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Prof. Tomas Linkevičius
Dr Cooper, you’re no stranger to China. What is your experience of the dental implant market here?
Dr Lyndon Cooper: I thought I knew quite a lot about China from the students who’d been to my laboratory, but my first trip to China was very, very interesting, as I had expected to see dentistry emerging—but dentistry and implant dentistry were already there. And, in fact, the practices I’ve visited on my trips there are all brand new. And the dentists are very young. It’s the youth and the newness of implant dentistry in China that’s most striking. It’s a country and a community of professionals on the go.
How quickly is the Chinese dental implant market growing and why?
Claire Li: It is growing very fast. Different sources estimate a growth rate between 15 and 30 per cent in the coming years, and the market is likely to exceed US$700 million by 2020. The main markets for premier dental implant growth are the developed cities in the coastal areas as well as the capital cities of our interior provinces. Why is the dental implant market growing so rapidly in China today? Firstly, as the economy grows, more and more people are willing to spend money on oral health. Secondly, people are more familiar with the benefits of implant-supported dental restorations. Thirdly, the number of dentists who offer implant dentistry is growing as well.
Dr Yi Man: Patients are better informed today; they know about dental implants. This has made not only the patients but also the Chinese dentists accustomed to and comfortable with implant treatment.
Cooper: From my point of view as a visitor, the Chinese implant dentistry community has a very engaged and passionate atmosphere. There’s a vibe that you can certainly feel; there’s a pulse; people are engaged and they are asking important questions in order to incorporate the next and best thing in their own practices. It’s really remarkable!
From a scientific point of view, do you see a demand in the Chinese market to continue with evidence-based research?
Man: We still need to do a lot of research, because every day brings new challenges. We have already had a lot of cases, but we need to improve the process and make it repeatable—for this reason, research is crucial. Also, we need to be open-minded about changing our routines in response to new research. I try to incorporate all the latest knowledge into my treatment protocol—knowledge gained both from the implant industry and from the dental field in China, which continuously produces new and improved research. This makes my treatment better and safer. So, I think research will continue to be important for improving dental implant treatment in China.
Li: I agree. Awareness in this field is increasing every day and that’s all for the better. Quite a number of brands come and go, but more and more dentists in China are becoming aware of the importance of a scientifically proven product with a long history. When you tell an implant dentist about your product’s benefits today, quite often they will ask you to supply them with documentation that proves it. Soon the patients will become aware too, demanding high-quality implants with a scientifically proven history. Therefore, evidence-based research is essential for success on the Chinese market today and in the future.
Speaking of the future, five to ten years from now, what can we expect from implant treatment in China and elsewhere?
Man: One main difference will be in the area of efficiency. Today, our patients have to visit us at least four or five times for one treatment. In the future, the treatment routine will be performed faster and also with more predictability. In five to ten years, it will all be digital and we will be able to see the placement of implants and the restoration immediately in a virtual set-up. I think that’s already rapidly changing every day.
Li: Yes, digitalisation will take over. It’s both easier and saves time. I also believe that smart solutions will conquer smart products because the products are only a part of the solution. Moreover, chairside workflows will be used for simple work and clinic-to-lab workflows for more complex cases, because the equipment for clinics and labs are different. And, lastly, aesthetics and function will go hand in hand for the simple reason that fewer and fewer people, patients and dentists alike, will accept a bad smile.
Cooper: Yes, fully digital. Digital dentistry is our future. Digital dentistry, compared with analogue, is better. It’s accurate and it enhances communication beyond what can be achieved using analogue technologies. Most people come to our clinics not asking for a dental implant; they come asking for teeth. But patients don’t really want their teeth back; they want better teeth. So, aesthetics will always be important. To achieve a balance between aesthetics, function and health, we have to be cautious. That’s why comprehensive treatment planning and bringing several minds together in a digital platform are key to success.