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Since 2005, COMIDENT has been the only organisation in France that brings together manufacturers and distributors of dental products and technologies. Today, the association includes nearly 150 companies, whose business accounts for approximately 85% of total sales in the industry in France. Dental Tribune France asked COMIDENT President Pierre-Yves Le Maout for his opinion on the state of the dental industry in the light of the current economic situation and on the 2022 French Dental Association (ADF) congress.
Mr Le Maout, you were appointed president of COMIDENT in September 2020. In your role as interlocutor with the public authorities and the various players in the industry, you have set yourself the objective of promoting an oral healthcare model based on prevention, accessibility for all, safety and innovation. Have you been able to fulfil this mission?
It is a long-term mission. Nobody will change the French healthcare system in a few months. Our system is fundamentally based on nomenclature and therefore on the reimbursement of procedures. The role of prevention is weak. In addition, the role of oral healthcare is insufficiently recognised.
For innovation, it is obvious that the nomenclature, even if it evolves, does not correspond well to the international consensus on oral healthcare (minimally invasive dentistry) and does not encourage change.
The fact remains that we are being listened to more and more and that the public authorities, like the representatives of the dental surgeons, know that we have to work towards the future. They also know that France cannot remain on the sidelines globally.
Since September 2020, we have seen many upheavals: COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, inflation and soaring energy prices. In an interview published by Dental Tribune International in August, Stanley Bergman, CEO of Henry Schein, said that despite the difficulties, dentists have reason to remain optimistic, pointing out that the market in which his company operates has held up very well during past downturns. Do you share this view?
We too are optimistic. Even though oral healthcare requirements are far from being met in France and in many other countries at the moment, the foreseeable increase in the number of dentists, through those educated in other countries and at the new French dental schools, will make it possible to better meet patients’ needs in France. The arrival of Level II assistants will bring practitioners some relief.
This does not mean that the upheavals experienced since the COVID pandemic, the issues of energy and sustainable development, and the war in Ukraine will not have consequences.
Operators in the dental industry are dealing with the effects of inflation, constraints linked to the European regulations on medical devices and, in some cases, a lack of basic materials. How can COMIDENT help them?
The difficulties are of different kinds. Inflation and disruptions affect practitioners and companies alike. Our first priority is to do everything possible to ensure continuity of care. Most companies have therefore increased their stocks to avoid shortages as much as possible. But this is a constant risk that we will not always be able to prevent.
COMIDENT has been working with the public authorities for a long time on the subject of European regulations. The situation is likely to become critical in hospitals. If patients can no longer be treated, Europe will have to wake up and extend compliance deadlines. Dentistry will be a little less affected, but innovation is at a standstill owing to a lack of ability to certify new products. It is a scandalous situation because it could have been avoided.
The issue of cobalt–chromium is also affected by the European regulations. However, there is no possible substitute for the foreseeable future. We have intervened several times, including with the ADF, and have not received an answer.
In a 6 October press release, you insisted that the actions implemented to avoid passing on the full increase in production costs must not affect the quality of the products. Do you have any particular concerns?
We often hear about dental professionals ordering products from sites based abroad, some of which do not comply with any regulations (including the obligatory CE mark for medical devices). This is a risk for the safety of patients and for dentists, because by doing so they are in violation of the law and can be held liable.
Should the public authorities introduce specific measures to support the dental industry?
COMIDENT is working with dental organisations, especially the ADF, to analyse and engage on our industry. We need dialogue rather than help. Dental deserts are a major concern. We need a better understanding of oral healthcare needs and of the solutions necessary to ensure that everybody has access to a dental professional. We could speed up the work on Level II assistants. This could help meet the need for prevention and could enable the delegation of tasks to relieve overworked practitioners. We could also employ dental nurses, for example, to help care for dependent elderly people under the supervision of dental surgeons.
What is the significance of the ADF congress for the dental community?
The ADF congress is the highlight of the oral healthcare industry. It is an event for training, exchange and innovation. Beyond the usual success of the ADF congress, we must not forget that it is one of the rare moments in the year when the press focuses on dentistry.