Interview with FEPPD: “We are bound to learn new technologies”
Representing 40,000 dental laboratories and 210,000 dental technicians in Europe, the European and International Federation of Dental Laboratory Owners and Dental Technicians (FEPPD) is a key participant in the dental trade industry. Founded in 1953, the FEPPD evolved from representing manufacturers to promoting European dental technology worldwide. Dental Tribune Online had the exclusive opportunity to speak to Pierre Zammit, Secretary General of the FEPPD, during the 2017 International Dental Show about the new medical device regulation and its consequences for dental technicians.
How have dental technicians responded to the vast changes that have been brought to this industry over the last 20 years?
There is a difference between member states of the European Union regarding whether dental technicians are health care professionals or craftspeople. We find that there is common ground when a student pursues higher education, because the services he or she can then offer upon becoming a dental technician are often standardised. With this in mind, we are working on creating a more modular way for dental technology education to be provided such that there is greater freedom of movement for dental technicians throughout Europe.
How does the FEPPD then promote education throughout Europe?
We have participated in a number of EU-funded programmes regarding dental education, and this issue will be discussed in depth at our next annual general meeting on 2 and 3 June 2017. If we are able to ensure that education is a priority, it will be European patients who will ultimately benefit from this, because we will be able to provide the same results and services irrespective of their location.
We are bound to learn new technologies, as these technologies are advancing dentistry into new areas. It is essential, then, that the training received by dental technicians involve learning how the latest innovations are used. However, it is important for dental technicians to gain confidence in working with not just new technologies but also new materials, such as zirconia.
The new medical device regulation has just been passed. It includes new provisions, such as new scrutiny regulations for dental manufacturers, which will greatly affect the dental trade industry. What is your opinion and expectation concerning the new regulation?
At face value, the regulation should reach its goals of securing the best interests of the dental patient provided that all prerequisites, as laid down in the document, are observed and handled properly by the appropriate authorities at all times. This is especially important considering the deficiencies that sometimes resulted from failure to uphold the previous regulations.
Failing strict surveillance, the enormous management load that the regulation will be imposing on dental laboratories will become more of an economical hindrance. Other stakeholders in the dental field have already noted this view.
Surely a less complicated regulation would have been easier to follow and implement while also obtaining the same transparency for the dental patient. Having said this, the FEPPD will nevertheless still be seeing to the proper adoption of the medical device regulation. We are already looking into loopholes raised by misinterpretation of third parties in seeking to exclude themselves from complying with the regulation. The medical device regulation will only succeed if the same regulatory criteria are applied to all participants.
Are you concerned that more dental technologies seem to be taking services away from the dental technician in favour of the dentist?
Well, we see the future as having more specific rules for dental technicians and dentists alike regarding the use of certain systems. It will become more important for dental technicians to have knowledge of how these systems work, as many dentists may need help with their operations and adapting to the medical device regulation.
As far as these technologies and systems are used properly and in accordance with regulations, we have no problem. Our issue is third parties offering solutions without being registered or compliant with regulations. That is why we are focused on ensuring that not only are regulations followed by individuals but also the relevant governing bodies enforce them. This is a profession that has been around for many years, and the rules that govern it are crucial for maintaining a high level of patient trust.
We want dental technicians to deliver the highest safety standards in their work for patients. Furthermore, we aim for full transparency in the manufacture of dental devices. Certainly, we represent a very important industry. The new medical device regulation should help us to ultimately deliver the best service to European patients.
How important should certification and accreditation of dental devices be for dentists and patients? What should the role of the EU be in setting standards and granting certification?
One of the fundamental changes brought forth by the new medical device regulation is that the certificate of compliance, denoting the manufacturing source, materials used, and provenance of the custom-made device, whether it is EU-based or imported from the Asian market, will now be mandatory for devices used on or by European dental patients. This will increase the level of awareness and knowledge of dental patients about these devices and will help them to determine whether they are receiving value for money. Dental laboratories and dental technicians fabricating such devices will in turn receive accreditation for being the rightful manufacturers. This is something the FEPPD has worked at length to achieve, gaining a win-win situation for both the dental patient and the legal entity supplying dental devices. Full compliance by the dentist is thus expected with respect to what the medical device regulation guarantees for the end user.
Thank you very much for the interview.