dr Baresel was followed by Dr Karla Soto, case presentation semi-finalist at the 2017 Invisalign Growth Summit and part of an international study club that stays ahead of ‘all things Invisalign’. Dr Soto’s talk focused on how digital technology (like the Itero scanner, the Invisalign system, DSD, and 3D printing) overlap with each other to facilitate facially generated, interdisciplinary, minimally invasive dentistry, which greatly aids the patient experience. Karla presented a lite dentistry case, which combined alignment, gingival re-contouring and injectable composite. She explained how small conservative changes can make a big difference.

As she reflected: ‘The beauty of dentistry is when you touch someone and it stays with you forever. What I’ve enjoyed the most, post-COVID, is the evolution of how we provide treatment; embracing Align’s Virtual Appointments platform and Virtual Care. Doing digital marketing for the first time ever. Redesigning workflows to still be able to provide patients with the care they deserve, and allowing me and my team to focus our chair time in a strategic way’.

The power of visualisation

Also on the programme was Dr David Galler, an Invisalign provider and developer of a unique interproximal reduction (IPR) technique. Dr Galler’s presentation focused on his five top tips for Invisalign treatments. One of his tips highlighted the concept of ‘seeing is believing’. This is with the view that so much of treatment acceptance can happen just from seeing it. Dr Galler commented: ‘The power of visualisation for the consumer is one of the most important things we can do for our patients. In 90 seconds, a patient can visualise how amazing their teeth can look. Sometimes that’s the key to connecting with your patients’.

Dr Raman Aulakh, who has trained and certified over 3,500 specialist orthodontists and GDPs across Europe in the Invisalign system paired up with Dr Martina Hodgson. She is a multi-award-winning dentist, practice owner and Invisalign speaker and author who sits on the Private Dentistry journal editorial advisory board. Together they presented their treatment planning workflow. This followed a defined path from the initial SAFE assessment, drawing up a problem list, exploring treatment options and discussing those options and setting goals with the patients. This is followed by carrying out the treatment plan, remembering to collaborate with a multi-disciplinary team or refer when necessary.

Pillars of success

Another featured speaker was dental surgeon Dr Nancy Ward. She highlighted her treatment planning principles – health, function, stability, and comfort – as pillars of success to help aesthetic treatments fall into place. Dr Ward advised her peers to train their eyes to see the numerous opportunities out there for GP orthodontics.

As she commented: ‘So many cases require less dentistry once the teeth are aligned. Adding Invisalign aligners to my comprehensive treatment plan has dramatically improved my overall care for patients. After using aligners for the past 15 years I am seeing my dentistry is easier to do and the outcomes are more predictable. My take home message is that dentists should choose the cases they will predictably have success with and focus on class I crowded teeth with posterior lingualised teeth and lower anterior crowding. The Invisalign system allows you to ideally set up your restorative cases. They have more than eight million cases to draw from to continually improve their product.’

Professor Dr Mariano Sanz from Spain stressed the importance of patients’ oral hygiene and professional plaque control during orthodontic treatment to prevent any attachment loss and for safe and predictable treatment outcomes. He hoped that dentists will understand they cannot start any orthodontic treatment until good periodontal health has been achieved. If the patient is affected by severe periodontitis, they should undertake periodontal therapy before starting the orthodontic treatment. Or be referred to a specialist to carry out this treatment.

Practice growth

As well as addressing delegates’ clinical growth, the summit programme was designed to help practitioners reshape their approach to practice development. This was important pre-COVID-19 and even more prescient in looking at the future. The schedule included a diverse range of speakers focusing on non-dental topics impacting the world of dentistry. This included personal and business growth, marketing and empowerment.

In an invigorating talk ‘Why dentistry will rise again – your future examined!’, Dr Kirk Behrendt explained how businesses should always under-promise and over-deliver. Ensure that practices clearly distill core values throughout the team. Taking a healthy mind and body approach, he then offered his top tips for ageing well. This includes 30 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of weights per day, and eat healthy 90% of the time. Create rituals such as meals for your friends and family and add on relaxation time and hobbies.

Ken Hughes, a leading shopping and consumer behaviouralist explained that post-COVID-19 period offered a unique opportunity for delegates to shine. People are now looking up to healthcare workers more than ever. He also ran through the five pillars they should address to rebuild their practices. They run from autonomy, authenticity, community, digital convenience, to health as wealth. He concluded: ‘Digital transformation is highly relevant today. It is essential to give customers more value so they can interact with you and your brand. Digitalisation of every touch point through initial discovery and enquiry, to treatment and after care is now essential. The key is to offer a service that has value beyond a price point. Creatively connect with customers. Form emotional bonds. Invest in the customer experience to make you different, unique and successful again.

The job of a great leader

Align Technology invited world-renowned executive coach for many senior business leaders, Connie Dieken, to address the summit from the USA. In her talk she aimed to encourage delegates to embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to emerge even more influential. As she commented: ‘When COVID-19 hit, your dental practice’s workflow and patient care changed profoundly. Suddenly, you have the Herculean task of influencing multiple, sometimes conflicting outcomes. Reopening your practice, overcoming patients’ fears, protecting your team from the virus, working through staffing changes and financial pressure, acquiring protective equipment from suppliers. This is all in addition to the “normal” pre-COVID challenges. Such as achieving the best possible outcomes for your patients, building strong working relationships with your team, gaining referrals, and leading your practice’s profitable growth.’

Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, New York Times best-selling authors of All in, the carrot principle, and what motivates me, were also great inspirations, guiding viewers to energise their business, especially in a crisis. The duo went through the concepts to ‘engage, enable and energise’ for business owners to lead their teams. As Chester suggests: ‘The job of a great leader, whether it is running a dental practice or a huge multinational organisation, is to lead people through uncertainty. Especially now, with the pandemic and social unrest. Leaders who shine are the ones who communicate, give very clear messages and reassure others they will get through this together’.

Personal growth

Align Technology invited Lauren Harrhy, who is both a dentist and businesswoman. And who in recent years set up a Facebook group to support dentists struggling with their mental health. Lauren talked about setting SMART goals when addressing any challenges that arise. She underlined the importance of maintaining excellent communication in order to strengthen relationships with patients and teams. All at a time of enhanced and restrictive precautions, which may cause some social disconnect. She also stressed the importance of staff engagement, teamwork, delegation, and most importantly, in developing a work-life balance.

Peer recognition

Align Technology also offered attendees the opportunity to achieve recognition for their own successful Invisalign treatment cases. Dr Michael Davidson from Align Technology announced the three case presentation winners. The winners were Dr G Dal Porto from Italy, Dr J Iturralde from Spain, and Dr E Negre from France for the best comprehensive case focused solely on orthodontics; best comprehensive case orthodontics and restorative, and best Invisalign Go case, respectively.

World Health Organisation support

Align Technology also made a pledge to donate €50 for each registered Growth Summit participant to the World Health Organisation in the fight against COVID-19. The total amount raised was €45,000.

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