June 9, 2010
Despite the global economic recession in 2009, many exciting events took place in the dental computer-assisted design/computer-assisted manufacturing (CAD/CAM) industry. At the 33rd International Dental Show (IDS) held in Cologne, Germany in March 2009, a number of dental CAD/CAM manufacturers introduced a variety of new scanners and systems.
These new units are purported to speed up the dental restorative production process and increase the accuracy of the final dental restoration, and, as a result, reduce patient chair time. This allows dentists to treat a greater number of patients in the same amount of time. Consequently, we expect the adoption of dental CAD/CAM capital equipment will increase, as dental offices and laboratories look for ways to maximize profitability.
Although intraoral scanners have been available in the chairside CAD/CAM market for a number of years, the global market for these devices is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, different dental manufacturers continue to release new intraoral scanners, resulting in the ongoing promotion and dentist adoption of these devices.
The benefit of an intraoral scanner is that it replaces the traditional method of taking impressions that requires the use of putty-based material. Rather, intraoral scanners take digital impressions of the patient’s mouth through a number of images taken by a wand-like device. Consequently, the process is more comfortable for the patient and is purported to be more efficient and effective overall.
Sirona launched the first intraoral scanner with its CEREC line of chairside systems in 1987. Since then, other competitors, such as Cadent and D4D Technologies, have entered the market. 3M ESPE launched its Chairside Oral Scanner (C.O.S.) in the U.S. in 2008. The company made its official glob launch more recently at the 2009 IDS.
These four companies are expanding distribution of their intraoral scanners into global markets, and competition is expected to increase moving forward. There are already a handful of dental CAD/CAM and implant manufacturers looking to beta test their intraoral scanners in 2010 with an expected global launch in 2011 at the 34th IDS, also to be held in Cologne, Germany.
On the dental laboratory side, a number of new scanners and complete systems were introduced at the IDS. Some examples are Wieland Dental & Technik’s Zeno T1 and Renishaw’s incise system. One of the latest technological advancements introduced at the 2009 IDS was an impression scanning feature for scanners, which was displayed by 3Shape’s D700.
Prior to the introduction of impression scanning, dental lab technicians would create a positive mold of the dentist’s impression after receiving a physical model of the patient’s mouth. Impression scanning technology is purported to take the dentist’s impression of the patient’s mouth and scan that model directly. This would eliminate the need for the dental laboratory technician to create a positive model out of the dentist’s physical impression and thereby increase dental restoration workflow.
Another important technological advancement at the 2009 IDS was the introduction of Nobel Biocare’s NobelProcera scanner. Although this device does not currently include impression scanning capabilities, the company stated that the NobelProcera offers the possibility to implement impression scanning in the future. Utilizing the patented conoscopic holography technology obtained through Nobel Biocare’s partnership with Optimet, the new NobelProcera is purported to be easy to use and to increase accuracy through the ability to scan steep angulations and undercuts.
There is still debate around the validity and effectiveness of current impression scanning techniques, but the introduction of this technology is a positive step toward reducing the turnaround time on the dental restorations process and providing dental laboratories the potential to increase profitability.
The ongoing introduction of new dental CAD/CAM equipment and the promotion of the benefits of these devices will continue to help convince both dental offices and laboratories of the advantages of shifting toward the automation of processes in order to maximize potential profitability. As the adoption of these systems rises, market growth across the global dental CAD/CAM equipment market will reach double digit growth figure by 2014, according to Millennium Research Group’s Global Markets for Dental CAD/CAM Systems 2010.
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