Dental Schools Driving CAD/CAM Acceptance in the $180 Million Japanese Digital Dentistry Market


Lately, the term "CAD/CAM" is being thrown around a lot in the dental industry. What people may not know is that this increasingly popular technology is not exactly a recent discovery. Dental CAD/CAM prototypes were actually introduced into the industrial setting in the 1950s and 1960s, but were limited by the computer power at the time.

Traditionally, all-ceramic devices were handmade, time-consuming and was a labor-intensive process. With CAD/CAM, a digital scan of the patient’s mouth is performed and is then viewed using CAD software, where the technician can design the restoration to be milled or make adjustments in real time. Not only is this process much less labor intensive than the traditional, it also reduces human error, as well as patient chair time.

Since the 1960s, the world has seen major technological advances, and we are now fully equipped to work with the CAD/CAM framework. As a result, dental markets across the world have begun to pick-up on this new, highly efficient technology and integrate it into their current systems. Dental practices in Japan, however, have been slower to adopt CAD/CAM technology, compared to other developed economies.

Although slower than its counterparts, the Japanese digital dentistry market is still expected to experience strong growth at a compound annual rate of 8.4%, driven by the continuing transition from non-CAD/CAM dental prosthetics to CAD/CAM-produced prosthetics. This will drive the 2017 market value of $180 million USD to exceed $317 million by 2024.

As with any new technology introduced, there will be some dentists and laboratory technicians who are hesitant to adopt the technology into their businesses. In particular, established dental professionals, who are accustomed to conventional methods, will be reluctant to convert to computer-aided or automated systems that would require additional time to re-train staff and integrate new products to their daily practice. However, CAD/CAM technology is being integrated into the curriculums of modern dental schools, allowing newer generations of dentists and technicians to introduce the technology as they replace the older generations.

Dental students are also now trained on, and tend to have a preference towards, ceramics. As new graduates and younger dentists displace the older generation of practicing dentists, the total number of restorative procedures that involve the more expensive ceramic-based materials (relative to metal, which is favored by the older generation) will increase, reinforcing the positive growth in the overall Japanese digital dentistry market.

By Ms. Jacqueline Ding and Mr. Jeffrey Wong of iData Research