New Products For 2002 — Are They For You? By: Gordon J. Christensen, DDS, MSD, PhD

The newest batch of dental products will soon be available. It is always exciting to see the advertising and to observe the new products at dental meetings. The frustrating aspect of new product introduction is determining if the new additions to the market will function better than the ones you are currently using.

Some of the recently introduced dental product concepts are beginning to make an impact on dental practices. In this article, I will note a few of the new product concepts that are emerging at this time and give some suggestions as to making the right decisions concerning product selection for your practice.

Several new CAD-CAM concepts continue to be developed, and some new products will compete for your dollars this year. Procera from Nobel Biocare has made a great impact on the market, and has been very well accepted by laboratories and practitioners with very few exceptions. Several companies will be introducing zirconia coping materials this year as part of the laboratory oriented CAD-CAM concept. Zirconia copings are very strong, and technicians can fire ceramic over the copings to provide excellent esthetic results. These crowns and fixed prostheses will provide competition for Procera. Both technicians and clinicians will be confused for a while until sufficient clinical and basic science research is available to judge the acceptability of these restorations.

In my opinion, CAD-CAM developed zirconia copings are one of the acceptable answers to the all-ceramic restoration dilemma. They are strong, relatively easy to construct by laboratories, and beautiful in appearance. However, after over forty years of successful use of porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns and bridges, don’t be too eager to accept this new concept, until proper clinical evaluation is completed. At this time, it is approximated that about 75% of all crown restorations accomplished in the United States are porcelain-fused-to-metal. We know that they work well. As with all new concepts, I suggest that we use the new zirconia oriented restorations sparingly for a while.

The clinically oriented CAD-CAM CEREC (Patterson) concept is receiving continued clinician and research support with much commercial emphasis. For those dentists who desire to accomplish all of the restoration procedure in their own offices, the CEREC concept is now an excellent, proven method to produce ceramic or polymer inlays, onlays, and crowns in one appointment.

At least four major companies will be attempting to sell you both high and low speed electric handpieces this year. I have been interested in the electric handpiece concept for over thirty years. I fully support low-speed electric handpieces. In fact, after you have used a 40,000 RPM low speed handpiece to cut dentures, resin provisionals, occlusal splints, stone objects, and other difficult-to-cut objects, you will never go back to low torque air driven low speed handpieces. In my opinion, high-speed electric handpieces are quite another situation. High-speed air rotors have satisfied most of our clinical tooth cutting needs, but they are expensive and difficult to maintain. Do not think that electric high-speed handpieces are going to be any easier to maintain or less expensive than air rotor handpieces. They have the same breakdown problems with sterilization that are present with air rotor handpieces.

On the positive side, high-speed electric handpieces have unbelievably high torque, and they will cut through about anything you can encounter in the mouth without difficulty. Even though you cannot say the electric handpieces are quiet, they produce a sound that is different from air rotors. To some patients this sound is less objectionable than the sound produced by air rotor handpieces. I suggest that before you purchase electric high-speed handpieces you discuss the matter with colleagues who have been using the concept. Some love it, and some have gone back to air rotors.

I suggest that before you purchase electric high-speed handpieces you discuss the matter with colleagues who have been using the concept. Some love it, and some have gone back to air rotors.

Light Emitting Diodes (LED’s)
Light curing resin materials are an essential portion of dental practice. It is interesting that most dentists still use standard halogen lights, requiring up to 45 seconds for proper resin polymerization. Despite the fact plasma arc lights that cure in 3 seconds without damage to resin or tooth preparations have been available for a few years, halogen lights continue to be used. In my opinion, halogen light use has continued because plasma arc lights cost up to four times more than halogen lights. Additionally, there has been some controversy about alleged damage to teeth and resin caused by faster resin curing. Fortunately, research and clinical practice have now shown that there is not damage caused by faster resin curing, and the time and money savings afforded by the faster lights has continued to stimulate their use. For more information on this visit

Will light emitting diode resin curing devices replace halogen and plasma arc lights? The generation of LED lights now emerging on the market cure resin in about 10 seconds. This curing time is still significantly slower than the 3 seconds required by plasma arc lights, and it is doubtful that plasma arc users will purchase LED lights. However, standard halogen light users may be influenced to change to LEDs because of the approximately $1,000 price tag, and the portability feature of LED lights. I predict continued improvements in LED lights, and their eventual domination of the market, but that change will require several years and significant improvement in their characteristics and speed of cure. I recently produced a video on light curing resins, which has been accepted as an excellent educational aid for the dental team in observing the effects of light curing on different brands and types of resins. For information call Practical Clinical Courses at (800) 223-6569 or visit online at

We are living in a time when determination of the potential value of new products is very difficult. There is confusing and unreliable information all around, including in the so called “scientific literature.” As most of you know, our organization has been evaluating products for many years. I have carefully observed the following numerous methods that are available for product evaluation: manufacturer research; retailers observations; the experiences of other clinicians; observations of clinical study clubs; dental society sponsored evaluation programs; independent non-profit product evaluating groups; for-profit product evaluation groups; and university conducted research. I wish that I could say that one specific type of product evaluation activity is best. However, that is impossible. As you might expect, I favor non-profit product evaluation. Our own group, Clinical Research Associates, now in its twenty-sixth year of service to the profession continues to offer non-biased product and concept evaluation.

The year 2002 will provide many new products and concepts that may or may not be better for you and your patients. Several new concepts emerging at this time have been reviewed, and my opinions on these concepts have been expressed. The new dental products of 2002 are exciting, but, as usual, caution is necessary in accepting any new concept before it has had proper evaluation and clinical use.

Dr. Gordon Christensen, a Prosthodontist, in Provo, Utah, is Co-founder and Senior Consultant of Clinical Research Associates (CRA), which conducts research in all areas of dentistry and relates it to clinical practice. Dr. Christensen is also the Director of Practical Clinical Courses, a continuing education career development program for the dental profession initiated in 1981. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. You can contact Dr. Christensen at: Practical Clinical Courses, 3707 North Canyon Rd., Suite 3D, Provo, Utah 84604-4587. FAX (801) 226-8637. Visit his website at

The following educational offerings from our group (Practical Clinical Courses) will help you with the concepts I have described in this article, please call (800) 223-6569 for more information.
V1180 – Diagnostic Data Collection by Auxiliaries
V4775 – Educating Auxiliaries for Practice Growth
V4750 – Achieving Optimum Acceptance of Treatment Plans


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