Amid the recent adoption of anti-pandemic measures, dentists haven’t practiced for a while and smiles have been often hiding behind masks. Together with the ongoing vaccination campaigns and the recovery of economies, dental practices are now open for all treatments and patients are picking up their postponed dental care. That includes orthodontics and esthetic dentistry.
Malocclusion is one of the most prevalent clinical dental conditions, affecting 60% to 75% of the global population. Annually, approx. 15 million people in major developed countries elect treatment by orthodontists. Most patients are treated with the use of traditional methods such as metal arch wires and brackets and may be augmented with elastics, metal expanders, headgear or functional appliances. Of the 15 million annual global orthodontic cases started, it’s estimated that approx. 90% or 13.5 million could be treated using an innovative device: clear aligners.
At a comparable price, the technology corrects malocclusion using a series of clear, nearly invisible, removable appliances that progressively move teeth to a desired final position. Because it does not rely on the use of metal or ceramic brackets and wires, aligners significantly reduce the aesthetic and other limitations associated with braces. An initial digital intraoral scanning is required, which enable the dental practitioner to create a 3D image of a patient's teeth using a handheld intraoral scanner. Digital scanning is proved to be faster, more efficient, precise and comfortable for patients than traditional dental impressions. The treatment is then powered by a digital platform of clinical data, with AI machine learning and digital tools to help doctors efficiently communicate with their patients, show and explain any issues, and visualize potential treatment outcomes in advance.
However, it’s not only about patients. More and more doctors are experiencing benefits of the innovative treatment by transforming their practices with digital orthodontics for chairside treatment planning and visualization. Treatments with clear aligners requires on average 30% fewer doctor visits than fixed appliances, creating efficiency gains for the doctors in addition to a better patient experience.
The clear aligners segment is currently estimated at USD 3.2bn and is expected to grow more than 20% p.a. in the next five years. With direct-to-patient likely to outpace conventional approach, globally a total of approx. 500 million people with malocclusion could benefit from straightening their teeth with clear aligners. Invisalign of Align Technology is the current leader with more than 11 million patients to date and expanding into the teen and pre-teen space. Other companies such as Straumann, Henry Schein, Dentsply Sirona, Danaher and 3M are in the strong position to address the market and benefit from it. Although it requires a critical development of proprietary methods, polymers and digital platforms, some of the players can leverage on an already existing manufacturing capacity and a large network of dentists to rump up the adoption.
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