It looks like digital impressioning and restorations, both chairside and in the lab, will be the hot topic for 2008, as a number of major players are poised to challenge Sirona's CEREC system, which has enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the CAD/CAM dentistry space for 20 years, at least in the chairside market. The subject has been the buzz of the industry and media for a couple of years now, but dentists have largely maintained a wait and see attitude toward the technology. With the roll out of new systems, materials and capabilities in the category sure to be the highlight of the upcoming show season, I believe many more dentists will begin to see the technology as a viable alternative for their practices.
3M ESPE today announced the extension of its Lava brand in preparation of the company's launch of the Lava Chairside Oral Scanner. The entire Lava portfolio is now called Lava Precision Solutions and, the company says, "provides a heightened level of energy and focus to the vision of the organization. It also provides a consistent and clear message that shows the commitment of 3M ESPE to the growing digital restorative space." The "complete digital workflow solution" will be a key part of 3M ESPE's messaging in the coming year.
I recently had the opportunity to see the company's new scanner in action. It's impressive. A key difference between the unit and other image acquisition units on the market, such as CEREC and the iTero, is the use of continuous video capture as opposed to several still images. As the digital restorative category heats up, 3M ESPE is making a smart move by focusing on end-to-end services, focusing not just on the technology but the materials and lab network as well.
Of course, 3M also makes materials for other systems, including the elusive and ever-to-be-released E4D, so the company is well positioned for just about any move the category makes.
The E4D chairside system, meanwhile, has been rolled out in a limited soft launch, with the company recently showcasing the system for fourth-year students at Baylor and running training programs for small groups of dentists, including well-known clinicians like Tom Trinkner, DDS. Still, the company's last big news announcement was eight months ago, at the Chicago MidWinter Meeting, when it announced the appointment of former Ivoclar Vivadent exec Dr. Gary Severence as VP of Marketing and Clinical Affairs. D4D marks an historic joining of forces, as the company represents a partnership of Ivolcar, 3M ESPE and Henry Schein.
As for Sirona, CEREC has deservedly established itself as the standard by which all other systems will be measured, and these new entrants will benefit Sirona by heating up interest in digital dentistry overall. While Sirona has certainly benefited from its first-to-market position, the addition of new systems should prove to boost credibility of the category in the eyes of many dentists.