WHO IS MICHAEL CLARK
Michael Clark is Senior Vice President of Domestic Sales and Marketing for The Argen Corporation. Michael has been a part of Argen’s team since 2014 and received his Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Ohio State University.
His passions away from work include spending time with his wife and son, weight lifting, motorcycle riding, golf, and college athletics. He loves giving back to his community and is involved with several charities and associations.
WHAT IS THE ARGEN CORPORATION
Argen is a global leader in digital dentistry and manufacturing gold alloys and zirconia. For over 50 years, they have been a trusted partner to dental labs worldwide and are committed to producing and delivering high-quality products. Their products include Anterior Clear Aligner Design, Full Arch Clear Aligner Design, Argen Final Retainer, Argen Splint, and Argen Nightguard.
In addition, Argen is highly advanced in technology. They are the largest milling and 3D printing company serving the dental lab industry. With a 95,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, they house more than 100 3D printing and milling machines.
Furthermore, computer and information technology (IT) is key at The Argen Corporation. IT allows all parts to be tracked in the manufacturing process through the use of barcodes, laser marks, and advanced cameras. This kind of software and hardware allows Argen to “error-proof” the process. “The most successful aligner manufacturing companies have the most complex and robust IT backbone.”
Argen works alongside industry-leading scanner and design partners such as 3Shape and FullContour to fabricate clear aligners through a digital workflow. The innovative aligner workflow combines 3Shape’s Trios intraoral scanner, FullContour’s design services, and Argen’s milling and 3D printing. Argen’s Chief Executive Officer Anton Woolf stated, “Manufacturing clear aligners is one more way we enable dental labs to offer in-demand services to their customers and underscores our commitment to supplying dental labs with opportunities to expand their product and service offering.”
Based on reports from the Grand View Research Group, Michael shared statistics on the Global Clear Aligners Market. The Research Group found that the size of Clear Aligners reached $4.7 billion USD (United States Dollars) in 2021 with North America dominating the global share at 57.3%. The North American market is forecasted to grow 29.3% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from 2022 to 2030 and is expected to reach a revenue of $23.3 billion USD. “Doctor-directed Clear Correct aligners witnessed more than 60% case growth in North America, indicating high demand and adoption in the region.”
Demand for clear aligners is mainly a result of the increased prevalence of global dental diseases, such as caries and tooth decay, periodontal disease, and malocclusion.
Grand View Research also reported a spike in the demand for clear aligners correlating to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in social media usage. During the beginning of the pandemic, spending in the dental industry was down dramatically, except for areas concerning clear aligners. According to the American Dental Association, US dental spending was down by 38% in 2020, while the aligner market grew by 5.3% in the same year. Stress and teeth grinding lead to an increased need for treatment–consisting of such appliances.
“Invisalign system has served around 9.6 million individuals globally with 2.4 million teens, Align Technology reported that its sales of clear aligners increased by 37% in the third quarter of 2020 and this increase was driven by social media.”
Traditional Orthodontics vs. Aligners
Despite the major growth opportunity for clear aligners, Grand View also found that the Orthodontics market was still dominated by traditional appliances. Reports showed that stand-alone practices held the largest revenue share of at least 50% in 2021 and that approximately 4 million people in the United States are wearing braces. Of that population, 25% are adults, but the teenage age group is expected to see the highest growth during the forecast period up to 2030.
The main disadvantage of clear aligners is their high cost. According to Healthline, the average cost of aligners dramatically exceeds the cost of metallic and ceramic braces. Clear aligners can cost anywhere from $3,000 USD to $8,000 USD and is not usually covered by insurance.
However, with traditional braces, treatment time may require more time and the cost can sometimes exceed $5,000 USD.
While there are many small players such as Voodoo and Candid, the clear aligners market is dominated by big players such as:
Additionally, we have seen new partnerships between companies such as CVS and Smile Direct Club who have worked together to set up scanning locations. Another example is Zimmer Biomet and Align, which have partnered on scanner distribution.
Changes in the Orthodontics Industry
Thanks to advancements in technology, clear aligners are now seeing an average of 5-10 days in terms of turnaround time. Previously, companies such as Align used to turn cases in about 4 weeks. However, the industry is also seeing fewer stages marketed, which is a large factor in the change of turnaround. Now, a treatment plan usually consists of about 6 aligner stages–66% fewer than there previously were.
In the future, the aligner industry is expecting to see even more technological advancements and automation. Robotics and conveyance will increase, as well as partnerships between equipment manufacturers. As Michael said, “Automation will separate the serious players from the dabblers.” Technology is the future as it helps to keep labor costs down and consistency up.
What are Argen Clear Aligners?
Aligners by Argen are clear, nearly invisible orthodontic appliances that are a form of dental braces for adjusting teeth. Patients are meant to wear a series of plastic mouthpieces that will gradually move them into proper alignment over a period of time. Each aligner is marked with a unique code to identify which case and stage the patient is at. Each aligner is created from digital scans of the teeth and fabricated from FDA-cleared material. They are stain and tear-resistant, both comfortable to wear and easy to remove.
Argen Clear Aligners are made with an elastomeric layer, which is encased in a dual shell construction on both sides to provide consistent, continual force to accurately moves the teeth over the prescribed period of time and helps increase the patient’s comfort. Each Clear Aligner is marked with a unique identifier code to be able to trace the case and the stage.
Argen uses 3Shape software that allows for flexible cut-line options. There are two types of cut lines for Argen Clear Aligners: straight and scalloped. Straight cut lines allow for fewer or no attachments as the aligner grips the gums better. On the other hand, a scalloped cut line is more comfortable as less of the aligner is touching the gum but applies less force on the tooth, so more often attachments are needed. Some companies can manufacture attachment-less aligners, but only if there is enough gingiva contact, or if the movements are simple.
Aligners can be made from different types of plastic. Some examples include polyethylene, ethylene vinyl acetate, and polycarbonate. Materials that are inferior can lead lead to tears or breakage, stains, discomfort, or poor tracking.
A good aligner material will have:
In some cases, interproximal reduction (IPR), attachments, or band treatment is needed in addition to the Clear Aligners.
Interproximal reduction is the process of creating small spaces between the teeth in order to allow the teeth to move as needed during treatment. This process was first documented in 1944 but gained popularity in the 1980s. The treatment plan designed by FullContour will show where and when to use IPR. The process is not painful and promotes healthier teeth because closing the space can eliminate trapped food. FullContour reported using IPR on 80% of their treatment plans.
Attachments are light-cured composite pieces in various shapes that create more leverage to move the teeth. They are used in cases where some changes to the smile are difficult to accomplish with just the aligners alone. Such cases are when a high amount of rotation is needed, when extrusion is needed, or if a tooth is shaped or angled a certain way. The application is made through four steps:
They are digitally designed.
A template is manufactured (clear aligner).
The patient’s teeth are cleaned and prepared.
The template is then used to place the attachment on the teeth. Then, it is finally UV-cured.
Band Treatment is when elastic bands are used to connect the upper and lower teeth. This type of treatment is used to increase the force on certain parts of the mouth. Bands can help correct overbites or underbites. With the elastic bands are small metal or plastic hooks or buttons that are attached to the teeth. The aligner is trimmed down to make room for them.
Refinement is when additional aligners are required due to teeth not moving as expected during the initial treatment. It usually requires an additional scan and design and has 2-4 stages. Causes are typically because the tooth movements were too difficult (i.g. intrusion of incisors and rotation of canines), patient non-compliance, overly aggressive treatment plan, or insufficient IPR.
According to Align, 20-30% of patients need refinement. However, traditional orthodontists report 70-80% of patients need refinement.
Simple and Streamlined Workflow
Argen Clear Aligners use a triangle workflow that involves the dental laboratory and FullContour. The doctor requests aligners from the lab; the lab forwards the request to FullContour, who designs the treatment plan and forwards it to Argen; Argen manufactures the Clear Aligners, then sends them to the lab, which sends the final results to the doctor. With this workflow, all communication to and from the doctor is managed through the dental lab.
Working with FullContour
FullContour assists labs and manufacturers in creating and scaling successful aligners. They offer a full range of treatment planning, fast turnaround time, a doctor approval app, API (application programming interfaces) integrations, and daily support.
Getting Argen Clear Aligners is a five-step process:
Manufacturing Argen Clear Aligners
Argen follows a four-step manufacturing process to create their Clear Aligners:
Argen refers to the last step in thermoforming as the “suck-down method” where the material is formed around a model with a vacuum-like appliance. The vacuum sucks the material down over the model for a perfect fit, then the excess material is ground off.
As mentioned previously, Argen houses over 100 printers and milling machines. They utilize Carbon Printers in their printing rooms, which allow them to produce thousands of units per day. This helps to increase turnaround time.
Clear Aligner Case Selection
Only select cases can be treated with Clear Aligners. Treatable cases are those that require mild to moderate esthetic changes, preparations for dental restorations (i.g. Veneers or implants), up-righting molars, refinement, or relapses.
When making a case selection, all parties have to consider the three P’s: possibility, predictability, and profitability. Is the case treatable? Will the case offer predictable results? Will the case bring revenue? It’s vital to consider these in order to set the right expectation for your patients–and in turn, to have a great experience for all parties involved.
The Aligner Case
When taking on an Aligner case, there are three main things that are sold: the treatment plan, the clear aligners, then the clear retainers. First, a treatment plan for tooth movements is designed by FullCountour. They provide an interactive portal that all parties have access to–to upload the RX, patient photos, or other necessary documents. The portal also shows the plan and gradual changes to the teeth, as well as where to use IPR and place attachments. FullContour also has an app for on-the-go access.
Next, the Argen Clear Aligners are sold. They are fabricated based on the FullContour-provided treatment plan. A box that contains the aligners, a carrying case, a removal tool, and a patient guide is sent directly to the dental lab, which is then delivered to the doctor. The aligners are packaged by stage in white label baggies that have the regulatory information printed on them.
Finally, retainers are needed following aligner treatment. The Argen Clear Retainers are made out of a thicker more rigid material that can be worn at night for 3-6 months. Single retainers can come with a case or you can order new retainers after treatment with an existing or new scan
Onboarding for the Lab
For an Argen Clear Aligner case, the dental lab has to follow four steps to begin onboarding:
Argen provides an onboarding video series on its YouTube channel.
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Angel Chang is a Drexel University graduate with a background in Marketing. She has experience with digital analytics, SEO, social media management, content creation, copywriting, and web development.