Interview: “Patients’ awareness is growing, and we have to educate them and have to have the right treatments for them…”

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Interview: “Patients’ awareness is growing, and we have to educate them and have to have the right treatments for them…”


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Wolfgang Becker, Executive Vice President, Head CEEMEA & Distributor Markets at the Straumann Group; and Michael Bender, Vice President, Regional Head Marketing and Education CEEMEA at the Straumann Group
Dental Tribune Middle East

By Dental Tribune Middle East

Thu. 3 March 2022


The Straumann Group held Esthetic World 2022 in Dubai in January. In this interview, Dental Tribune MEA speaks to Wolfgang Becker, Executive Vice President, Head CEEMEA & Distributor Markets at the Straumann Group; and Michael Bender, Vice President, Regional Head Marketing and Education CEEMEA at the Straumann Group, about the event and about the company’s commitment to dental education.

This year’s Esthetic World was expected to be a very successful high-level scientific event with many inspirational speakers. Did it meet the attendees’ and your expectations? 

Wolfgang Becker: Yes, we were very happy because we had more than 500 attendees, and the feedback was really positive. The participants had been looking forward to a face-to-face meeting. They mentioned that we had a good balance between scientific evidence and practical tips and covered a lot of different topics. It was very busy for everybody, but they really appreciated the combination of good speakers on stage, workshops and everything else. I think we fulfilled expectations, and we were also happy as a company to be able to hold such an event after a hiatus of two years. 

What were your personal programme highlights? 

WB: That’s very difficult to answer because we had so many good speakers on stage. 

Michael Bender: Yes, I can only echo what Wolfgang just said. It’s really difficult to pick one element that really stood out, but I would say, in general, the topic of immediacy is really one of the leading trends at the moment. It’s not only about the products; it’s really about immediacy in general and what immediacy means to you as a dentist and your dental practice, such as practice productivity, the efficiency gains that are behind these trends, as well as how to serve the patient in the best way. Overall, aesthetic dentistry, focusing on immediacy, was definitely a topic that stood out. Last but not least was the closing session, during which Gabriela Pueyo, general manager of Bupa, a leading global health and care company from the UK, spoke on what the future of dentistry will look like. She said something along the lines of my thinking when she mentioned that we all have to invest in our own capabilities. We have to take care of our own development and invest in our own learning and capabilities to really keep up and even stay ahead of the game. Those are the two topics that stood out. 

“We had a good balance between scientific and practical tips and covered a lot of different topics.”

– Wolfgang Becker

The congress was held under the theme “WELCOME TO OUR WORLD OF ESTHETIC DENTISTRY”. What was meant by “our world”? 

MB: First of all, I have to say that the dental environment is really changing big time at the moment, and it is driven by one leading trend: patients have increasingly higher demands of what they would like to see and what they expect from the dental professional and from the dental environment. Our task and our intention is really to show what the Straumann Group has to offer to really satisfy the needs of patients, to show our world of aesthetic dentistry and how to use our solutions and products to really help dentists, our customer base, to satisfy the needs of patients now and in the future. 

What role did education play during Esthetic World 2022? 

MB: Education is still one of the key pillars, not only today but also in the near future, because we see education really as one of the key elements that can bring us as the Straumann Group closer to our customer base as well as to patients. The overall intention is really to help and to support our customers to continue to grow in skill and in knowledge over their lifetime in practice. For this, we also split this educational event into different sessions. For example, we had focus sessions that gave participants the chance to dive a little bit deeper into their areas of interest, such as the surgical session, the prosthodontic session and the orthodontic session. We also had workshop sessions, both theoretical workshops as well as practical workshops, where the participants had the opportunity to really work with our products, to touch and feel them, and to see in reality how our products work. We also had panel discussions with our speakers and our key opinion leaders in break-out sessions, and we had dedicated product kiosk sessions where the participants also had the opportunity to take a deep dive into our products and to discuss product-specific questions with our people behind the kiosk session. In the end, it’s really an educational event. The event awarded quality continuing education credits, since the education provider has been recognised by the American Dental Association Continuing Education Recognition Program. 

Could you tell us a bit more, based on the event, what trends dental professionals can expect in the future?  

WB: I think the event showed this very nicely. We had four or five trends that I believe will influence the whole of dentistry in the next couple of years extremely, because when you see the top topic of digitalisation, I believe every dental clinic has to go deeper and to understand what is going on. That also concerns one of the topics clinicians are interested in: seamless workflows, what makes treatments more reliable but also more predictable. One of the top topics was immediacy where the patient need is very high. The patient is looking for a predictable outcome of treatment. I think that will also be one of the topics in the future. Orthodontics and prosthodontics are areas important to the company, but we have also seen and will continue to see trends in this regard in the future. I think technology is always important. For example, in his presentation, Holger Haderer [head of marketing and education at the Straumann Group] discussed dynamic navigation, and this concerned both education and future trends. I think new technologies will come up, as well as material; for example, we showcased our new ceramic material. Therefore, aesthetics may be important. People would like to have easy treatment, and we know that the patient is more educated. Patients’ awareness about implantology and orthodontics is growing, and we have to educate them in the right way, and we have to have the right treatments for them. 

What do you think was essential to make this event face to face for your audience and not online, considering the pandemic? 

WB: After two years, everybody was eager to have a face-to-face discussion. I believe that the whole online education  is a great tool, and we have seen great success over the last few years, but I also had the impression that people had become a little bit tired of it. They wanted to attend this conference to have this interaction with colleagues and to see each other. That was important, and we were happy to be able to hold the event in Dubai because you have a high vaccination rate. We are still in a pandemic, and we have to respect this, but I think the location, everything, was really perfect. 

MB: I fully agree. It was a clear request from our customers to come together in such an environment where people can really share, exchange and connect with each other, not only with their peers but also with the speakers. We decided to accept this mandate and to set up an event where we could offer this possibility and foster this kind of interaction to really have a kind of a reunion after almost two years of no events. This was also a kind of a kick-off event. We are more than happy that we could realise it in an environment that allowed people to spend face-to-face physical time together and quality time in the evening. Overall, I would say that it was really a very successful event for all of us, and it will hopefully be repeated in the near future. 

“The overall intention is really to help and to support our customers to continue to grow in skill and in knowledge over their lifetime in practice.” – Michael Bender

What is your personal headline for 2022? What are the big upcoming topics? 

WB: If we take the event as informing my answer, I think digital transformation will be something that will be very important for the company and for our customers. I think that we are in the same boat, but we have to help our customers to transform in this new world. I think that new material is important, as well as immediacy and patient flow. That’s something I believe will bring greater comfort for the patient in the future: faster access to treatment and a faster outcome. I think those are the focus topics in the next couple of months.  

MB: I would say that one of the biggest topics is the patient experience, creating a patient experience that will keep patients happy and help dental professionals to differentiate themselves and their dental practices, to also make sure we can help patients to have some “WOW” effects and to talk about convenience to really help dental professionals to make life easier, also for patients and us thinking of higher treatment predictability and less treatment time. Also aesthetic dentistry and digital transformation. I always call this emotional dentistry because we are somehow emotionally attached to smiles. We would like to have great smiles because this will increase our attractiveness and the well being of all people and here we also have some great tools when it comes to software solutions but also other equipment that will help dentists to visualise and show patients how an effective aesthetic dental treatment will look in the end, for example. 

What about the focus on digitalisation and customer experience? How important role do these play in dentistry at the moment?

WB: One of our core focuses is customer obsession, and that’s exactly, I think, what we need because this industry is going through the biggest transformation ever, I believe, and it’s driven by digitalisation. The aim is really to get seamless workflows that people can rely on, from the beginning, from the discussion with the patient until the finalisation of the treatment. For us, this is really key, to have platforms and support in all dimensions that we can get our customers on board and help them to transform and of course to be in a leading position with new technologies. Everybody’s looking for procedures that are very predictable and fast and without any problems. I think digitalisation can help to steer this. It’s a big topic, bigger than one might have ever thought before, not only for us but also for people outside of our industry. 

What do you think the participants visited the event for? Was it for the scientific part, taking into consideration that the online education component was accessible to everyone, or was it for the exhibition, to see the new products and the new developments? 

WB: I think it was a mix of everything. Of course, participants were eager to see each other, to be together with colleagues, to have this interaction, but that was also the aim of this event, to have all disciplines, to have good speakers on stage communicating a lot of new information and to focus on the evidence base because that’s a very important part for our company. We have to show that the products we bring to market work. I think people attended also to see new trends. Overall, I believe that we met participants’ needs, and therefore we are very happy with the outcome of this conference. 

MB: I also think it was really a mix of everything. Regardless of whether participants were driven by the scientific part or the products, what I observed from conversations with customers was that all the people who attended this congress have an intrinsic motivation and natural passion for learning. They attended the congress for learning purposes, being really eager to learn about the latest developments and the latest trends, especially trends that have developed during the two years of the pandemic. They were really eager to learn, to interact, to network and to collaborate, but also to build up communities across the different regions, it being a regional event with participants from across our region from different markets and of different nationalities. The event, I think, was an ideal platform for this, and we created an ideal learning environment. 

Thank you for the interview.

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