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Expanding potential: The iTero Element 5D Plus lands in the Middle East

iTero Element Plus demonstration during the launch event in Dubai, UAE (Image: Align Technology)
Dental Tribune Middle East

Dental Tribune Middle East

Wed. 8 June 2022


Over 100 dental professionals attended the Middle East launch of Align Technology’s latest innovation, the iTero Element Plus series, held on the evenings of 18 and 19 May at the Theatre of Digital Art in Dubai in the UAE. The interactive events featured presentations by two leading international digital dentistry experts, who described the role of end-to-end digital treatment in improving both practice efficiency and patient experience. 

Dr Ingo Baresel, a German dentist and president of the Deutschen Gesellschaft für digitale orale Abformung (German association for digital oral impressions), discussed the benefits of digitisation with iTero scanners for general practitioners on the first evening. On the second evening, the live webinar was hosted by Invisalign speaker Dr David Couchat, a French orthodontist and clinical speaker, who discussed the benefits to orthodontists of digitisation with iTero intra-oral scanners. 

Further launch events were held across the region, attracting more than 80 attendees at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on 24 and 25 May and over 50 attendees at both the Four Seasons hotels in Doha in Qatar and in Manama in Bahrain on 30 and 31 May. During the launch in Dubai, Dental Tribune Middle East & Africa spoke with Angelo Maura, general manager for the Middle East region at Align Technology, on the iTero Element 5D Plus intra-oral scanner, the advantages of this system for dentists and patients, and the company’s outlook for the region.

What excited you about yesterday’s and today’s event, and what has the feedback been from your current and prospective customers on the new scanner that you have just launched?

The feedback has been incredibly positive, from both customers who already own and use the Element 2 scanner, our previous model, and those who do not own a scanner and are not employing a digital workflow.

Our choice of venue, the Theatre of Digital Art, and our emphasis on the digital experience have really resonated with attendees. The vast majority of dental and general healthcare organisations in the UAE want to digitalise in the next few years, so this is something that is creating a sense of urgency. We’ve passed the phase from early adopters to early majority. People are understanding that digital is not the future but the present, and it is getting easier and easier to get them to embrace it because it’s a matter of future-proofing, and I believe that it is going to get easier and easier the more we keep showing the benefits of the technology.

What is so unique about the iTero  Element 5D Plus, which is newly released on the Middle Eastern market? Obviously, you have quite a lot of experience from other markets. What has the feedback from those users been, and based on that, what are you expecting regarding dentists in the region?

There are benefits that come from iTero’s ongoing evolution from intra-oral scanner to digital platform. It is almost like a staff member in the practice, helping to record, visualise, communicate with the patient and execute the treatment. These benefits of course apply to any generation of iTero, but we do see more and more of that as we evolve our technology. 

This advancement comes from how much more powerful it is than before: it is faster, not only from a scanning perspective but also from a processing perspective. As demonstrated by Dr Baresel yesterday, when communicating with labs, sometimes it’s a matter of seconds or minutes from taking the scan to it reaching the lab. It’s faster in processing. We’ve harnessed artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud storage to speed up the process. Of course, there is a design factor as well. The footprint is smaller, and it’s definitely more sleek, more elegant, so there is also an aesthetic factor. The big advancement, the reason we call it 5D, is the NIRI (near-infrared imaging) technology, which allows the visualisation of caries in real time, while scanning, and especially, like Dr Couchat said, capturing interproximal caries that is sometimes difficult to capture via other means. This has been found to be more effective than bitewings. This technology comes together in the same scan. This is the only scanner on the market that yields a 3D scan, intra-oral colour, intra-oral photos and NIRI in one scan, all in less than 60 seconds in the hands of a trained dentist. There has also been a major advancement in the simulation tool, the Invisalign Outcome Simulator Pro, which has just been launched, including the visualisation interface, and that is yet another step towards making iTero an extremely powerful visualisation and communication tool beyond being an intra-oral scanner.

Could you elaborate more on the benefits of this product for the patient?

The benefit for the patient is that he or she will be able see what is wrong in the mouth and what improvements he or she needs to make to his or her oral health situation, rather than the dentist just telling him or her. It’s one thing having the dentist tell the patient that he or she has a cavity and what needs to be done, but it’s another seeing it on the screen. In a way—this is something I heard from a key opinion leader in the US—the clinician is delegating the giving of the bad news to the machine, so it’s the machine that shows exactly what is going on. It shows this in a visual and easy-to-understand way, communicating to the patient how to improve his or her oral health. I think that the biggest advancement is moving from scanning to visualising and moving from a single tool to a platform, and it allows the provision of information and education, especially, to the patient in a very simple, visual and easy-to-understand way. This promotes higher patient acceptance of treatment, better understanding of treatment and better preventive care because of the NIRI technology, thereby improving the oral health of patients. 

Angelo Maura, General Manager Middle East at Align Technology (Image: Align Technology)

What does this launch mean for the region? What do you expect from this launch and over the next few months and years?

What we expect, apart from elevating the level of technological advancements available in the region and apart from having another tool in our portfolio, is that this is something that is going to help dentists completely digitalise their practices. With a simple intra-oral scanner, the dentist starts by simply digitising the impression, moves towards digitising the treatment plan and moves towards digitising the preventive analysis and diagnosis, so we are evolving our overall digital platform to serve dental practices in the best way possible and to completely absorb the internal and external workflow. This is something that is going to be helping dentists to do better dentistry and more dentistry, to give better quality of care and in future-proofing.

The future is growing exponentially, not linearly, and this is a product that will help dentists stay ahead of the curve. As we said at the beginning of Dr Couchat’s presentation, this is going to allow dentists to take control of the future, rather than submit to it.

Can you tell us more about the support to customers in the region?

When it comes to bringing such a premium technology to a market, it’s important that we not only provide the product technological advancements but also address the kind of support and community that we wish to create around the product. As you mentioned, we’ve been investing heavily in the product. To give you a frame of reference, over the last few years, we have invested more than US$250 million a year in research and development. At the same time, we’ve been expanding the team aggressively. We are creating an entirely new team for restorative technology to support dentists in their practices. In our team, we started integrating what we call practice integration managers, who are experts both from a technical perspective and from a workflow perspective, who will be going to dentists’ practices and supporting them in integrating this new technology. Something that we are doing and had started doing before is providing an approach to service from a complete peace of mind perspective. We have a service package that comes with the scanner and includes the warrantee,  repair and technological updates. It’s basically a one-stop shop that allows the dentist to have complete piece of mind and be sure that he or she has a piece of equipment that is always on and the certainty of support from the Align team and of having the technology always up to date.

Align Technology recently entered Oman. Can you tell us more about this and your future regional expansion?

We have officially introduced the Invisalign system in Oman, and we will soon be introducing the iTero intra-oral system there too. For us, this is an extremely important step in order to expand our footprint in the region. It reinforces our presence in the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries and our service to the Middle East. It allows us to capture the amazing potential that we have in Omani dentists and patients to expand awareness of the brand and to make sure we can offer our service to more and more dentists in order for them to treat more patients with best-in-class technology. 

Of course, we will continue working towards expanding our presence and access geographically, and we will be making sure to hire and have a team offering proper support on the ground to sustain the growth of the dentists who will be coming along with us on this journey.

Something important to mention is that, like other Middle Eastern countries, Oman is future-oriented, having a future vision of technology and innovation, and we want to make sure that we are there to see it realise and support it, and for that reason, we are extremely pleased to have made this step this quarter.

In your view as the general manager of Align in this important region for the company, what is the future for Align here in five or ten years?

This region is the cradle of the future. What we are seeing happening in the Middle East right now, in all the council countries and beyond, is incredible attention to and investment in digitalisation, innovation, AI, cloud computing and machine learning—in the future in general—and in all sectors of life. Embracing technology is in the very fabric of the Middle East right now. This is the place to be for evolving and shaping the future of dentistry. We’re going to keep investing in this, supporting our dentists, expanding the team, our portfolio and support, and making sure that Align is a close partner of the dental practice. We want to make sure that Align will keep evolving with the times and moving at the pace of technology and innovation so that we can remain at the forefront of dental technology and digital dentistry and that we can help dentists in future-proofing their practices.

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