April 2015
Volume 6, Issue 1

Rapid Growth for DENTURE MARKET

How can the industry meet the demand?

Pam Johnson

Automated manufacture of removable prosthetic appliances has emerged at a critical juncture in the evolution of the dental technology industry and the rising demographic of the patient population base. These factors coupled with prevailing economic conditions are impacting the current and future market for removable prosthetics and have market researchers predicting rapid growth in this segment. In the US, the market for removable prosthetics is projected to be one of the fastest-growing segments in the dental industry over the next 2 decades. An aging Baby Boomer population base in conjunction with the increased life expectancy of the adult population and a slow economic recovery are the primary drivers behind these rapid growth projections. However, looming in the shadows is the aging out of skilled and knowledgeable removable technicians and the reduced removable curriculum in dental schools, a combination that is creating a vacuum of applicable knowledge and skills.

Current estimates hold that 20.5% of adults in the US over the age of 65 have lost all of their natural teeth due to tooth decay or gum disease. Another 178 million are missing at least one or more teeth. The numbers of adults in the US who are missing teeth will only increase as the average life expectancy moves upward from 78.9 years to a projected 79.5 years by 2020. This increase in average life expectancy along with the aging of the 79 million US Baby Boomers and their “forever young” mindset will boost the demand for precision-made removable prosthetic appliances for decades to come as their well-preserved natural dentitions begin to deteriorate. In 2012, the US denture market was valued at more than $2.6 billion, with nearly 2.5 million full denture units sold. The market is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.9% to exceed $3.6 billion by 2019.

The challenge facing the dental industry will be its ability to meet the increased demand for precision-made removable prosthetics using traditional prescription and fabrication processes. Not only is the aging out of the dental laboratory industry creating a vacuum of experienced denture technicians, but also the reduced curriculum for removable prosthetics in dental schools is producing generations of graduates not well schooled in removable prosthetic principles. While the dental technology industry remains populated with disproportionate numbers of crown and bridge technicians, leaving the removable arena to a much smaller number of older technicians, the clinical side of dentistry finds itself equally challenged in terms of fading knowledge and skill levels.

Adding to dentistry’s challenge are the esthetic and functional expectations of today’s patients. Unlike previous generations, the Baby Boomer generation and those that follow expect dentistry to restore their former natural function and esthetics completely. They will be less patient with the tedious five-to-six appointment protocol and waiting times inherent in the current laboratory and clinical diagnostic and treatment process. Tediously labor-intensive, both clinically and technically, the traditional removable restorative process remains fraught with inconsistencies and imperfections, all of which will become increasingly less tolerated by patients who desire to maintain their busy work, family, and social lives.

The advent of CAD/CAM–produced full and partial dentures promises to help eliminate these challenges. The automated process will also help the 40% of laboratories that currently do not offer denture services provide this service to their customers.

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