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31 May 2019 | eLABORATE

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An interview with Diego Gabathuler, the future CEO of Ivoclar Vivadent

Diego Gabathuler lived and worked in Silicon Valley in California for a number of years before returning to Ivoclar Vivadent as Sales Director in 2016. At the end of July 2019, the 44-year-old Swiss national will take up his position as the new CEO of the Liechtenstein company. In the following interview, he reveals his future plans and why digital products fascinate him. He tells us how he believes the craft of the dental lab technician will develop and he believes that people will continue to play the leading role in everyday dentistry and will decide which smile suits which personality.

Mr Gabathuler, in the early 2000s, you worked for Ivoclar Vivadent in the company's dental laboratory division before you assumed several management positions in European and American technology companies. How have your experiences of the past few years influenced your outlook?

Digital technology interests me at a professional and a private level. Digital solutions simplify and optimise our work. Functionality, ergonomics and design are additional aspects that are important to me. I believe that technological changes offer us a wealth of opportunities - particularly in the dental field. However, new technologies are only beneficial to us if they really simplify and enhance our lives.

What do you see as the future of digital technology in dentistry?

Digital equipment and processes and intelligent products can help dental technicians and dentists to measure and enhance the quality and efficiency of their work by interweaving important information and therefore improving the coordination of individual working steps. Many processes that had to be manually monitored in the past can now be accomplished fully automatically by intelligent equipment. Data which had to be laboriously collected a few years ago is at our fingertips today. We can take advantage of this technology in order to provide our customers with the best possible results. In developing new solutions, we also strive to enhance the enjoyment that our customers feel in doing their work.

Can you give me an example of one of these new solutions?

The IPS e.max Shade Navigation App is a good example. It enables you to find a material showing just the right shade and translucency for every IPS e.max restoration. All the factors that influence the colour of a restoration are entered in the app, which then immediately recommends a suitable material.

And what role do people - the dental technician and the dentist - play in this new digital world?

People will continue to play the leading role. Furthermore, creativity and craftsmanship will be decisive in the future. Dental restorations are becoming increasingly complex and the aesthetic possibilities and standards continue to rise. In order to use the new generation of products, users need to have exceptional expertise and experience. Furthermore, they have to be interested in and capable of taking full advantage of the technical opportunities provided by these new high-end systems. I like to call this attribute "digital craftsmanship".

Moreover, I believe that in the end, it will always be up to a person to decide which type of smile - in other words, the tooth shape, the material and the shade - suits the personality of the individual patient.

Will digital technology make dentistry more efficient and offer better outcomes for patients?

Yes, definitely - as it is the case in many other industries. Many of our customers report that their practices and laboratories have come under increasing pressure in terms of time and costs. We can actively support them in meeting these requirements by supplying them with coordinated systems. As a result, we can help our customers to increase their productivity in many areas by reducing the working steps, shortening the time between different working steps and reducing their consumption of materials by providing them with user-friendly products.

Ivoclar Vivadent introduces highly innovative products on a regular basis. How does a manufacturer manage to be so innovative all the time?

We are very fortunate in that we have highly motivated and experienced people working for us. We are extremely proud of this fact. In addition, we cultivate close contacts to our customers throughout the world and we regularly consult with them to learn about their needs and the changes taking place in the markets. Many of the ideas for new products stem from our discussions with dentists and dental lab technicians and the representatives of universities and educational institutions. Many innovations are based on the ideas of our own employees who meticulously analyse the processes in the dental laboratory and practice and consequently think about the working steps and interfaces that could be optimised with new products and equipment.

I believe in the innovative talent of young people. Having little experience can offer a big advantage in situations where you have to be open to new ideas in order to develop a completely new solution.

At Ivoclar Vivadent, we deliberately involve professional hopefuls in creative processes and offer them suitable development opportunities.

Your company is historically rooted in the dental lab industry. What will your business focus on in the future?

Our company has its origins in the field of dental technology. This segment will continue to play an important role in our business. Our largest product portfolio is focused on dental lab technology products. Some of our strongest performers, such as IPS e.max and Programat, are among these products. Our R&D investments in dental lab technology are slightly higher than in other fields. Nevertheless, we also offer a wide range of products targeted at dentists. Our aim is to continue focusing on both customer groups with the objective of developing integrated solutions for the benefit and well-being of the patient.

In the digital age, we aim to be a strong link between dentists and dental technicians around the world.

Mr Gabathuler, thank you for this informal and candid conversation.

First published in Dental Dialogue Germany in January 2019.

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