In a world that looks starkly different than it did mere months ago, Sprig Oral Health Technologies, Inc.—pediatric dentistry’s leading technology and clinical education company—is marking an important milestone.
The company sold its first crowns (the first ever pediatric Zirconia dental crowns) 10 years ago in September 2010. Over the course of a decade, Sprig proceeded to disrupt the pediatric dentistry industry; build a global business; consistently add to its portfolio of products; provide continuing education programs for dentists and their teams; publish a meaningful, accessible magazine; and this year, launch a pediatric dentistry podcast.
In February 2020, about a month before the COVID-19 crisis began to require United States nonessential businesses to close and travel to halt, Sprig CEO Brenda Hansen and several of her team members were in Dubai, sharing their products at the UAE International Dental Conference and Arab Dental Exhibition (AEEDC–Dubai), the Middle East’s largest dental conference and one of the largest dental events in the world.
“We were impressed,” Hansen commented. “It was great to see the clinics, training, and the level of patient demand for healthy biocompatible products.”
Innovation in a time of crisis
One month later, Hansen and her administrative team closed the Sprig office in compliance with national guidelines. And yet, the climate of uncertainty brought forth by the ongoing global pandemic was one that Sprig is decidedly equipped to endure.
For starters, it only makes sense that a company founded on an industry-disrupting technology would foster a culture of innovation and flexibility. Innovation is one of the major defining characteristics adopted during Sprig’s 2016 rebranding process.
Faced with the current coronavirus crisis, Sprig also has placed an additional emphasis on financial stability, planning, back-up planning, and a willingness to pivot as key principles to guide them through unprecedented territory and into the future.
“Every day I’ve been waking up to a puzzle of how best to get our team back to work,” Hansen observed.
Since the pandemic’s onset, Sprig has opted to take all product sales and distribution back in-house, after having partially outsourced these services through Henry Schein Dental, a leading global dental distribution company. Hansen expressed her gratitude for the recently terminated partnership.
“We learned so much, and it made us a better, stronger company,” she reflected.
The company has also recalibrated its newly launched Sprig Podcast to better serve the dentists in their audience.
“We had an extensive library of podcasts prerecorded and ready to be released, but about two weeks before the pandemic really hit, we switched gears and produced four different podcasts that are centered around the needs of dentists during the pandemic,” Hansen recalled. “I worked at a dental office for 20 years, so I know that many doctors do not have the luxury of access to an HR department or an accounting department. Through our podcasts, we have tried to give them the human resources support and financial information that is relevant to their practices at this time.”
EZPEDO—Dr. John Hansen and Dr. Jerey Fisher make the decision to found EZPEDO, Inc. and develop the world’s first pediatric Zirconia crown.
First prototypes of pediatric Zirconia crowns are engineered and produced in Dr. Hansen’s cosmetic dental laboratory.
First Use—An EZPEDO Zirconia crown is seated on a pediatric patient for the first time.
Zir-Lock Launched— Zir-Lock retention feature with internal mechanical grooves is developed to dramatically improve clinical longevity.
Website Launched— Space-Loss sized first molars are developed, the ezpedo.com website is launched, and Zirconia crowns are first offered for sale to pediatric dentists.
Relaxed Undercuts— EZ-Seat contour modifications are made to the occlusal profile and relaxed undercuts are introduced.
Glazed and Polished— Zir-Plus hybrid surface treatment developed with a synergistic use of glaze and polish for a nearly flawless combination of visual aesthetics and occlusal function.
EZPEDO University— Zir-Lock Ultra is introduced with the added benefits of Margin Lock. A design patent is granted for the Zir-Lock retention feature. EZPEDO University—dentistry’s premier, hands-on, over-the-shoulder instructional program in the use of pediatric Zirconia crowns—is launched.
Modified Contours— Second generation Posterior V2 crowns with Flat-Fit modified contours are introduced, requiring less tooth prep.
EZPEDO Magazine Launched— A bi-annual magazine highlighting relevant topics of interest for busy practitioners in private practice.
Rebrand Started— Siegelvision, an organizational identity consultancy in New York, is hired to initiate the process of repositioning EZPEDO as a next-generation, oral health technology company.
Rebrand Launched— EZPEDO rebrands to Sprig Oral Health Technologies, Inc. EZPEDO patents key crown features. Sprig introduces HemeRx, the first hemostatic agent for pediatrics, and SmartMTA, the first fast-set MTA for bioregenerative pulp therapy.
MDSAP Certification— Sprig Oral Health Technologies, Inc. received it’s MDSAP and European CE certificates, opening up direct shipment options to international customers.
The Sprig Podcast launched amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Refining a vision for the future
Hansen said the recent health crisis has reinforced and brought clarity to some of Sprig’s long-held convictions and future plans. “Over the next year,” Hansen added, “Sprig will be rolling out a series of environmentally friendly initiatives to increase our sustainability practices. We’ll begin by introducing plant-based packaging for our refill products.”
“Confronted with COVID-19, we’re seeing the world slow down,” Hansen noted. “I think one of the things we all need to emphasize a little bit more is taking care of our planet so that it will take care of us.”
In addition to increased sustainability, the company is poised to increase its philanthropic efforts, provide more options for in-office product demonstrations, and enhance its educational offerings based on the needs of the market. Naturally, given Sprig’s history and its emphasis on the team’s in-house research and development, a commitment to continue developing new, innovative products for pediatric dentistry is also high on Hansen’s list.
She also expects the company will continue to expand globally, particularly having recently received certification through the Medical Device Single Audit Program (MDSAP) —an international regulatory process developed by representatives of Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. Sprig’s MDSAP approval demonstrates the company currently meets or exceeds the strictest global regulatory standards in the industry.
Importance of team effort
When she talked about the future, Hansen spoke confidently and with a level of trust that her vision will be realized. When asked, she quickly explained that her confidence is rooted in Sprig’s team of about 40 employees, all based near Sacramento, California.
“It’s impossible to reflect on the journey Sprig began a decade ago and my personal journey without acknowledging the impact of having a talented team on board,” Hansen reminisced. “It’s a beautiful thing. Many people have been with the company for a very long time, enabling us to create a close family atmosphere.”
So important is the Sprig team to Hansen that she cited her first human resources hire, Gwen Pisenti, as one of the most important milestones of the decade. The addition of Pisenti helped build an infrastructure to support growth, shaping the team that Sprig is blessed with today.
“We were ready to grow and Gwen helped Sprig make sure we could do it right,” Hansen concluded.
Doing it right is a phrase that Hansen referred to frequently.
“It’s one thing to say it, but the proof is in our actions,” she emphasized. “Doing it right is not only about earning the trust of our customers, patients, and end users. During this pandemic, it’s about our team trusting us to make the right decisions to keep the ship afloat, and then positioning ourselves to get back to a new normal. There will always be opportunities to cut corners, but we choose to do it right. We must stick to our core values—honesty, integrity,