Much has been reported about the rapid growth of the cosmetic dental industry in the U.S. and around the world. This segment of dentistry encompasses dental procedures or products that change and improve the look of a person’s teeth, gums, or bite. The focus of cosmetic dentistry is the improvement of tooth position, color, alignment, shape, and size, working towards a better-looking smile overall. Dentist ranging from general dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons, periodontists to prosthodontists have benefited financially from the increased demand for cosmetic procedures by patients of all age groups.
Millenials and boomers fuel the market
Last year, cosmetic dentistry in the United States generated an estimated $16 billion in revenue. The growth in demand has been fueled mainly by two groups of patients, millennials and baby boomers, with millennials accounting for a growing portion of this revenue (source). Since the millennials have surpassed the baby boomers as the largest generation in the USA population, it would be expected their percentage of revenue to continue to increase over coming years.
The motivations for cosmetic dental procedures by these groups are similar in wanting to improve their appearance. Boomers want to maintain a youthful appearance opting for veneers, implants, and contouring while Millennials are opting for traditional whitening, orthodontia, or even more exotic procedures to include enhancing their smiles with “dental bling”—crystal and gold jewelry that is applied to teeth.
Aging baby boomers who have more financial resources are expanding the market for more dental products. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons has estimated that 69% of adults between the ages of 35 and 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth. The increased focus on aesthetics has led to a growing number of adults seeking tooth replacement options such as dentures, crowns, bridges, and implants. They want to keep their smiles aesthetically pleasing and are willing to use more of their discretionary income on cosmetic treatments and procedures.
Millennials, along with GenXers, are the first generations to grow up with home computers later evolving into mobile forms of digital communications. Since much of their social interaction with others—many they have never met—is through social media and other forms of digital communications, this places an importance on their online persona and image. The proliferation of selfies and other digital images of themselves that supports their online image has driven the desire to have an attractive smile.
The growing focus on cosmetic dentistry is not isolated to the United States. In fact, one report forecasts that the global cosmetic dentistry market is expected to reach $27.95 billion by the year 2024. The demand for cosmetic dentistry across the nation—and even worldwide—represents the newest growth sector in dentistry. As many dental practitioners have already noticed, increasing numbers of millennial patients are requesting cosmetic services and dental products to enhance their smiles and celebrate their individuality.
Organizations like the Academy of Osseointegration, an organization comprised of dental clinicians in the fields of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, Periodontology, and Prosthodontics, whose mission is to advance the science of implant dentistry, has seen a continued increase in attendance at their annual conference as interest in dental implants grows around the world. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, a group dedicated to advancing the science of cosmetic dentistry, has more than 18,000 Twitter followers. These organizations garner interest in their educational programs as the overall interest in cosmetic dentistry grows.
Advances in digital technology in the dental office have aided in the growth of cosmetic dentistry. With new advances in dental design technology systems, dentists report spending more time on the computer than they do actually working on patients. These design systems can be used for a variety of cosmetic purposes, such as mapping a patient’s teeth using 3D graphics to better visualize where implants or other dental products might be used. Companies like Clear Choice® Dental Implant Centers, who operates 32 clinics across the country, offers “new teeth in just one day” due to their use of digital technologies. The company’s use of 3D intraoral scanning systems coupled with on-site laboratory for creating prosthetic teeth speeds up the process for a patient to achieve a desirable smile.
At Boyd Industries, the company closely monitors advances in digital technology in the dental office. The future of dental 3D printing is most interesting. Companies like Stratasys and EnvisionTEC are advancing the science to fabricate crowns, bridges, retainers, orthodontic appliances, and other dental devices. Although materials like ceramics or zirconium are still widely used for replacement teeth, advances in printable polymers will make 3D printed teeth more desirable. Boyd has begun to design laboratory cabinetry to accommodate many models of 3D printers.
Aside from investing in digital technologies, Boyd suggests investing in attractive, ergonomically-designed operatory equipment will benefit practices. According to findings by Wells Fargo, Dental Office Design Competition, updating dental operatory equipment will improve the comfort of the patient, doctor, and staff; communicates a sense of “care” to the patient; and projects a level of excellence and professionalism about the practice. Practices making these investments will positively differentiate themselves from those unwilling to upgrade their offices. A study conducted by the CDA found that using leading-edge technology and building an attractive office are significant cues to patients about the superior competence of the dental team. The perceived competence leads to higher patient satisfaction and their willingness to pay more for services, increased demand for services, and a driver of new business.
The bottom line
In summary, the cosmetic dental industry in the USA is expanding based on demographic shifts as the numbers of baby boomers and millennials continue to peak. Also, contributing to the growth are advances in digital technologies and the increasing number of practices offering procedures associated with creating attractive smiles. Companies who supply this important market need to stay current with technologies and trends to support the doctors and staff as they meet the future patient demand.