Anne Duffy Interviews Dr. Terri Dolan and Susanne Schmidinger

In New Discoveries by Anne Duffy

What made you decide to begin the Smart Integration Award and what convinced you that this was needed in dentistry?

Susanne Schmidinger: We want to support women in all areas of dentistry by ensuring we understand their needs and support the development of their skills. The visionary thinking of talented female dental professionals drives innovation in dentistry and helps deliver the best patient experience.

To answer the first part of your question: All Dentsply Sirona solutions are developed in close collaboration with dentists from all over the world. Today, there is a much larger percentage of female dentists, and therefore it is very important that we gain both the male and the female perspectives equally. Developing holistic digital solutions – which is a connection between state-of-the-art technology and design – is an infinite journey. This was the underlying reason for connecting with more and more women dentists globally. That’s the context from which the Smart Integration Award was born. Only with the diverse perspectives from all over the world can we come consistently closer to an excellent user experience.

Many women dentists support us every day to further develop the modern minimalistic Dentsply Sirona Design. Female dentists have great ideas in mind when it comes to work-flow efficiency, and we appreciate them sharing those. We are grateful for their continuous partnership in the design thinking process.

The award honors best practices of digital dentistry and innovative ideas of the future. Education also plays an important role within the Award program. I will turn to Terri to speak about that.

Dr. Terri Dolan: I had the opportunity to be a juror at Susanne’s invitation for the first competition and then attend the award ceremony and the networking and educational activities related to the Smart Integration Award. I had the opportunity to meet the award winners and experience their enthusiasm for dentistry and the Smart Integration Award program. And there’s nothing like being part of the program personally.

The submissions were excellent. There were many amazing talented early and mid-career women who were doing very innovative, exciting things, and who were very excited to integrate technology into their practices. These women were amazing. They were incredible communicators. They cared about their patients. They wanted to offer the best quality of care to their patients. And they wanted to do that by integrating technology into their dental practices.

The education program related to the award that Susanne and her team organized, was an opportunity to learn from these women, to recognize their expertise, and then give them an opportunity to learn. It’s a great example of our company’s investment in clinical education. The entire experience was fun – people sharing best practices, sharing their innovation, sharing their office design, and how they integrated technology into their offices.

More broadly speaking, my role is to oversee our overall clinical education program globally. Dentsply Sirona has a history of supporting clinical education for many, many years. We believe that education, in combination with innovative products and services, is the most powerful way for us to empower and support our customers and clinicians. Of course, most of our educational programs occurred face to face. When the pandemic hit, we had to quickly adapt and change because of those circumstances. Our team quickly adapted, was incredibly agile, transitioned to virtual education, and we were able to more than double the number of participants in our clinical education programs in 2020, reaching more than 1 million dental professionals. And that continues today. I believe that we now have the ability to really expand our offerings on timely topics in a very agile way to meet the needs of our clinicians.

Could you tell us a little bit more about what this meant to the participants and winners from the prior competition?

 Susanne: We had award candidates from all over the world and many women appreciated sharing ideas with other women from different places. The educational component was also mentioned in feedback, as growth and development are both a focus of their professional motivation.

Many women dentists appreciated the exchange with the Dentsply Sirona managers and engineers: They expressed what they like and what can be improved relevant to diagnosis, therapy planning and work-flow efficiency.

It is the networking aspect that counts most. Participants have stayed in touch via social media and it’s become like a big extended family.

Terri: The 24 award winners were so proud of their work. They really were great role models for other women. Many of them had invested in new practices and they were very thoughtful about the technology they adopted for that practice as well as in the design of the practice, and the workflows. The women were very willing to share and you could see how their practices were very reflective of themselves and of their commitment to dentistry and to their patients.

I think they will continue to be role models for other women who are getting ready to build their own practices and design their own offices. That’s another side benefit of recognizing these women and giving them the opportunity to network and learn from each other.

Are you planning on gathering everyone together this year, or will you have to wait until next year to do that?

Susanne: The competition is open for applications until the end of June, and then there is an evaluation phase until September. The award ceremony will take place between October and December of this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things are a little bit different than our previous competition where we held an in-person award ceremony and educational program. Due to the international nature of the Smart Integration Award and the varying conditions of the pandemic around the world, we will most likely do the program virtually. That said, we will do our best to make this a success and a great experience for the award winners.

You’ve also invited dental technicians to this year’s Smart Integration Award competition. What made you decide to include technicians as well?

Terri: While the first iteration of the competition had a more narrow focus, it was such an overwhelming success that we decided to open this opportunity to other women in the profession.

With regard to the lab, some clinicians prefer to do chair-side milling and chair-side dentistry and single-day dentistry. But other clinicians prefer to work with their laboratory partners. And the laboratory technicians are a really important part of the dental team. As people decide how they want to adopt technology and workflows in their practices, there’s different ways to do that successfully. And we wanted to honor individuals’ preferences and also learn from them so that we could incorporate that into our mindset as we develop new innovations.

Susanne: The partnership and collaboration between the lab and the dental office are very important. Great results often follow from excellent collaboration between the dental office and lab, regardless of whether the lab is internal or external.

Terri, you mentioned incorporating dental hygienists. Mobile dentistry is such a big thing now. Dentsply Sirona has a great opportunity there as well. Do you have any plans for getting into that market?

Terri: I would say telehealth and teledentistry have really taken off, largely in response to the pandemic. In order to reach some underserved patients and communities such as residents in nursing homes and students served by school-based health programs, there’s an opportunity to expand the reach of a practice using telehealth. Some of our equipment – like our imaging equipment – is easily adaptable to that. We look towards how technology can facilitate improving access to care, as well as improve the quality of care, timeliness of care, improved clinical outcomes, I think all of that in my mind is built into the concept of the Smart Integration Award.

Susanne: This all ties into the digital dental office, which Dentsply Sirona has been at the forefront of since the 90s. The current innovative trends, such as cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence, pave the way to a new era of digital transformation that is directly connected to a new form of mobile dentistry.

How can our readers get engaged in the Smart Integration Award application process?

Susanne: To apply, go to the webpage of Dentsply Sirona. Click on the Smart Integration Award, and then either send a small video clip or some text. It can be as simple as a drawing to present a concept. The competition is very open concerning the format. Everything is possible. We want to learn their ideas – it can be something they are already practicing in their digital dental office, or any future idea they have in mind to improve workflow efficiency, or therapies.

For this year’s competition, the participants can select different categories such as digital clinical workflows, digital patient communication, innovative infection prevention, management of dental equipment, smart Lab-dentist cooperation.

Participants can choose the category in which they want to apply. We are excited to receive the ideas and visions from American women dentists.

You’re actually giving participants an invitation to dream – to dream about what would make their life easier and the outcome better. Thank you for your time and I wish you all the best success. 

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