The sale of our industry

June 21, 2005
The merging of dental manufacturers and their product lines have an impact on dental hygienists' role as educators about self-care products.

By now, many hygienists have read about the January 2005 announcement of the pending deal between Procter & Gamble and Gillette. While they would seem to be very competitive companies with each other, P&G and Gillette (Oral-B) are now likely joining product lines, following the industry wide trend of companies blending together. The following are some more recent examples:

• Mydent International acquires Icon Labs
• Crosstex International acquires Hygoplastic
• Patterson acquires CAESY
• Oral-B acquires Rembrandt
• OraPharma, Inc., is now a Johnson & Johnson company

Companies join forces for a variety of reasons. The CEO or Board of Directors' of one company could decide that buying another like business is an opportunity to initiate cost savings, integrate information technology systems and supply chains, speed up new product development and research projects, and/or strengthen their brand position in the marketplace. Of course, a primary reason is the company's' potential to increase earnings for shareholders.

"Mergers and Acquisitions 101" is not a traditional course offered as part of a dental hygienist's education. Yet, cutting-edge hygienists may want to begin to peruse newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal or USA Today, or BusinessWeek or Fortune magazines, or at the very least log onto, MarketWatch or CNN/Money periodically.

Staying abreast of the changing industry climate is the only way we can keep track of which corporation and what products are still available and/or dominate the dental hygiene world. When we follow the union of companies we may discover that many of our trusted front line sales people will no longer be visiting our offices. Or, if they do return, they may be donning a new corporate nametag and business card.

The point of staying abreast of the business of hygiene was again reinforced in May when Collagenex Pharmaceuticals announced it was getting out of the dental business. The company stopped marketing and selling Periostat. The decision was made after the FDA approved of a generic form of Periostat for sale by IVAX Pharmaceuticals Inc. and CorePharma, LLC.

After hearing this information, many hygienists began scurrying to discover the new company and supply chain for information about continuing their therapies for patients.

Admittedly, some of these industry mergers and acquisitions will clean up an already overwhelming and cluttered marketplace. Other corporate fusions, though, will cause confusion, especially when identifiable hygiene brands merge with long-time adversaries. Dental professionals have a strange feeling about some of these new quirky bedfellows. It becomes unsettling sensation when a patient asks which brush is best, Type A or B? The same manufacturer makes both.

No matter what the corporation's rationale is for the mergers, we as end-users need to remain updated on the future of the dental hygiene industry. Reading the business section of a newspaper or magazine is the next logical growth step in our continual journey of improving our role as patient advocates and educators.

Kristine Hodsdon, RDH, has gained her wings with 21 years in the industry, tackling everything from dental assisting, clinical hygiene and adjunct teaching to international speaking/writing, and success in sales. She is the Director of RDH eVillage, an online newsletter published by the PennWell Corporation. She currently speaks and consults on the future of dental hygiene, speaking skills, and the components of aesthetic hygiene. Kristine is a proud member of the NSA, ADHA, IFDH, IADR, and ACCD.