Editor’s pickAlign Growth Summit: The future of dentistry in a year of momentous change


The two-day event, conducted from a TV studio on 19 and 20 June 2020, was curated for dentists who are both current Invisalign providers or those aspiring to treat with clear aligners. Over 1,300 participants from 42 countries could connect live with several global speakers and learn from clinical, business development, and personal growth presentations in an intimate setting.

Mr Markus Sebastian, senior vice president and managing director of Align Technology in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) gave an overview of the sector and its year of momentous change. Mr Zelko Relic, the company’s chief technology officer and senior vice president, outlined the ways how Align’s acquisition of exocad has improved the brand’s digital dental workflow. Practitioners can take advantage of exocad’s unique open software in partnership with iTero and Invisalign to explore the possibilities of an end-to-end, cloud-based workflow that streams from original intraoral scan through CAD design to the final CAM machining.

Clinical Growth            

Dr Christian Coachman, who is a dentist, certified dental laboratory technician and founder of Digital Smile Design, was asked about his vision of the next chapter in dentistry. He believes that there will be subtle changes in patient behaviour and bio-safety procedures but advised that even at the time of recession and loss, there has never been a better time to invest in digital technology. It includes the use of intraoral scanners, which are more hygienic than traditional impression materials.

He believes that patients will still be happy to invest in a better smile, but would want to feel that the dentist cares for their safety. He advised delegates to invest in cleaner technology and think strategically as well asinvest in a digital solution that allows more procedures during a single visit. Patients will be expecting transparency, honesty, efficiency, and more importantly, convenience. Embracing the digital workflow offers the highest chance to survive and thrive over the next challenging year.

Dr Ingo Baresel, author of numerous articles about digital workflows and intraoral scanning, agreed that taking a technological approach was entirely apposite at present. He talked about the features of iTero scanner and lauded its near-infrared imaging (NIRI) technology which he called ‘a game-changer’; citing that it was less invasive and avoided subjecting patients to unhealthy radiation.

Dr Baresel pondered the reasons why people are not going digital,“Mainly because they have that perception that an intra-oral scanner is not accurate, too difficult to use, and not fast enough. None of these is true. The benefits of iTero include fast and easy scanning. It offers the best scanning protocol, choice of scanning position, and Time Lapse function allowing users to compare changes from one scan to the next. It also has an Outcome Simulation which is a great communications tool. It has so many functions to interact with patients and explore their needs.”

Dr Karla Soto, case presentation semi-finalist at the 2017 Invisalign Growth Summit and part of an international study club that stays ahead of "All things Invisalign", followed Dr Baresel. Dr Soto focused on how all the digital technology (like iTero, the Invisalign system, DSD, 3D printing) overlap with each other to facilitate facially generated, interdisciplinary, minimally invasive dentistry that hugely aids the patient experience. Dr Soto presented some of her Lite Dentistry cases which combine alignment, gingival re-contouring, and injectable composite. She explained how small conservative changes make a big difference.

She reflected, “The beauty of dentistry is when you touch someone and it stays with you forever. What I have enjoyed the most, post-COVID, is the evolution of how we provide treatment. From embracing Align's Virtual Appointments platform and Virtual Care; doing digital marketing for the first time; reworking workflows to still be able to provide patients with the care they deserve and allowing me and my team to focus our chair time strategically.”

Also on the programme was Dr David Galler, an Invisalign Provider and developer of a unique interproximal reduction (IPR) technique. Dr Galler’s presentation focused on the concept of ‘seeing is believing’ with a view that so much of treatment acceptance can happen just from seeing it.

Dr Galler commented, “The power of visualisation for the consumer is one of the most important things we can do for our patients. In 90 seconds, a patient can visualise how amazing their teeth can look. Sometimes that’s the key to connecting with your patients.”

Dr Raman Aulakh, a trainer of over 3,500 specialist orthodontists and general dental practitioners (GDPs) across Europe in the Invisalign system, paired up with Dr Martina Hodgson during the Summit. Dr Hodgson is a multi-award-winning dentist, practice owner and Invisalign speaker, and author who sits on the Private Dentistry Journal editorial advisory board. Together they presented their treatment plan workflow which followed a defined path from the initial safety assessment, drawing up a problem list, exploring treatment options and exploring how to discuss those options and setting goals with patients. It is followed by carrying out the treatment plan, remembering to collaborate with a multi-disciplinary team or refer when necessary.

Another featured speaker was Dr Nancy Ward, a dental surgeon, who highlighted her treatment planning principles. Dr Ward believes that health, function, stability, and comfort are the pillars of success to help aesthetic treatments fall into place. Additionally, she advised her peers to train their eyes to see the numerous opportunities out there for GP orthodontics.

She commented, “So many cases require less dentistry once the teeth are aligned. Adding Invisalign aligners to my comprehensive treatment plan has dramatically improved my overall care for patients.  After using aligners for the past 15 years, I can see that dentistry is now easier to practice, and the outcomes are more predictable. My take-home message is that dentists should choose the cases they will predictably have success with and focus on crowded Class I with posterior lingualised teeth and lower anterior crowding. The Invisalign system allows its users to set up their restorative cases ideally. They have over eight million cases to draw from to improve the product continually.”

Prof Dr Mariano Sanz from Spain stressed the importance of patient’s oral hygiene and professional plaque control during orthodontic treatment to prevent any attachment loss. Dr Sanz believes that it would result in safe and predictable treatment outcomes. He hoped that dentists would understand that they cannot start any orthodontic treatment until they achieve good periodontal health. If the patient is affected by severe periodontitis, they should undertake complex periodontal therapy before starting the orthodontic treatment, or be referred to a specialist to carry out this therapy.

Practice Growth

As well as addressing delegates’ clinical growth, the Summit programme helped practitioners to reshape their approach in practice development. There was a diverse range of speakers focusing on non-dental topics such as personal and business growth, marketing and empowerment.

In the energising talk ‘Why Dentistry Will Rise Again - Your Future Examined!’ Dr Kirk Behrendt explained how businesses should always under-promise and over-deliver, and ensure to instill the core values throughout the team. Taking a healthy mind and body approach, he then offered his top tips for ageing well. The tips include 30 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of weights per day, eat healthy 90% of the time, creating rituals such as meals with friends and family and adding on relaxation time and hobbies.

Mr Ken Hughes, a leading shopping and consumer behaviouralist explained that post-COVID-19 period offered a unique opportunity for delegates to shine, as people are now looking up to healthcare workers more than ever. He also ran through the five pillars they should address to rebuild their practices which run from autonomy, authenticity/community, digital convenience, to health as wealth.

Mr Hughes concluded, “Digital transformation is highly relevant today. It is essential to give customers more value so that they can interact with you and your brand, so digitalisation of every touchpoint through initial discovery and enquiry, to treatment and aftercare, is now essential. The key is to offer a service that has value beyond a price point, creatively connecting with customers, forming emotional bonds, investing in the customer experience to make you different, unique, and successful again."

Align Technology invited Ms Connie Dieken, a world-renowned executive coach for many senior business leaders, to address the Summit from the United States. In her talk, she encouraged delegates to embrace this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to emerge even more influential. She said, “When COVID-19 hit, dental practice’s workflow and patient care changed profoundly. Suddenly, dentists face a Herculean task of influencing multiple, sometimes conflicting outcomes: reopening your practice, overcoming patients’ fears, protecting your team from the virus, working through staffing changes and financial pressure, acquiring protective equipment from suppliers—all this in addition to the ‘normal’ pre-COVID challenges of achieving the best possible outcomes for your patients, building strong working relationships with your team, gaining referrals, and leading your practice’s profitable growth.”

Mr Adrian Gostick and Mr Chester Elton, New York Times best-selling authors of “All In, The Carrot Principle, and What Motivates Me,” were also great inspirations, guiding viewers to ‘energise’ their business especially in a crisis. The duo went through the concepts to ‘engage, enable, and energise’ for business owners to lead their teams.

Chester suggested “The job of a great leader, whether it is running a dental practice or a huge multinational organisation, is to lead people through uncertainty. Especially now, with the pandemic and social unrest, leaders who shine are the ones who communicate, give messages clearly and reassure that they will get through this together.”

Personal Growth

Align Technology invited Dr Lauren Harrhya dentist and businesswoman who recently set up a Facebook group to support dentists struggling with their mental health. Dr Harrhy talked about setting SMART goals when addressing any challenges that arise. She underlined the importance of maintaining excellent communication to strengthen relationships with patients and teams at a time of enhanced and restrictive precautions which may cause some social disconnect. She also stressed the importance of staff engagement, teamwork, delegation, and most importantly developing a work-life balance.

Peer recognition

Align Technology also offered attendees the opportunity to achieve recognition for their successful Invisalign treatment cases. Dr Michael Davidson from Align Technology announced the three case presentation winners.

Dr Dal Porto from the United States won the best comprehensive case focused solely on orthodontics. Dr Juanjo Iturralde from Spain won the best comprehensive case orthodontics and restorative, and Dr Edouard Negre from France won the best Invisalign Go case.

World Health Organization support

Align Technology also pledged to donate €50 for each registered Growth Summit participant to the World Health Organization in the fight against COVID-19. The total amount raised was €45,000.