With Japan’s aging population and rising public awareness about advanced dental treatment, dental aesthetics and preventive dental care, the dental device and material market in Japan is expected to show steady positive growth in the next few years. U.S. is the leading exporter of dental devices, the second leading exporter of dental materials, and is estimated to hold around a 30 percent share of the import market. As is the case for medical devices, Japan’s imports of dental devices and materials exceed its exports, and this trend is expected to continue. Thus, Japan continues to be an important profit center for U.S. dental device and material manufacturers. Advanced digital imaging equipment such as panoramic dental imaging systems, dental implant materials, advanced dental laboratory technologies such as CAD/CAM systems, preventive technologies, etc., have good sales potential. That being said, the Japanese market is not easy to enter due to cumbersome regulatory requirements and local competition.
The dental device and material market has been growing steadily over the past five years. While the market is not growing rapidly it is expected to show steady positive growth in the next few years due to Japan’s aging population and rising public awareness about advanced dental treatment, dental aesthetics and preventive dental care. As Japan’s population is aging, there has been increasing emphasis on good oral health. In December 2000, the Japan Dental Association proposed the establishment of the “8020 Promotion Foundation” which encourages Japanese people to keep 20 or more of their own teeth until the age of 80. The foundation has been very active in promoting better oral health among the Japanese population over the past ten years. Multiple studies have shown that people with periodontal diseases were more likely to develop some other physical diseases when compared to people without periodontal diseases. A special Foundation study on oral health and aspiration pneumonia showed that better oral health care could prevent aspiration pneumonia among elderly bedridden people. Also, with Japan’s aging population, the number of people aged 35 or above (especially between the ages of 55 and 74) are expected to have increasing high dental consultation needs since people in that age group have the most need for dental care according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW).
In addition to the market demand from an aging society, there has been an increased perceived need to straighten teeth, correct overbites or prevent bad breath. In 2007, the Japanese Association for Dental Science and the Japan Dental Trade Association issued the “Dental Device Industry Vision”. The Dental Industry Vision showed a changing consciousness among Japanese people regarding their oral health. The Vision stated that the ratio of people who are satisfied with their oral health is limited to about 45 percent, whereas the ration of people who are satisfied with their general health is closer to 70 percent. Teeth color, teeth alignment, bad breath, etc., have been reported as major sources of discontent regarding oral health. The report further stated that almost 80 percent of Japanese think it necessary to have regular checkups at dental clinics, although the number of people who actually have regular checkups is as low as 25 percent. Also according to the report, more than 55 percent of Japanese are willing to consider dental treatments that are not covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI). In other words, people are willing to consider paying more for advanced dental work such as dental implants, orthodontics, etc. In addition, “home dentistry”, where the dentist visits invalids at home to provide dental care, will also increase due to Japan’s aging population.
By Hiroyuki Hanawa