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The current economic climate has presented challenges for many, yet one company, Milestone Scientific, seems to be bucking the trend. In 2008 most dental equipment manufacturers reported declines in sales ranging from 10 to 30 percent, with some large equipment manufactures reporting even greater losses. It might lead one to wonder why sales of Milestone’s STA System were up over 200 per cent, exceeding all of the company sales forecasts. Dental Tribune recently interviewed Scott Mahnken, Milestone Scientific’s director of marketing, about the company’s success, its innovative product and the various advantages that computer-controlled local anesthesia delivery offer the dentist.
2008 was a great year for Milestone Scientific, yet other companies seem to have been negatively affected by the economy. Why did Milestone have such a successful year?
There were a couple of factors that helped make 2008 a success. Milestone Scientific added a few key executive management personnel in 2007, so some might say the seeds were planted then. Many feel that our success was related to the new leadership team, led by CEO Joe Martin. Joe is a former president of Abbott Labs, and one of the first things Joe did upon joining Milestone was improve the processes and internal communication. A second key addition to the team was Bob Presutti. Bob joined Milestone in August 2007 as vice president of sales and marketing. Bob was a former director of sales at Sonicare, where he was instrumental in helping the Sonicare become a market leader in the power toothbrush category.
Once new leadership was in place, the company conducted extensive market research in order to improve our message to the dentist. We knew based upon the testimonials we’ve collected from offices using STA that the STA System was delivering significant and measurable benefits to the offices that implemented it as the standard of care for administering anesthesia.
The STA System has many attributes, therefore it was important for us to identify what the dentists valued most. Once we recognized that dentists appreciated the increased confidence and reduced stress achieved upon making the STA System the standard of care in their offices, we knew that we had discovered a clear message of meaning. It was rather interesting for us to learn that dentists experience increased stress levels when administering anesthesia as, many of us had always looked at it from the patient’s perspective.
Once the message was delivered, dentists responded quite positively. They recognized that everyone has been searching for a better solution to the 150-year-old dental syringe, and Milestone had finally delivered the perfect solution.
So it was not only patients who were stressed?
That’s what I believed until we conducted the first International C-CLAD Symposium. I learned that a study conducted a few years ago showed that 18.8 percent of dentists have considered a career change due to the stress of administering anesthesia. At C-CLAD (which stands for computer-controlled local anesthesia delivery) we heard from dentists who admitted they “held their breath” while giving palatal or mandibular block injections. It made sense that the STA System would reduce their stress level because the computer-controlled delivery controls the flow of anesthesia below the patient’s pain threshold. Dentists are trained to take two minutes when administering anesthesia with a traditional syringe, but the majority do it much quicker. Why? They want to get it over with — it’s stressful for them, and they also can feed off the stress that is being experienced by the patient.
Do all specialties benefit from using the STA System?
Indeed. Our biggest audience is GPs, but we have really built a strong following with pediatric dentists and endodontists. The benefits of using the STA for offices that treat kids are enormous. No more collateral numbing, which discourages children from biting their lip and tongue, and no more calls from angry parents after hours or on weekends. Kids love the non-threatening STA Wand Handpiece, especially when compared with the traditional syringe. You can even break the handpiece down so that it’s out of sight while administering the injection. Dentists are hearing their younger patients say, “It’s the best shot I ever had.”
Endodontists appreciate the STA because they can anesthetize a single tooth. Ninety percent of the time an endodontist is working on one tooth — often a “hot tooth” — yet they administer a block injection that numbs the patient’s entire lip and face. The STA is an ideal solution for most endodontic procedures, as it offers the capability of Single Tooth Anesthesia, which is ideal for the dentist and the patient. The STA System delivers anesthesia below the patient’s pain threshold, and in most cases one can administer more anesthetic under less pressure, resulting in a more comfortable and less stressful experience for everyone.
Most recently we’ve been getting flooded with calls from periodontists seeking to perform AMSA and PASA injections, which allow them to conduct certain procedures by administering two injections instead of six. Thus the STA is an ideal partner for root planning and scaling. You can imagine how happy periodontists are with STA, and let’s not forget about the patient, who his receiving four fewer injections. It’s a win-win for both!
How does the computer technology work?
The STA System utilizes patented Dynamic Pressure Sensing (DPS) technology. Just the same way many of us rely on a GPS in our cars, the DPS technology in the STA System directs the dentist to the best path and confirms proper needle location. But DPS takes it one step further by controlling the flow of anesthesia the dentist is delivering, thus assuring that this will be a comfortable injection. The STA System will alert the dentist to optimum injection technique using a series of lights and tones.
Are dentists buying STA, even in this economy?
That’s right — 2008 was a record year, and we’ve already made our adjusted number for January 2009 (adjusted higher). We’re also expecting to break our Chicago Midwinter sales record for 2008, which was 93 systems. There are a few very sound reasons why STA is selling in today’s economic environment:
1. Stress. The STA System reduces the stress of patients, dentists and staff and gives the office something to feel positive about. The front desk loves STA because it increases referrals and lowers cancellations.
2. Productivity. Offices with STA can work on two different quadrants. Thus what once took two visits can be completed in one.
3. Referrals. Most practices rely upon referrals, and patients can’t stop talking about STA.
4. Preference. Your professional patients prefer to come in before work or while on their lunch hour, but they hate the collateral numbness. With STA your patients return to their routine without a numb lip and tongue.
5. Technology. You and your patients recognize that the traditional dental syringe, which was designed over 150 years ago, is ready for a technology update. The computer-controlled STA eliminates many of the variable and human error associated with traditional held syringes.
Can a dentist administer every injection using the STA System?
Absolutely. Initially many dentists purchase the STA System to do the New STA Intralagimentary Injection, which allows them to administer fewer block injections. But soon they recognize that the STA System can actually deliver a “comfortable” palatal injection, something that most dentists feel is impossible. The palatal injection is often called the “white knuckle” injection, yet offices that use STA report they don’t see any more white-knuckled patients.
STA can also vastly improve your mandibular block injections. As much as we want to help dentists administer fewer block injections, sometimes there is no other choice. One of the frustrations encountered by every dentist is when they miss the injection site and end up wasting 10 to 15 minutes, only to have to start over again. The STA System technique prevents needle deflection, allowing you to achieve successful block injections over 95 percent of the time.
The STA also allows dentists to perform newer injections like the PASA and AMSA. These injections are far more effective that their traditional counterparts.
What can dentists expect from Milestone in 2009?
We predict that 2009 will be a breakout year for Milestone and the STA System. In 2008 the company took steps to increase distribution, increase the sales force and incorporate the use of dental professionals on the sales and marketing teams.
In 2009 we’re sponsoring the Second Annual C-CLAD Symposium, to be held May 1–3 in Amelia Island, Fla. The C-CLAD Symposium will be chaired by Dr. Stanley Malamed, the world’s most renowned expert on local anesthesia. This year’s event will include input from more than 25 lecturers and thought leaders from all different specialties. Highlighting the event will be the introduction of three clinical studies conducted during the past year, including a clinical study measuring the heart rate of a dentist administering anesthesia with a traditional syringe vs. the STA System.
Incorporating continuing education is also part of our strategic plan in 2009. We expect to have one CE piece out before May and a second CE monograph with national distribution in the fourth quarter.
The objective is for the STA System to be one step closer to being recognized as the standard of care in all dental offices. After all, when is the last time your traditional syringe earned you a patient referral?
For more information on Milestone Scientific, the STA System, or the upcoming C-CLAD Symposium, contact Scott Mahnken at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.milestonescientific.com or www.stais4u.com.
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