Bringing Dentistry Outside the Box

The best thing about our profession is its boundless innovation. We salute the Edison Award nominees— and push new ideas to the fore.

By Chuck Cohen and Rick Cohen

The best thing about our profession is its boundless innovation. We salute the Edison Award nominees— and push new ideas to the fore.

IN THE DARK YEARS B.G.—Before Google—the fax machine defined communi­ cation cool. (For readers under 40: Think of it as email, only you had to feed a machine a printout, then telephone another machine, which would—presto!— spit out a copy. It was the late ’80s. Hair was big, and we were amazed.)

For generations, dentists had placed their supply orders face to face, via a sales­rep visit, or through a phone call to the local dental­supply branch. At Benco, we figured a fax ordering system would make everyone more productive: fewer phone calls, fewer mistakes, more efficient sales­rep visits.

The problem: Most practices didn’t have a fax machine, and dentists didn’t see the value in buying one. Then came Chairman Larry Cohen’s light­bulb moment: Benco would become a fax dealer—providing a unit in exchange for a purchase commitment and offering a 1.5 percent discount on all fax orders. Thus was born dentistry’s first electronic ordering system. Customers loved it— they received a free fax machine, and an incentive to use it.

More than 30 years later, Benco hasn’t looked back, becoming the industry’s leader in e­ordering. Those lowly faxes inspired dentistry’s first Windows­based purchasing system. We called it Painless, because it was. Painless continues to set the standard, with shopping lists, bar­code readers, real­time inventory information and mobile versions. Last year, some 54 percent of our consumable orders came directly from customers using Painless, a figure far higher than for any other distributor’s similar system. (We still get a few faxes, too.)

Our theme for 2018 is “Driving Dentistry Forward”—a reminder of our role in creating a vibrant future for the profession we all love

Having brought electronic ordering to dentistry is just one of Benco’s many industry­changing innovations. Our ongoing goal: to be dentistry’s most innovative company, because innovation is what makes this line of work so fun and exciting. For 2018, our team chose “Driving Dentistry Forward” as our theme—a reminder of the role we play in helping to create a vibrant future for the profession we all love.

We’re therefore pleased to celebrate innovation every year in this special issue of Incisal Edge, which showcases dentistry’s nominees for Edison Awards, highlighting the freshest inventions and new developments industry­wide. We also offer our take on the current state of dental innovation. Bold ideas abound in this issue, from a look at West Virginia University’s creative efforts to revamp oral care throughout the Mountain State to a practice design with a soothing aquatic theme.

With innovation on your mind, please let us know anytime you think our team is “Driving Dentistry Forward.” Or are we coming up short? Let us know. Either way, we’d love to hear from you.


Chuck & Rick