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SEOUL, South Korea: With more than 3,000 different implants and abutments, Osstem Implant has the most diverse implant portfolio in the world. According to the innovation research and support centre for dental science at Seoul National University Dental Hospital, in the five years since 2017, Osstem Implant has sold the most implants in the world. Thanks to the Osstem Implant Research Institute, the company is on track towards becoming the top global implant company by 2026.
Established in 2002, the Osstem Implant Research Institute is an organisation that focuses on developing the mainstream products that drive the major sales of Osstem Implant. It employs over 40 researchers specialising in a variety of disciplines, including mechanical engineering, material engineering, medical engineering and prosthodontics. Like sculptors creating artwork by carving and polishing hard rocks, researchers at this prime research institute design the varied shapes of implants based on vast clinical data and scientific experiments, which can be tailored for diverse oral environments and placement conditions, depending on individual requirements.
Completion of an implant body requires physical design technologies, and aspects to consider include thread direction and angle, the combination of structure, odontoblastic strength and masticatory force, as well as chemical and biological surface technologies. Whereas many technologies are involved, the Osstem Implant Research Institute’s main focus is on developing physical design technologies.
Through its fatigue analysis laboratory, digital dentistry laboratory and mechanical engineering laboratory, the Osstem Implant Research Institute conducts multifaceted research and development projects, such as research on methods of easily and precisely placing implants, on ways of improving the durability of implants and on the development of surgical instruments that can help with the placement of implants even under difficult circumstances.
Outcomes of these research and development projects at the Osstem Implant Research Institute include entire Osstem Implant portfolio of implants, abutments, prostheses, drill kits and OneGuide, which is the company’s surgical guide for implant placement. The CEO of Osstem Implant, Dr Eom Tae-kwan, was the director of the Osstem Implant Research Institute during its early period.
Retaining strengths while mitigating shortcomings: Developing new short and narrow implants
In order to realise its goals for its vision for 2026, the Osstem Implant Research Institute is concentrating its efforts on research and development projects aimed at the three goals of developing implants that can overcome surgical limitations, improving the convenience for practitioners and strengthening the digital competitive edge.
As a part of the first goal, the institute is developing a new two-piece narrow implant to supplement the TS short implant system. These two products will be able to be used selectively, depending on the limitations of the implant placement environment. The short implant is used when the vertical bone mass of the upper and lower jaws’ alveolar bone is insufficient, and it enables the placement of an implant without having to perform a sinus lift. Having launched the short implant in 2011, Osstem Implant is developing short implant products of diverse sizes, taking advantage of the 13.6% growth in the short implant systems market in the five years since 2017.
The narrow MS implant is used for the mandibular anterior region where the width of the bone or interdental area is narrow and the tooth size is small, and it has an integrated structure with body and abutment not connected with a screw. Although its diameter is narrow, it can maintain strong stability, reducing the possibility of sinking, micro-movement or screw loosening.
The possibilities for prosthetic dentistry are relatively less diverse owing to its integrated structure. Stable healing might also be difficult in some cases, as two-stage surgery is impossible. The Osstem Implant Research Institute plans to launch new narrow two-piece implants in which the body and abutment are separated in order to deliver the strength of an MS implant while mitigating these shortcomings. The planned narrow implant will enhance the convenience of prosthetic dentistry by drastically improving the design of the implant body based on scientific analysis of the mandibular anterior region’s structure and tooth morphology while enabling assembly and replacement of diverse abutments.
Yoon Ji-hoon, director of the Osstem Implant Research Institute, said: “The TS implant has remained a steady seller around the world since its launch in 2010, because of the groundbreaking improvement in convenience of placement and its value in prosthetic dentistry. The TS implant can meet over 500 standard and special specifications, reflecting the needs of the market.” He added: “We are continuing to update new short implants and narrow implants according to market trends and customer demands.”
Smart ABT guides practitioners on choosing between stock products and customised products
The Osstem Implant Research Institute is concentrating its efforts not only on developing new implant bodies but also on designing new abutments. In general, Osstem Implant abutments are classified as either stock products or OneFit, which are individually customised digital abutments. To better target patients in which it is difficult to place stock abutments or impossible to customise them based on digital scanning, the institute is developing the Smart ABT system based on big data, and it expects to launch the new system towards the end of this year at the earliest.
Smart ABT is a system of developing and recommending to practitioners the most optimal abutments for individual needs based on certain criteria, such as sex, age, location of implant placement and condition of the tissue. It can provide convenience in surgery to dentists and stability to patients, as it can adjust to the varied oral environments, placement conditions and other variables of each case more easily than can stock abutments. The Osstem Implant Research Institute has used all available methodologies and technologies to develop Smart ABT, including using CT data to predict early osseointegration and specifications of implants and abutments, as well as an algorithm developed to recommend the most optimal abutment for patients.
Senior researchers visit dental clinics to examine customers’ understanding of OneGuide
In pursuit of continued excellence, researchers at the Osstem Implant Research Institute are striving to find out whether their products provide substantial help to customers in treating patients.
“Our senior researchers recently visited dental clinics in order to examine whether customers fully understand and utilise the surgical guide for extra-short implants using OneGuide,” said Nam Wu-chang, principal researcher at the institute. “It is important to continue this process of field inspection and explanation of the technique guides for relatively newer products or those that are yet to be widely distributed. To enhance customers’ understanding of future-oriented products, such as OneGuide, that are leading the digital transformation of the dental industry, researchers will continue to visit treatment sites. In the future, researchers will provide opportunities to meet with customers in other countries, preferentially those in large markets such as China, the US and Russia.”
To evaluate the success of OneGuide in improving the clinical proficiency of novice dentists, the Osstem Implant Research Institute recently started a joint research project with the medical and dental devices usability test centre at the Seoul National University Dental Hospital. The research seeks to identify the average time it takes to achieve the level of proficiency required for achieving sophisticated clinical outcomes in highly difficult procedures, such as surgery for anterior teeth, maxillary sinuses and edentulous jaws, when using OneGuide.
OneGuide is a strategic product that will be available in overseas markets after all 30 overseas subsidiaries receive approval from local regulatory authorities. The results of a survey being conducted in conjunction with the centre is expected to help OneGuide spearhead the popularisation of implants in countries where fewer dentists can provide implant surgery and where the extent of understanding of digital products is lower than in South Korea.
Challenging the status quo: All research projects start with customer input
To better reinforce research capabilities and to enhance existing products and product development, the Osstem Implant Research Institute seeks to obtain customer opinions through three major programmes. These are visits to clinical sites, free discussion sessions at Thursday and Friday seminars, and solutions meetings.
In addition, last year, the Osstem Implant Research Institute conducted a survey regarding product competitiveness in 6,575 dental clinics selected from those in South Korea which had purchased TS implants. Yoon Ji-hoon commented: “We are making an effort, by visits to clinical sites and arranging discussions, to listen to the critical voices of customers, even for our steady sellers. These efforts are in line with our research philosophy that good things are the enemies of better things.”
After four years of research and development, clinical tests and customer satisfaction surveys, the KS implant system is 2.4 times stronger than previous products in fatigue fracture toughness and has been available since May in Western and Eastern European countries, including the UK, France, Italy, the Czech Republic and Poland.
Meanwhile, ranking in the top place unwaveringly for the longest period in the implant market in South Korea and in the global market in sales volume, Osstem Implant owns clinical data as vast as its sales performance. The goal is to use this enormous amount of data to develop superior products while providing a data service that can be searched by customers. To this end, the Osstem Implant Research Institute is developing an implant identification search service jointly with the artificial intelligence (AI) development team at the in-house software product development institute. The AI program will automatically detect the kind and type of implant in an image from intra-oral and CT scans uploaded by the dentist. It will also provide product-related information in detail and in FAQs and link with online purchasing services. Osstem Implant expects to launch the AI-based search service in October.
Osstem Implant has invested 11% of its revenue in research and development programmes annually and will intensify environmental, social and governance management in the research and development area. For instance, in conjunction with other companies and government organisations, Osstem Implant participated in developing plasma-dissolving process technology, which can reduce process stages and manufacturing costs by recycling the residual material after processing of the titanium used in implants. When it is developed, the new technology is expected to be applied in the dental industry, as well as for producing orthopaedic medical devices and consumer goods such as spectacle frames and kitchen appliances.
More information about the Osstem Implant Research Institute can be found at osstem.com.