US Dental Laboratory Market Update
Posted on June 14, 2013
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are just over 10,000 dental laboratories in the United States and 33,600 dental technicians. These numbers represent a 20% consolidation of both categories in the last two years. The market changes are a result of a number of factors: the economic downturn, competition from off shore dental laboratories, increased capital costs to operate a dental laboratory and natural attrition due an aging technician workforce. Over the next ten years, it’s predicted that that the number of U.S. dental laboratories could plateau at 7,000.
This shift in the domestic dental laboratory market is happening at a time when according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the demand for dental services is predicted to increase in the United States from $87 billion in 2005 to $167 billion by 2015. The ability of dentists to work with qualified dental laboratories domestically is paramount to good patient care.
The rapid change taking place in the dental laboratory industry has resulted in different skills for a dental technician. Recruitment of individuals into the profession now includes graduates of computer imaging schools, CAD/CAM light manufacturing vocational schools, and medical device technicians. There remains a need to recruit professionals with a strong artistic flair. These new skill sets are vastly different even from just ten years ago. With the increasing demand for dental services, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts the domestic technician workforce will begin to go up from current levels at 5-7% per year through 2015.
It’s important to note some of the key factors that are impacting the dentist/dental laboratory relationship:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration import trade data from 2010 for the dental laboratory industry classification code indicates that $1.32 billion in dental laboratory related sales was fulfilled by foreign dental laboratories. That represents 20% of U.S. sales and nearly 40% of actual restorations. Keep in mind, that a portion of that work is shipped direct by large dental group practices and some U.S. dental schools.
To open a dental laboratory in today’s market, can require a minimum capital investment of $200,000.00. In the early 1990’s, one could open a dental laboratory for less than $20,000.00.
The number of active ADA accredited dental laboratory technology programs at community colleges and universities have declined 62% since 1992.
Dental implants and digital impression systems, although a small piece of the restorative market are growing at 15-17% annually. The complexity of implants and the communication bridge that digital impressions provide requires an enhanced service level interface between dentists and dental technicians.