Offshore Dentalwork Gains National Spotlight
A recent article published April 17, 2017, by Bloomberg.com and in the print magazine Businessweek focused on the “voracious market” in the US for dental restorations made overseas (insidedentaltech.com/idt950). Driven primarily by the growing number of group dental practices and private-equity dental networks, the article spotlights the impact offshoring is having on the US dental laboratory industry and how trade policy changes proposed by the administration on overseas imports may revive the US restorative market. The NADL acknowledges this is the first time in several years that any major news outlet has discussed the dental laboratory industry.
Bloomberg writer Jared S. Hopkins speculates on President Trump’s comments on tightening up foreign trade and whether or not the policy changes would make a difference in the American restorative market, which now imports about 40% of its implants, crowns, and bridges from countries such as China, Vietnam, and Mexico. These competitors significantly undercut domestic pricing, where crowns that cost hundreds in the US can be bought for about $25 apiece from overseas manufacturers.
New trade regulations might seem a welcome change to dental technology’s current situation. According to Department of Labor statistics provided by the NADL, the total number of laboratories, including one-person enterprises, has dropped by nearly half (41%) between 2008 and 2016. Similarly, the number of laboratories with a payroll has shrunk by 18% over the last 15 years.
However, any government crackdown on foreign-made imports would not likely be a complete game changer for US laboratories. As one laboratory owner was quoted as saying, “anything short of a 300% tax on teeth made abroad would still allow those producers to beat domestic prices handily.”
In its April memo to NADL members, the organization shared its response to the Bloomberg article. While it welcomes major media outlet attention on the offshore market, the organization believes there is room for improvement. Specifically, the article did not offer any information on the valuable role that laboratories and technicians play in dentistry as a whole and the need for transparency in the supply chain.
With a combined circulation of 600,000, Bloomberg and Businessweek are not consumer news outlets, and focus instead on macro business trends. Nonetheless, the NADL sees the publishing of this article as an opportunity to engage in further conversation by and with other media outlets.