On Jan 15, 2020, Glidewell, a dental laboratory and maker of oral appliances for sleep apnea, commemorated its 50th year of operations with an employee celebration on its campus in Irvine, Calif.
“I’m not normally a man to celebrate milestones,” president and CEO Jim Glidewell, CDT, told the hundreds of team members in attendance. “I’ve always feared that being too proud of one’s achievements can lead to complacency, impeding continued growth.”

U.S. Navy and Vietnam War veteran James “Jim” R. Glidewell founded his company on Jan. 6, 1970, in Orange County, California. Spurred by a desire to make rehabilitative dentistry affordable for all, Jim applied a blend of technical knowledge, business principles, and marketing philosophies to expand his one-man operation into a multifaceted technology company among those at the forefront of the oral health industry today. In its 50 years of existence, Glidewell has experienced year-over-year sales growth in all but 2009 (at the outset of the Great Recession).

The end of that same year saw the release of BruxZir Solid Zirconia, a tooth-colored material developed by Glidewell’s R&D team as a durable alternative to cast gold or metal occlusal PFM restorations. In the decade since, BruxZir zirconia has become the material of choice for clinicians worldwide, and been hailed by renowned independent research publication Clinicians Report as “the most successful tooth-colored restoration in the history of dentistry.” What’s more, the CAD/CAM processes used to manufacture BruxZir restorations have contributed to the digital transformation across the dental lab industry, resulting in faster turnaround times and better-fitting crowns and bridges.

Glidewell now occupies 1 million-sq-ft of office and production space in Irvine and neighboring Newport Beach, Calif. Employing a diverse team of certified technicians, engineers, scientists, clinicians, and support personnel, Jim continues his lifelong dream of advancing the materials and techniques available to treatment providers, enhancing knowledge through free education platforms, increasing patient access to premium services, and in growing the careers of the nearly 5,000 individuals who’ve come to join him in his pursuits.

“I thank you for taking my dream and making it your own,” Glidewell said to those gathered at the commemorative event, dozens of whom have been with the company for decades. “For building an enterprise more meaningful, more impactful, than I ever imagined.”

Even while reflecting on the past, the founder’s focus was fixed on the future. “Whatever 50 years may mean in terms of wear and tear on a single man, it is more meaningfully a strong, stable foundation from which to continue our mission of helping to restore smiles and improve lives.”