Dental Insider Blog

Observation and Commentary On the Dental Industry

CDA Wrap Up

Posted by dentalinsider on May 5, 2008

Sunday started out fairly quiet on the exhibit floor, I think there were more vendors talking amongst themselves than to attendees. Traffic picked up the last hour or so, after the classes started letting out. I spent most of Sunday morning speaking with manufacturer’s and distributors about their thoughts on the 2008 CDA and the common theme that ran through all of my conversations was lack of attendance. One gentleman I spoke with said this was the lowest attended meeting that he could remember in his 35+ years in the dental industry. The CDA should be embarrassed about the poor turnout at this years show. I spoke with a couple of sales reps from one of the Big 3 dealers, they told me that they are seeing less and less of their customers coming to the CDA, let alone renewing their CDA membership. Most of the manufacturers that I spoke with said that sales were below last years and that many would not make their sales goals for this show. We’ll know more in the coming weeks about actual sales numbers once orders get sorted and delivered to distributors.

I was sitting in the patio having lunch on Saturday and was speaking with a couple of dentists and they were complaining that there was not enough time to get on the exhibit floor to see everything. With the exhibit floor floor opening at 9:30am and most of the classes starting about the same time of earlier, that left them with lunchtime (about 2 hours) and after the classes ended (about 1 hour) to see 3 halls of exhibits. Both of these doctors chose to eat lunch (important) and then run around the halls to look at products they had an interest in instead of strolling the aisles. Several other doctors I spoke with said that most classes were at full capacity and some were even turning people away.

Flap has blown off the last day of the California Dental Association (CDA) Convention in Anaheim. The astute stupid organizers ONLY allocate one segment of continuing education and close the exhibit hall at 2 PM.

CDA leadership must re-think their schedule if they wish to attract commuting dentists from Southern California and make Sunday a worthwhile day for the commercial businesses that sponsor the show.

There is certainly NOT sufficient time to take classes and then see some of the latest dental products and equipment – and then to have fun with the family and staff? Too much of a challenge – even for the most energetic of practitioners. – Flap

There were a couple of new products that I saw that I thought were interesting. One was Velscope, oral cancer screening system and the other was the Demolizer, which is a biomedical waste disposal system. I will have posts on these items and others in the near future. Digital was still hot and there was more talk of cone beam technology.

I was amazed to see a number of “gray market” dealers on the floor. Many of those were showing their “gray market” goods right there on the floor for all to see. There were two “gray market” dealers that had sizable (4 booth spaces or more) exhibit floor space, and that isn’t cheap. One of those was rumored to be one foot in bankruptcy and I heard that their booth was for sale. Go figure that one out.

With low attendance and what is looking like slow sales, this years CDA makes a great case for trade show reform. DPR World is coming in less than 2 weeks and that might just be a start in the right direction. The dental associations must stop relying on the manufacturers and distributors to subsidize their organizations. The dental associations need to bring more to the table than just empty promises about the number of attendees that have pre-registered for the show. Start releasing actual “through the gate” numbers and work with organizations like the DTA to make trade shows more profitable for everyone. Everyone agrees that the industry is in a “funk” right now and no one is really sure how to get out of it. One thing is for sure, the next year will see some more changes, good and bad, but if we don’t start trying to fix the problems now, we will be in a dark hole with no way out.

I wanted to say a quick thank you to Joe Sakaduski for spending some time giving me his insights on the industry and to Greg “Flap” Cole for talking dental and politics. Stop by and check out both of their blogs, it’s some good reading.

If you attended this year’s CDA and have some thoughts or observations, post a comment or send us and email.



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20 Responses to “CDA Wrap Up”

  1. Did anyone hear about the suicide at the Disneyland Hotel?

    Wonder if he was a dentist or an exhibitor? From the sound of your post…probably an exhibitor.


  2. Paul Dutra said

    Well, there really isn’t an eloquent way to say it, so here it goes. The errogant CDA needs to get their heads out of the ass! Some of these boneheads belong to country clubs, time shares, etc. How were they introduced to these entities? By being allowed to experience the benefits. Sure, non-CDA members can attend. AT FULL PRICE OF MEMBERSHIP!!! The CDA even went to the expense to creat a database to “catch” non-members from “sneaking in ”

    Extremely Simple (No-Brainer) Solution: Allow non- members to attend by paying a reasonable fee of say $100. Allow non-members to attend courses, space avaliable, but at a premium rate. What will this accomplish? Greater attendance, More available classes due to demand, Top speakers (instead of an associate) and dare I say it, but more potential members that may sign up in the future.

    The added bonus is that manufacturers will be be more responsive to larger crowds. I saw so many of my vendors walking around with a brief case full of literature because they didn’t feel it was worth getting a booth. Gee, maybe they may loosen up on samples ! Not the same old losers standing in long lines to watch some cheesy multimedia presentation, fill out a questionaire wanting information just short of a DNA sample, to get a flippin tooth brush!

    The attendees should be encouraged to visit the vendors and LEARN something about the products they use and what is new. The CDA and the SPEAKERS need to remind the attendees who sponsors these events.

    I will finish my ranting by adding that the ADA is no better in making any attempts to change the status quo of the decline of the Dental Convention. It’s up to YOU, the doctors, vendors, office staff. All of you who are reading this to kick some ass out there before the Dental Convention is just a footnote in history.

    Paul Dutra

  3. Dick McManus, DMD. said

    Well, Paul the dental convention was created for dental offices to get together and learn something new and interact with other professionals and, more recently, to get state mandated CE. The manufacturer and distributors were invited because, well, the dentists were interested in what they had to offer and the dental industry had an opportunity to get a group of dentists in one spot and interest them in what was new in the industry. It was also an opportunity to whip up some excitement over new products (that may not be that exciting) and make a few sales while the excitement was at its frenzy. Now I can only guess at that cost of being an exhibitor at a major convention but I’m sure it’s too much. These conventions have grown and grown because of your infusion of money. I’m a dentist and frankly it’s too expensive for me to attend the Yankee Dental meeting for 4 days as I have done for that past 25 years. But I am sure that the sphere of influence that drives you to complain about the poor turn out at the most recent convention is not the same sphere that organized the event. The CDA wants to provide a value to its members and if it sponsors an event then non-members have to pay more. If it only cost a non-member $100.00 to attend the convention why bother to join the CDA at all? Also, the very idea that the convention was created for you to meet some sales goal is ridicules. I suggest you discontinue participation at next year’s convention. I can here you laughing because non –participation is unthinkable – hell, Schein would get all the convention sales.

    Your problem is not with the CDA or its convention participation it’s with the rest of your industry. The cut throat nature of the competition is the cause of your frustration and hell everyone knows it. You’ve got company representatives masquerading as clinicians pushing one particular line of products. I’m mailed these free publications with manufactures product specification masquerading as clinical info. The Dentists get bombarded by this crap every day. Now you may know why we AVOID the convention floor. Hell it’s the only rest we get.

  4. AssociateQ said

    Dick –

    You are wrong. Period. The manufacturers were not invited onlt to “show their wares” as you put it. They were invited so that they could pay for the meeting. And that is a fact.

    If you don’t realize that then you obviously do not understnad how these shows work. Or for that fact any show in any industry.

    Do you knwo how much a booth costs? At the CDA? At the Mid-Winter? At the Yankee? At the IDS in Cologne? Take a guess.


  5. Paul Dutra said

    Dear Dr. McManus, If I have offended you or any other professional who had read this post, I am truly sorry. My point was that it “appears” that the CDA has not been proactive in trying new and inovative means to recruit new members. I’s been an all or nothing proposition. Dental Conventions are just part of the benefits of membership in the CDA. Like I indicated, you can’t expect anyone to join an organization until they at least experience some aspect of it. And as a I also suggested, more paid attendance can afford the CDA members more variey of CE courses ( which they get priorty access) AND better speakers.

    Dental Conventions are truly expensive. A simple 10′ X 10′ mid-isle booth is around $4000 plus travel and set-up expenses. Thank God for you not having to attend classes in a circus tent in the parking lot ! No exibitor expects to come even close to making any kind of profit. This is a time to show off our wares, make new friends and build a relationship with someone we may someday be happy to call a customer. Before your well deserved rest, please take a short stroll through the hall and meet at least one of the people responsible for paying for a first class venue for your meeting.

    Most importantly Doctor, I am not laughing nor do I fear that anyone will end up with all the sales. Although some of the displays may resemble “dog and pony shows”, some of us have sincerity, integrity and most of all, class.

  6. Dick McManus, DMD. said


    Well, I do understand what motivates me and other dentists to attend these conventions and it’s not to roam around the exhibit floor buying something at every booth. Our sphere of influence is education, supported by recognition for our time away from our offices by CE credits that satisfy our state requirements. Have you ever figured the income a dentist loses by attending a convention; how about all the income from all the offices of all the attending dentists? Well it’s tens of thousands of dollars every hour and the cost of the CE at say Yankee Dental has greatly increased for us too and we are urged, even begged, to attend the exhibits at the beginning of every course. Yet, when you attend the exhibit hall the Rep you are talking too is saying his lines but looking off to the left at the hygienist in the tight skirt. Walking thru the exhibit hall at opening time is like cleaning up a bar room. The place stinks of booze and it’s hard to tell if the reps just started drinking or are still spewing off last night’s hang over. Just because you assisted a dentist for a month while serving in the Navy doesn’t qualify you for success and a good income as a rep. You’ve got to earn it and it’s sad to say that the MAJORITY of reps are only hoping to be present in the room when the sale is made so they can get their percent cut. Otherwise they would rather be miles away. Yet even the new reps think they deserve more than their inexperience dictates.

    If dental conventions are financed by you then they have grown and grown into a bottomless pit of money lost. If you want change YOU will have to do something to make it happen. My own opinion is that your money has created a huge gala as one manufacturer group tries to out do the other. This is unnecessary but the competition is so severe that these stupid hooks attract attention. At Yankee Dental they had to open a second floor for the exhibits and one booth on the second floor had you hitting golf balls into a video golf game! I have no idea what booth the golf game was sponsored by but there was a line all day and whoever was the booth’s sponsor spent there money on nothing because I do not remember what product/service they were selling; yet I do remember hooking my drive into the water.

    Stop complaining about the attendance, the ADA, CDA, for you poor sales results. Your poor sales could be the result of meager efforts.

  7. Dick McManus, DMD. said

    No offence taken but I would have to say that the “head in the ass” comment probably was written by anyone with any “class”

  8. Dick McManus said

    I cannot edit my previous response but I did intend to say:

    No offense taken but I would say that the “head in the ass” comment was not written by anyone with any “class”.

  9. Paul Dutra said

    WOW ! Can anyone wonder now why Dentists have the highest suicide rate. I suggest that some people cut back on their fiber intake and consider taking a Yoga class.

    Some people go through 8 years of college to become licensed, earn the honor and dignity of the trade that they trained in. A few of these people beleive that during this 8 years, through osmosis I suspect, or the hand of God has bestowed to them, the wisdom to be superior to all other profesions and to be all knowing. So my friends, let it be known that from this day forward, Dr. McManus gets the last word by declaring that Paul Dutra has no class.

  10. Rodney King said

    Can’t We All Just Get Along?


  11. AssociateQ said

    As well, he can have the last word on my “meager efforts” at the CDA and the ADA. Although I was in attendance at neither.

    It is funny you cry about how much money you are losing because you have to close your office. You don’t talk about how the education you receive while attending these courses helps you better your practice. Let me guess, “You’ve been doing this for 30 years and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”. Just like every other old lazy dentist and dental technician that refuses to learn how to porerly handle the materials they use.

    But you do not hesitate to blame your problems on the products you use, never looking at the real problem.

    I do have one question, how is it that you can call yourself a Doctor?? Every time I ask a medical professional about dentists they laugh and say “detists, heck the just could not hack it in medical school.” Or I hear “dentists, medical school flunkies”.

    I did not start this problem and I do not contribute to it. I do not attend but 1 show a year, I will not fall prey to the lies and tales that get spun. Trade shows are a loss, in this indsutry and in any industry. Especially when you have customers who don’t care to show any interest in the products. But as soon as you see CAD/CAM or Digital X-Rays you get like a kid. Even though those technologies are part of what is leading this industry down hill.

    “Laziness is a virtue. Those who can be bothered to tell you otherwise are clearly lacking it.”
    —- Emery Finkelstein

  12. AssociateQ said

    By the way, and I am sure DI will be posting on this, but attendance numbers were released for the CDA.

    DDS: 7,348
    RDA/DA: 5,812
    RDH: 2,300
    Lab Tech/CDT: 119
    Office Staff: 2,129
    Dental Students: 560
    Auxiliary Students: 1,177
    Guests: 2,076
    Exhibitors: 5,355
    Press: 63
    CDA Staff: 87
    Misc.: 15
    TOTAL: 27,041
    Dentist Ratio: 27%

    A otal of over 27k people, 22k minus exhibitors. Can anyone there take a guess how close these numbers are to the reality?


  13. Schein Rep said

    Dr. McManus, you are completely correct. Don’t let these folks mislead you.

    Just keep on taking good care of your patients, and doing what’s best for you. None of the tiny dealers, or unauthorized grey marketers have a clue about how tough your world is. They only want a quick buck, and to be gone when you really need help.

    As someone who does care about his clients, I can truly sympathize with your tribulations. Its incredibly hard to find clinical evidence to support claims… and I can assure you a giant circus of a convention is NOT the place to do it. Good luck and take care!

  14. wayne perron said

    I grabbed this post of Sirocco or Arizona west coast,like to give him credit by name,but thats all i could find “After my recent visit to the California Dental Convention, I was reflecting on the new economics of our times. I was particularly quite frankly, shocked, at the dramatic change I saw on the floor of the trade show with the TYPE and STYLE of presentation and information I received.
    Tell me if it is just me, but are the vendor representatives getting less and less knowledgable about dentistry, yet at the same time becoming better and more polished presenters?
    As one example at a major name brand booth, the local rep for my area on a peace of major cost, optional equipment, that I would like to have, but could do with out (that runs about $180K and has a space age name), stated the following:
    “I can’t wait for you to meet XXX, he is our XXX expert and he knows everything there is to know about XXX.”
    He was quite polished and pretty good at keeping me on subject if I strayed from the direction of the presentation. he indeed, did know a lot of information. I was especially impressed how he could stand in front of the monitor and talk and gain my attention as the longer loading times were occurring, yes, he was well trained and polished.
    He emphasized how critically important support was for a major purchase like this (my previous horrendous support experience came to mind with his company on a previous purchase a few years back, but I thought I would give him the benefit of the doubt)
    About 1/2 way through the conversation after finding out we couldn’t integrate their software with another and asking the same question about 6 times to finally get the “No” answer, suddenly I was confused with his next question:
    I don’t remember the exact words, but something like, “It seems apparent that you have the adequate resources to initiate a transaction that is mutually beneficial to both parties to allow your patients to have this technology in your office more immediately that long future, correct?”… I sort of stuttered, and didn’t want to feel dumb, but wasn’t really sure what he was saying or asking, but fortuneately my good friend, former classmate in dental school whispered in my ear, “Frank, I think he said, something like it looks like we could afford to buy this…”

    He then continued to show me how this could help me in my practice and proceded to let me know that since there was an exclusive contract with one supply company, it assured me extra special service and dependable support. (once again, my mind went back to my horrible experience with that particular supply company in the past, yet still, he couldn’t know that, right?)
    Then, finally he told me that the guy who introduced me (who remember, was excited for me to meet this guy, since he didn’t know as much about XXX as this worldwide expert did) would be there for installation…and I was OK, because the first guy was a nice guy, then he gave another statement how lucky I was for their commitment to support (hurrah, I said, they finally must be learning and changing their attitude, surely?) then he gave me the death blow, and proudly stated to me that after the peons got the basics installed, he would honor us with his presence and he, PERSONALLY, would train my staff…..
    since I didn’t want my staff utterly confused, I had to, unfortunately rule out this brand for its overzealous “backup”.
    Then, to the competitor, for my 10am appointment. after standing near the machine for about 20 minutes watching the 4 young studs all dressed the same, telling each other their previous evening’s exploits with the female vendors, facing each other with their backs to us, I finally managed to “clear my throat” a little loudly, and one of them looked at me a little annoyed (I guess the story was good), but came over and told me the rep for the XXY would be there in about 30 minutes.
    I casually mentioned the appointment made with their company rep and the XXP rep, but he seemed more irritated I was interrupting their conversation complaining about poor sales at the show that he was anxious to get back to, so I just told him I would come back later and he was visibly relieved.
    When the factory rep showed up, he was REALLY good and helpful, I learned that this technology was really great and I really wanted it by then, but it was all confusing, THEN I guess the party conversation got to a lull because the rep came over and gave me a copy of their convention incentive. I COULD HAVE 4 MONTHS WITHOUT PAYMENT AND ADD AN ADDITIONAL YEAR ONTO FINANCIAL OR 1 MONTH NO PAYMENT AND ADD ONE ADDITIONAL MAINTENANCE YEAR, BUT PAY HIGHER INTEREST, WHICH WOULD I PREFER?
    I told him that if I were going to buy it, I would probably pay cash, and he was lost. “I guess we can’t help you there doc…..but remember, we are exclusive providers..whoops, that doesn’t apply here….anyway, any more questions (yeah, buddy, any discount for cash???)
    anyway, we left, confused, but impressed with the new technology…….
    Seriously, one thing that really almost angered me is how we as the docs are slowly getting bypassed as deals are made between the supply vendors and manufacturers that remove choice.
    Also, the cost of these shows and us expecting the manufacturers to continue to carry the burden of advertising in our magazines (especially the rediculous proliferation of the throw a ways) is going to bite us in the rear end. We need to worry about them too, and the labs in our global competition.
    what do you folks think?
    Are conventions and trade shows on their way out?

    Axioms to be successful by:
    #1- “when you believe it, you”ll see it”
    #2- “see everything, correct a little, forget a lot” (Pope John Paul II)
    #3-“what is the purpose of learning? It is results producing action.”

    The decathlon dentist, will it be possible in the 21st century to do it well with all the advances in technology and time it will take to learn each skill and area of dentistry at the level it requires today compared to the past?

  15. AssociateQ said

    I would like have to apologize for my remarks above, as sometimes I allow my interaction with a few cloud my judgment over an entire range of people. My comment about dentists not being doctors was uncalled for and was only a cheap shot as I was angry at a previous post. I apologize for the statement and apologize if I offended anyone. On top of it this is not the place for this type of behavior, and I should know that.


  16. AssociateQ said

    Wayne, that was an excellent post and I can’t say that I disagree one bit with the dentist who posted it.

    I especially like the part where he asked about the manufacturers and dealers slowly cutting them out. It makes sense, even though it does not make sense. I am serious, at first read you would think, “well how is that possible”? But I understand what he is saying.

    This part here really makes sense and is at the heart of the problem.

    “Seriously, one thing that really almost angered me is how we as the docs are slowly getting bypassed as deals are made between the supply vendors and manufacturers that remove choice.
    Also, the cost of these shows and us expecting the manufacturers to continue to carry the burden of advertising in our magazines (especially the rediculous proliferation of the throw a ways) is going to bite us in the rear end. We need to worry about them too, and the labs in our global competition.
    what do you folks think?
    Are conventions and trade shows on their way out?”

    That is a topic that needs further discussion.


  17. Dick McManus said

    associate – what was your rank when you left the Navy?

  18. Paul Dutra said

    For those of you that were wondering…………I received a phone call this morning from a true gentleman that felt that he owed me an apoligy for posts left. I was truly impressed and responded with an apology for my comments as well. Oh, that true gentleman, Dr. Dick McManus

    Thank You sir and I hope to someday shake your hand !

    Paul Dutra

  19. AssociateQ said

    Dr. McManus –

    Who said I ever left?

    But seriously, I am flat footed, don’t think they would take me.


  20. […] writes about the use of manufacturer dollars at trade shows. DI @ Dental Insider writes often on this topic. Manufacturers and distributors may find it cost-prohibitive in this economy to continue to fund so […]

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