McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Technicians work on crowns at EZ-Pedo in Loomis, Calif., on Jan. 17. Dentists Jeff Fisher and John Hansen did years of research with local dentists before founding the company in 2010. The company's plant in Loomis makes ceramic dental crowns for children, virtually unheard of in the dental industry.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Technician Antonina Mykhailenko applies a glaze on a pediatric dental crown. Dentists Jeff Fisher and John Hansen did years of research before founding EZ-Pedo Inc. in 2010. The company's plant in Loomis, Calif., makes ceramic dental crowns for children, a rarity in the dental industry.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two dentists-turned-entrepreneurs say they’re part of the most revolutionary development in children’s dental care “since fluoride.”
Jeffrey Fisher and John Hansen, of Sacramento, Calif., started EZ-Pedo Inc. in 2010, and today their relatively small manufacturing site in Loomis, Calif., produces thousands of ceramic dental crowns for children.
The crowns are made of zirconia, colored and polished to resemble normal, healthy teeth. That’s a departure from the long-standing industry norm — metal crowns, typically made of stainless steel.
Last year, EZ-Pedo sold nearly 40,000 crowns to about 650 pediatric dentists throughout the United States, and to various international locales. It’s ramping up an office in Germany to handle manufacturing and distribution throughout Europe.
The partners guess that they have about 10 percent of the nation’s pediatric crown market (there are more than 6,500 pediatric dentists nationwide). In five years, Hansen and Fisher hope to claim 50 percent.
The new business has not yet produced riches for the partners. Fisher and Hansen said they only recently began paying themselves. Both still maintain private practices.
Fisher, 39, provides office-based general anesthesia for pediatric dentistry throughout the Sacramento region. Hansen, 45, is a specialist in cosmetic dentistry, with an office in Roseville.
Their venture began with a nasty fall.
In 2004, Hansen’s 3-year-old son, John Paul, fell in the bathtub and seriously injured four of his front teeth. Hansen sent his son to a pediatric dentist to have the boy’s smile reconstructed and was stunned to learn that there were no aesthetically pleasing crowns like those typically custom-crafted for adults.
Hansen said the crowns placed on his son’s teeth were bulky, didn’t match in color and presented a smile that showed metal at the gumline.
When John Paul needed more work done, he confided to his father that he was fearful of more treatments. Hansen called Fisher, with whom he had previously worked, to see if he would provide the anesthesia for John Paul.
From there, Hansen and Fisher got to talking about the seemingly unfilled niche -- better restorative options for children’s teeth.
Hansen said that besides giving children visually normal teeth, EZ-Pedo’s crowns are designed to guarantee proper spacing in the ever-changing mouths of growing kids.
Roseville, Calif., dentist Joelle Speed, who specializes in pediatric dentistry, said ceramic crowns have opened up numerous possibilities.
“For a while, stainless steel was always the standard, but aesthetics-wise, self-esteem issues would come up,” she said. “(Children) would not have many options if they had a large cavity.”
With ceramic crowns, Speed said he believes pediatric dentistry is undergoing a major shift that will continue for years.
Demand for the pair’s professional services and for their new business making crowns is not likely to ebb.
Despite the proliferation of fluoride and dental sealants over the years, tooth decay among children has proved a stubborn foe.
As recently as 2007, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report warned that tooth decay in baby teeth was increasing among children ages 2 to 5 years.
And a just-released report by the Pew Center on the States said most states are not doing enough to provide children with access to dental sealants to prevent tooth decay, driving up health care costs.