Mixed trends stir dentistry majors

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Trends in dental sales varied widely in the first quarter of 2024, as did the performance of the industry’s leading manufacturers. (Image: Artfilmphoto/Shutterstock)

LEIPZIG, Germany: The first quarter of 2024 has yielded mixed results for dental companies. Leading dental laser provider BIOLASE experienced a 22% drop in its US laser revenue, and global distributor Henry Schein reported a decrease in sales of dental consumables in North America. Meanwhile, Dentsply Sirona increased its business in China by 53%, and Align Technology announced a record shipment in the coveted teens clear aligner category. The following report looks at how the largest manufacturers fared during the period amid restraint from clinicians, patients and dental support organisations (DSOs).

Dentsply Sirona takes a cautious stance

First-quarter net sales of US$953.0 million (€882.8 million*) at Dentsply Sirona represented a year-on-year decline of 2.6% and 1.9% negative organic growth—for which currency fluctuations and other non-sales-related factors are excluded. Sales increased by 1.5% in the US and declined by 5.2% and 4.4% in Europe and the company’s remaining markets, respectively.

Looking at its segmented results, Dentsply Sirona recorded global year-on-year sales declines of 6.9% for its connected technology solutions segment and of 5.9% for its essential dental solutions segment. Sales increases of 4.4% and 5.4% were posted for its orthodontic and implant solutions segment and its Wellspect Healthcare business, respectively.

As forecasted by market research firm iData, China’s volume-based procurement of dental implants boosted Asia Pacific sales in the first quarter of this year. (Image: GaroManjikian/Shutterstock)

Simon Campion, CEO of Dentsply Sirona, told analysts that organic sales were mostly flat during the period, except in Germany, where survey results showed that procedure utilisation and dentist outlook had improved. Sharing more of the company’s market intelligence, Campion said that dentists in Australia continued to exhibit some negative sentiment about market conditions, that patient volumes had declined in Japan and were stable in China and that Canadian patients seemed to have delayed treatment during the period, owing to the phased roll-out of the country’s new dental plan.

“We are taking a cautious stance here with the macro uncertainties that continue to impact parts of our business, most notably imaging,” Campion said.

Glenn Coleman, Dentsply Sirona’s chief financial officer (CFO), alerted investors to the company’s first-quarter highlights—53% sales growth in China, a 14% increase in global clear aligner sales and 9% growth in CAD/CAM—all of which were offset by declines in sales of imaging equipment. Global sales of SureSmile clear aligners increased by 9% and the company’s direct-to-consumer aligner, Byte, grew by 18%, bucking a negative trend in the demand for at-home aligner systems.

Align Technology ships more teen cases than ever before

The maker of Invisalign had the first quarter it needed after a run of disappointing results in 2023. Sales at the company reached US$997.4 million, a 5.8% year-on-year increase. Clear aligner revenues, at US$817.3 million, were up by 3.5%, and those from imaging systems and CAD/CAM services increased by 17.5% to reach US$180.2 million.

First-quarter shipments of clear aligners increased by 2.4% year on year to reach 605,060. At 199,200, Align’s teen shipments were up by 5.8% and greater than in any quarter previously.

CEO Joseph Hogan told investors that Align had achieved a number of milestones during the period, such as the acquisition of Cubicure, a leader in direct 3D-printing solutions, which Align hopes will revolutionise its production process. The company also launched the Invisalign palatal expander system in the US and Canada, and Hogan said that it was one of the most significant innovations in the company’s 27-year history.

Straumann Group posts 15% organic growth

Yang Xu, CFO of Straumann Group, told analysts in the company’s earnings call that the multinational had had a “solid quarter”. Sales of CHF 643.8 million (€660.8 million*) represented year-on-year growth of 8.1%, or 15.1% on an organic basis.

Straumann had minor year-on-year revenue declines in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and the North America regions, where sales decreased by 0.9% and 2.3%, respectively. However, all regions returned organic sales increases: 5.2% in EMEA, 3.7% in North America and 11.5% in Latin America. Straumann banked CHF 130.8 million from sales in the Asia Pacific region, representing a 63.7% increase in revenue and an 82.0% increase in organic sales. This strong year-on-year growth is partly due to the company’s comparatively weak performance in the region in the first quarter of 2023.

“We still see headwinds in the doctor-led direct-to-consumer [clear aligner] business.”—Guillaume Daniellot, CEO, Straumann Group

Guillaume Daniellot, CEO at Straumann, remarked that the company’s performance in China had been a highlight of the quarter. He said that Straumann’s business in the burgeoning dental market continues to grow, having gained momentum last year, when the company doubled its implant shipments compared with 2022.

EMEA remains Straumann’s largest market, and regional sales to clinicians of the ClearCorrect aligner brand increased by double digits during the period. ClearCorrect performed well in the North America and the Asia Pacific regions, contributing to strong orthodontic sales in established markets such as the US, Australia and Japan and in emerging markets such as Vietnam and India.

“On the challenging side, we still see headwinds in the doctor-led direct-to-consumer business, namely DrSmile,” Daniellot said, citing persisting macroeconomic challenges among consumers. He said that Straumann had shifted from paid marketing to organic demand generation for DrSmile and had achieved 3.7% growth in North America, despite a “softening market”.

Amir Aghdaei led Envista and its dental companies for nearly a decade and was succeeded by Paul Keel on 1 May. (Image: Envista Holdings)

Envista says patients will prioritise dental care

In Amir Aghdaei’s last earnings call as Envista CEO, and his successor’s first, the outgoing chief said that the quarter had proved challenging and resulted in modest growth. Envista earned US$623.6 million in sales during the period, some US$3 million less than a year earlier. Core sales (for which the impact of foreign currencies and acquisitions are excluded) were flat, at 0.4% growth, and a year-on-year gain in operating expenses led to a US$24 million drop in operating profit.

Addressing Envista’s double-digit decline in North America in the prior quarter, Aghdaei said that aggressive and proven steps had been taken to return to growth in the region, including investing in implant and clear aligner sales and training over 3,000 dental professionals. First-quarter growth in North America eluded the company, despite strong orthodontic sales led by Spark aligners and a stabilisation of demand in diagnostics.

Envista CFO Stephen Keller said that first-quarter sales in the company’s developed markets had declined by 1.7% and that the sales declines seen in North America and Western Europe were similar in size. “Our emerging markets grew 10.2% in the quarter with very strong growth in China, offset by continued volatility in Russia as well as weaker demand in Latin America,” Keller added.

Succeeded by Paul Keel on 1 May, Aghdaei led Envista and its dental companies—previously under the Danaher banner—for nearly ten years. The widely respected CEO said that the company continues to see mixed trends across dental markets, despite a largely stable macroeconomic environment. He explained: “Overall, patient traffic remains resilient; however, demand appears to be [tending] more towards basic hygiene and restorative treatments. Demand for higher-end specialty procedures, including adult orthodontic cases and full-arch implant restorations, remains more muted [and] private practice clinicians and DSOs remain cautious about near-term investments in both equipment and clinic level inventories.” Aghdaei added: “Long-term, we are confident that patients will prioritise dental care and that clinicians will proactively invest in areas that help them digitise their practice, making them more productive and ensuring that they can provide high-quality personalised care.”

Editorial note:

* Calculated on the Oanda platform for 31 March 2024.

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