To hear about the bright future of dentistry and Align Technology’s digital innovation, Lucy Veal attended the Align GP Growth Summit in Croatia.
As crisis after crisis dominates dental news headlines, the Align Technology GP Growth Summit was a breath of fresh air. With the theme of the conference as, ‘Experience the digital future, today’, the speakers inspired the delegates with ground-breaking advancements in digital technology. These advancements have helped Align become the most recognised consumer brand in ortho-restorative dentistry – and there looks to be no sign of them slowing down.
‘It was like being at an Apple developer’s conference’, said business coach Chris Barrow. ‘Very, very exciting innovation and loads of technology – it actually makes me wish I was a dentist!’
He continued: ‘It was one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever seen in 25 years and it’s a complete and utter game changer in terms of the way that dental services are provided.’
‘It elevates the delivery of dentistry into the 21st century properly. Dentistry can sit alongside Apple or Google or any other technology-based companies and say, “we are up there because of all the kit that we’ve got around us.”‘
Speakers and delegates gathered in Dubrovnik for the Summit’s fifth edition on 17 and 18 June 2022, but Align’s commitment to sharing their digital innovation was not lost on those who couldn’t attend the conference in Croatia. The hybrid format of the Summit allowed those who couldn’t attend in person the chance to take part from home.
Likewise, for non-English speakers, every presentation was translated live from the conference hall into Italian, German, French, Polish and Spanish by an impressive team of translators, allowing people from all over the world to take part.
Delegates and speakers alike were pleased to be able to meet after Covid-19 caused a delay to the conference. Aamir Vaghela from Bricketwood Practice said: ‘There are so many relationships I built over Covid just from Instagram, so it’s cool to finally see everyone in person.’
An impressive array of speakers and talks
The conference had an impressive line-up of speakers, including Markus Sebastian, executive vice president and managing director of Align Technology, and Dr Brian Gray, one of Align’s founding faculty members.
Lectures covered a range of topics for delegates to gain tips and inspiration. They all helped dentists with implementing digital technology into their practice and optimising their ortho-restorative treatment protocols.
Dr Yushmee Ramburrun, a dentist from Carnaby Street Dental, said: ‘There’s been lots of little golden nuggets that I’ve picked up.’
Many lectures focused on optimising patient care, from converting patients with digital workflow, to improving patient experience.
Dr Stéphane Reinhardt spoke about the importance of digital workflow for improving the dentist-patient relationship. And how it allows the patient to clearly visualise and understand their treatment plan. He said: ‘Remember why you became a dentist; you care, you’re a perfectionist.
‘There has never been a better time to be a dentist than it is right now. We have the best instruments, materials, technology, equipment.’
The necessity of digital tools for efficiency and patient experience was discussed by Dr Marcos White, calling Align’s Itero scanner his ‘digital Swiss Army Knife’. He hopes delegates understood from his lecture that ‘unless you use the tool, and I mean really use it, you’re not going to change anything’.
Marcos enjoyed the opportunity to be able to share Align’s concepts and developments with the wider world at the conference. Optimistic about the future of dentistry, he said: ‘I think there’s a change happening.
‘Once upon a time we did our records on brown paper cards. Then someone invented computers and the brown paper card people got in trouble because it wasn’t comprehensive enough.
‘There’s the same leap happening now. There’s this kind of dentistry that we can do and there’s a chasm between what used to be.’
The practical workshops allowed delegates to try out Align’s digital technology for themselves and discover the potential for their practices. With hands-on sessions on the Itero scanner, Clincheck and exocad, the attendees could find out for themselves how the technology works.
Dr Hans Alfred Beck Juel Jensen travelled from Copenhagen to attend the conference. He said: ‘You always come home from these summits with a lot of new ideas.’
Not all lectures and talks were related to digital dentistry and technology, however. They too proved to be inspiring and informative. Jim Lawless, motivational speaker and author, inspired the delegates with his lecture on moving out of your comfort zone and challenging your mindset.
He recounted his experiences of freediving and horse racing, calling on the delegates to ‘re-write your rulebook’.
As well as Jim’s talk, Kerry Bodine’s lecture on customer experience was a particular favourite of the delegates. Yushmee thought Kerry’s talk was key because, ‘at the end of the day, as dentists we’re dealing with patients as customers’.
Chris Barrow gave an important workshop on how to manage your team ‘in a rapidly changing digital environment’. He also covered the key leadership skills you’ll need to implement.
Introducing Invisalign Smile Architect
The conference also served as an opportunity for Align to properly introduce their newest treatment planning system: Invisalign Smile Architect.
Jody Carter, senior director of marketing at Align, introduced the software at the Summit.
He stated: ‘We are extremely excited and extremely proud to be officially sharing with you this morning, here in Dubrovnik and online, Invisalign Smile Architect. This is an integrated ortho and restorative treatment planning system all within one solution.’
Available later this year, the new system allows you to plan all restorative workflow on one software. Using ‘smile guides’, Invisalign Smile Architect measures the position, volume and colour of the tooth.
Dr Luis Ilzarbe tried out the new software in his practice. Based on his experience, he said it gave him ‘control, predictability and efficiency’, improved patient communication and ‘allowed me to make better decisions’.
Commenting on the new software, Dr Affan Saghir, one of the speakers at the Summit, said, ‘The beauty of the Smile Architect is you will be able to position lines of the gingival aspect, lines of the incisal aspect, you will be able to look at the curves, and the smile curves. With that, you will be able to plan and design the shapes of the teeth from an aesthetic and functional standpoint.
‘If you’re looking at consent from the patient’s perspective, they will see this is what the teeth will look. They can then visualise the final outcome and decide if they feel this is for them or not.’
A chance to unwind
The final lecture of the Summit was given by Dr Christian Coachman, the founder of Digital Smile Design. After a range of inspiring and informative talks on digital technology, his lecture asked, ‘what’s holding you back?’ from embracing the future of dentistry.
The evenings, lit by the impressive Croatian sunset, gave the attendees the chance to unwind. With live music, lots of drinks and generous food, the attendees danced and laughed into the early hours of the mornings.
‘The thing that makes these events so exciting is it’s almost like a family,’ Affan said.
‘It’s just amazing to see how people are getting on, what they’ve done in the last few years, and learning about new things. It’s been a great event.’
After two-days of education, reflection and inspiration, there is no doubt that the delegates left Dubrovnik with a newfound admiration and excitement for their profession.
Aamir commented that the key message he took away from the summit was to ‘embrace digital as much as possible’.
Perfectly summarised by Dr Edouard Negre, a speaker at the conference, the summit demonstrated that ‘digital dentistry is not the future, it’s the present’.
For more information on Align Technology visit www.aligntech.com