Dentistry learns to live with COVID-19 as incidence and earnings bifurcate
LEIPZIG, Germany: COVID-19 infections have increased dramatically in many countries—particularly in Europe—as the northern hemisphere inches towards its second pandemic winter. Third-quarter results of major dental manufacturers, however, suggest that dental markets have learned to live with the disease. Patient volumes may not have reached pre-pandemic levels, but sales have, and they no longer seem to hinge on low rates of infection.
Dentsply Sirona’s revenue for the third quarter increased by 19.4% to reach US$1.069 billion (€944.8 million). The company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, Jorge M. Gomez, alerted analysts to the fact that this result was greater than that from the same period in 2019. “Because the pandemic makes it difficult to gauge growth, I want to point out that we also posted robust organic sales growth [which excludes certain earnings and currency impacts] versus 2019 pre-COVID levels. Compared to the third quarter of 2019, reported sales grew 11.1% and organic sales grew 10.7%, driven by growth [in consumables and technology and equipment] across all regions,” he said.
Gomez added: “This performance against the 2019 baseline confirms the steady recovery trend we have seen in 2021.”
Organic sales growth in the US reached 20.1% for the three-month period, and Gomez said that US sales volumes were “close to normal levels […] despite COVID variants that spiked late in the quarter”.
When asked about patient volumes and spending habits in dental markets outside of the US, Gomez commented: “There is nothing really major to highlight about regional performance, other than what I said earlier, which is, for example, in the third quarter, all regions performed really, really well.” He said that Dentsply Sirona was not observing any deviation from the steady recovery of dental markets but did allude to the fact that certain health measures continued to have an impact on dental treatment in some countries. He explained: “COVID continues to be a little bit of a shadow there. You do see a few small markets—for example, Australia, New Zealand, parts of China—where there are lockdowns. But honestly, those lockdowns have not affected our sales in a material way because those markets are small for us.”
“[In] the third quarter, all regions performed really, really well”
– Jorge M. Gomez, CFO, Dentsply Sirona
Patient volume at dental clinics in the third quarter was similar in that of the second quarter, according to Stanley M. Bergman, CEO of global dental distributor Henry Schein. Sales at Henry Schein Dental for the period reached US$1.8 billion, a year-over-year increase of 10.5%. And internal sales growth in local currencies increased by 4.8%, even when sales of personal protective equipment and COVID-19 related products were excluded.
Envista tops pre-pandemic results and moves closer to clinicians
Sales at Envista Holdings in the third quarter were worth 11% more than those in the comparable period last year—US$607.3 million compared with US$547.2 million—and its strong performance places the company well to consign pandemic-stricken 2020 results to the history books. Envista’s sales for the first nine months of this year stand at US$1.857 billion, compared with US$1.312 billion in 2020.
Envista CEO Amir Aghdaei pointed out to analysts that the company had grown significantly above pre-pandemic levels and that it was benefiting from a repositioning of its portfolio. Looking at its third-quarter results in relation to those from late 2019 enables a comparison not only with pre-pandemic times but also with Envista’s infancy as a force on international dental markets. The company was created in late 2019 when dental giant Danaher spun off its dental platform into a single global dental products company, with the leading dental brands Nobel Biocare, Ormco and KaVo Kerr under its banner.
Envista this year spectacularly announced that it would divest its KaVo treatment unit and instrument business to Finnish dental giant Planmeca and the results of this divestiture (which is expected to be finalized this year), including income, were not included under continuing operations in the company’s third-quarter results. Howard Yu, senior vice president, and the chief financial officer told analysts that results for both continuing and discontinuing operations had exceeded Envista’s expectations in the quarter.
Aghdaei explained how the divestment had reshaped Envista’s business: “With the announced sale of our KaVo treatment unit and instrument businesses, we also made material progress towards our long-term goal of reorienting our portfolio to higher-growth and higher-margin segments. Divestiture shifts our portfolio from a 50-50 split between our two segments to a 60-40 mix in favor of the faster-growth and higher-margin specialty products and technologies segment. As a business, we are now more focused on high-value and higher-margin consumables, imaging and digital workflow solutions with over 60% of our business now sold directly to clinicians.”
Based on the company’s performance, Yu said that Envista had the confidence to expect full-year sales of around US$2.5 billion.
Demand increases for “pandemic-friendly” lasers and clear aligners
For BIOLASE, the leading dental laser manufacturer, the third quarter was a watershed period. The company posted net revenues of US$9.53 million, a 46% year-over-year increase. Net revenues for the nine-month period ended 30 September topped US$26.7 million—nearly double the US$14.2 million net revenue for the comparable period last year.
John Beaver, president and CEO, said that the company’s efforts to educate and train dentists on the use and advantages of dental lasers had increased adoption. “In today’s environment, the fact that BIOLASE lasers provide increased safety to dentists and their patients is generating a high level of acceptance by dental practitioners,” he commented in a press release. “Our industry-leading dental lasers aim to provide a better standard of care for dental procedures and seek to ensure a safer experience while reducing the risk of future procedure and business disruptions by reducing aerosolisation to mitigate the spread of infectious pathogens, such as COVID-19.”
“The situation with COVID remains very fluid”
– Joseph M. Hogan, CEO, Align Technology
Similarly dizzying gains were reported by Align Technology, which has consistently raised eyebrows with record sales throughout most of the pandemic. Revenues in the third quarter at the Invisalign maker jumped by 38.4% year over year to reach a record US$1.016 billion. Align President and CEO Joseph M. Hogan said in a call with analysts that dentists and patients were growing more confident with digital treatment. “Total worldwide intra-oral digital scans used to start an Invisalign case in [the third quarter] increased to 84.2% from 78.3%,” Hogan pointed out. “International intra-oral digital scans for Invisalign case submissions increased to 79.3%, up from 72.1% in the same period last year. For the Americas, 88.0% of cases [during the period] were submitted using an intra-oral digital scan, compared to 83.2% a year ago,” he explained.
Hogan commented: “The shift from traditional analogue wires and brackets to a fully end-to-end digital platform is not easy. It cannot be done without very complex and industry-leading technology and talented, passionate people. But the digital transformation in orthodontics is inevitable.”
“The situation with COVID remains very fluid,” Hogan stressed. “And with the rise of the Delta variant, many cities, states and countries have issued or plan to issue new guidance including mask requirements, regular testing capacity limits and vaccination mandates. Operating in this evolving environment is challenging for everyone, and we are staying as close as we can to the situation,” he added.