35 Years of Innovation in Pediatric Crowns
The year 1987 marks an important milestone in the history of pediatric dentistry. That’s when Peter Cheng launched Cheng Crowns. Today, Cheng Crowns, headquartered outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a significant supplier of aesthetic pediatric dental crowns to dentists across the United States. A second generation of the Cheng family now runs the company, in many cases serving a second generation of the organization’s original customers.
Early history and experience in orthodontics
A native of Taiwan, Peter Cheng came to the United States in 1974 to work in a laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also trained to become a certified dental laboratory technician. He excelled in the program and was given the opportunity to train others to become dental laboratory technicians.
In 1982, with a six-year-old son and newborn triplets to support, Peter leveraged his extensive skills and experience to launch Peter Cheng Orthodontic Laboratories (PCL), a full-service laboratory originally located inside his home in Wynnewood, a western suburb of Philadelphia. He worked with a small team of talented technicians and served orthodontists in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. Several of those customers had additional specialty training in pediatric dentistry.
Cheng Crowns is born
Listening closely to his customers and their challenges, Peter recognized a need for an easier and more cosmetic way to restore a child’s smile than the plain stainless steel crowns or the difficult and tedious open-faced window restoration method in use in pediatric restorative dentistry at the time. He and his team had the experience, attention to detail, and hands-on skills necessary to design an alternative to the unattractive metal crowns and to fabricate them on a large enough scale to meet their customers’ needs. So, in 1987, he launched the Cheng Crowns division of PCL, offering aesthetic crowns in sizes appropriate for young patients. Those original resin-veneered stainless steel crowns, today known as Cheng Crowns Classic crowns, are still the leading choice of many clinicians, due to the crowns’ ease of use, appearance, and predictably reliable durability.
Demand drives growth
Response to the new aesthetic pediatric crowns was overwhelmingly positive. Within three years of launching the company, Peter moved it to a larger, dedicated space in nearby Havertown, PA, and hired additional technicians to meet the demand as word spread about Cheng Crowns. The orthodontic business also grew, as a result of its quick and reliable turnaround time, strong customer service, product durability, and fair pricing. By 1991, PCL had orthodontic customers from Maine to Hawaii.
The customer base for both Cheng divisions continued to grow. By 1995, it was necessary to move again to accommodate the larger team of technicians necessary to produce enough crowns to meet the increasing demand. A move from Havertown to Drexel Hill, PA doubled the lab’s size. And still the growth continued. In 2006, Cheng moved to a new site in Malvern, PA in Chester County, about 25 miles west of Philadelphia. In addition to providing more space for the company to grow in support of its customers’ needs, the Malvern location was better suited for efficient product shipments.
Following in the family footsteps
During breaks from school, Peter’s children often helped work in the lab. Today, his son Benjamin, one of the triplets, is Chief Operating Officer at Cheng Crowns, and Benjamin’s wife Anna is involved with the company managing regulatory affairs.
“I grew up in the laboratory. I was always interested in how things worked. I liked taking things apart and putting them back together. I liked making things,” says Benjamin.
In college, Benjamin studied business and economics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick, NJ. He later earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Eastern University in St. Davids, PA. On weekends and during academic breaks, he trained under his father.
“I always looked up to my father and admired the sacrifices he made to grow a successful business as an Asian minority and immigrant,” Benjamin says. “I knew I wanted to be involved in the business somehow.”
Benjamin learned every aspect of the business, including fabrication of both orthodontic appliances and pediatric crowns. He started working fulltime with his parents at PCL/Cheng Crowns in 2004.
A new line and a new logo
In the late 1990s/early 2000s, the growing availability of zirconia, a ceramic crown material that offers natural-looking translucency, and the accessibility of advanced digital CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) systems, led to another innovation: Cheng Crowns Zirconia, a line of pediatric crowns expertly crafted from monolithic zirconia. Introduced in 2012 and available in an array of sizes for pediatric patients, Cheng Crowns Zirconia crowns offer unmatched aesthetics, superior retention and reduced tooth preparation—qualities that make them popular with pediatric dentists, their young patients, and their patients’ parents.
“Unlike some other brands, we design and manufacture our zirconia crowns in-house,” Benjamin explains. “We use the highest-grade zirconia, which balances high flexural strength for durability with just the right amount of translucency for the most natural aesthetics.”
The new product line was followed in 2013 with a new branding campaign. Cheng Crowns unveiled a fresh new logo at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s (AAPD) 66th Annual Session, held in 2013 at Disney World in Orlando, FL. The new look complimented a new website and new marketing strategy recognizing Cheng Crowns’ leadership as the original brand in aesthetic pediatric crowns. As with everything Cheng does, the time and place of the debut was carefully considered.
Similar to Cheng Crowns, AAPD is committed to upholding the highest standards and ethics for patient safety for children’s oral health. Founded in 1947, they have more than 10,800 members. And the location of the conference was meaningful to the Cheng family.
“We have a tradition of going to Disney World in Orlando every year, so the 66th annual session meeting in Orlando seemed like the perfect time and place to show our new look,” Benjamin says.
And the innovation continues. In 2018, Cheng Crowns added narrow posterior crowns for primary teeth to its zirconia line.
“We wanted to provide dentists with a solution for overcrowding and/or back-to-back crowns, so we developed a narrow line of Zirconia first and second primary molars,” Benjamin notes.
Cheng Crowns today
Cheng crowns continues to innovate—and to grow. In 2015, the company moved to its current location, a 13,000-square-foot facility in Exton, PA.
“As we outgrew our previous space, we looked for a place that not only allowed us to meet the needs of our customers, but that would also allow us to expand and grow for decades to come,” said Benjamin.
In 2022, Cheng Crowns is celebrating 35 years of service to the pediatric dental community and their patients.
“It’s a great time to look back over our history and my father’s legacy and to look forward to the future,” says Benjamin Cheng. “We appreciate the support of the pediatric dental community over the past three and a half decades. Going forward, we will keep working hard, innovating, providing an exceptional product, and outstanding customer service so that we continue to be The Crowns Dentists Trust.”
To learn more, read The Cheng Crowns Story.