Digital dentistry in dental prosthetics is growing rapidly in the U.S.

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Digital dentistry in dental prosthetics is growing rapidly in the U.S.

(DTI/Graphic provided by iData Research)
Dr. Kamran Zamanian and Kathryn Mashevich

Dr. Kamran Zamanian and Kathryn Mashevich

Thu. 9 May 2013


Despite recovering from a formally recessed U.S. market, many patients continue to opt away from expensive, elective dental procedures. The market for dental prosthetics, encompassing crowns, bridges, inlays/onlays, veneers and dentures has remained relatively stable over the past couple of years. However, economy products such as monolithic restorations produced with CAD/CAM technology are driving unit sales.

Digital manufacturing allows laboratories to increase output while decreasing labor costs, permitting them to lower the cost of the final restoration and gain a competitive advantage. A monolithic Zirconia crown is priced at around $100, which is $50 less than a zirconia crown fabricated through traditional methods. Patients are choosing the most affordable dental prosthetics, which means monolithic restoration sales will continue to rise. Consequentially, laboratories and dental offices continue to go digital. In response, manufacturers of CAD/CAM technology are continuously innovating and releasing new products.

How significant is the trend toward all-ceramic and monolithic restorations in driving the CAD/CAM market?

Crowns and bridges total nearly 80 percent of the market of all dental prosthetics in the U.S. Since 2010, the unit share of all ceramic restorations of crowns and bridges has increased by 20 percent. The most popular ceramic materials today include zirconia, specifically Glidewells bruxZir, and lithium disilocate e-max by Ivoclar Vivadent.

Fortunately for patients, ceramic materials are consistently improving in strength and aesthetic quality, while decreasing in price. Today, zirconia is available in up to 16 different shades. The shift to all ceramic restorations is cannibalizing the porcelain fused to medal market (PFM), as gold and precious medals, such as palladium and platinum, continually undergo steep price increases. It’s estimated that by 2019, the majority of restorations will be fabricated from zirconia and glass ceramics, and the dominant share of the restorations will be monolithic.

What is new and exciting?

In response to the demand for monolithic restorations, 2012 demonstrated a number of new developments in digital dentistry. Intra-oral digital scanners are improving quickly to capture the eye of doctors who previously hesitated about working with new technologies. When intra-oral digital impression scanners first entered the market, they presented an opportunity to increase efficiency drastically in dental offices, however they also came with a steep learning curve for dentists and dental assistants.

The dentists needed to spend time learning how to use the technology correctly before increases in efficiency and productivity would be evident. Recent developments have addressed this inhibiter. The new iTero scanner from Cadent has been released, as well as 3Shapes new Trios system in Europe, and the Sirona Omnicam. These scanners are a lot less technical, simplifying the scanning process.

Marketing user-friendly scanners is the current strategy within intra-oral digital impression taking. Sirona is advertising the CEREC Omnicam as “scanning simplicity,” and 3Shape ensures to inform consumers that “scanning has never been easier,” when advertising their new Trios scanner. The Trios scanner is currently only available in Europe, but is expected to enter the North American market soon. Finally, even the new IOS FastScan from Glidewell laboratories, which recently purchased IOS Technologies, describes the “four easy steps” for using the scanner.

Not only are scanners becoming simpler to use, but they are more advanced overall. The scan no longer needs to be processed overseas before it can be sent to a U.S. dental laboratory. In addition, the click fee per scan has disappeared. The scanning process is faster, more efficient and less expensive. Furthermore, newer models are equipped with the ability to record video clips to present to the patient when prescribing treatments. Currently, unit volume for intra-oral digital impression-taking is expected to grow at a CAGR of almost 20 percent.

As intra-oral digital impression taking becomes more popular with dentists, laboratories will see a greater volume of digital files and will be more likely to invest in a CAD/CAM full in-laboratory system or scanning unit. Therefore, an increasing popularity of intra-oral digital impression scanners will help drive the entire CAD/CAM system market and also the market for rapid prototyping systems.

What is the fastest growing market segment?

CAD/CAM technology has moved into dentures. Global Dental Sciences LLC has developed AvaDent Digital Dentures, a complete CAD/CAM system used to produce removable dentures. Currently Avadent is the only firm using the new technology and laboratories have already expressed interest in buying should the device receive FDA approval. The denture market is expected to be the fastest growing segment in dental prosthetics over the next ten years. The combination of an aging population and an economic recession is leading patients toward removable dentures, which are more affordable than full implant solutions. Over the next few years, dentures will enter the digital world and be designed and milled with CAD/CAM technology. The manufacturing process will become faster and more accurate, similar to the way CAD/CAM has transformed the market for fixed prosthetics. Patients will be able to receive their dentures in only two appointments. Furthermore, with a permanent digital record of the denture, a broken denture can be fixed quickly.


Ceramic and monolithic restorations will significantly drive the CAD/CAM market over the long term as patients choose more affordable options. Within this $12 billion dollar market, numbers of intra-oral digital scanners will grow as dentists incorporate new user-friendly equipment into their practices. Dentures will prove to be the fastest growing market as baby boomers age.

Over the past century, the percentage of the U.S. population over the age of 65 has more than tripled. In general, mature markets such as the one for dental prosthetics, tend to grow at a similar rate to the overall economy. Although CAD/CAM technology has been used in the dental industry for over twenty years, recent developments are making the technology much more efficient and cost-effective, promising overall market growth.

Additional information is available

The information contained in this article is taken from a detailed and comprehensive global report series published by iData Research (, titled “U.S. Markets for Dental Prosthetics and CAD/CAM Devices.” For more information and a free synopsis of the above report, please contact iData Research at iData Research is an international market research and consulting firm focused on providing market intelligence for the medical device, dental and pharmaceutical industries.

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