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Growth Ramps Up for Orange County’s Dental Industry

Orange County’s dental industry accelerated after taking major hits during the onset of the pandemic.

The Business Journal’s fourth annual list of dental companies showed OC employee headcount jumped 11% to 5,755 as of July, improving on the 4.5% increase last year.

In 2020 at the height of the pandemic, the firms reported a 6% drop when at one point an estimated 95% of the nation’s dental practices were shut down.

Nowadays is one of the most exciting times during his 35 year career in the dental industry, Stephen E. Thorne IV, chief executive of No. 2 Irvine-based Pacific Dental Services, told the Business Journal.

“While I usually strive to remain humble, I must admit that this year has been extraordinary for PDS,” said Thorne, who last year was recognized with a Business Journal Excellence in Entrepreneurship award.

“It has been the most successful year in the company’s nearly 30-year history. Patient demand is strong, and we are witnessing a remarkable increase in opportunities per clinician per day.”

The pandemic continues to impact the industry such as supply chain issues and patients postponing non-essential dental visits, he said.

The company’s OC headcount declined 2% to 1,178 as part of a regular reorganization as some employees moved out of state.

This week’s Business Journal list on dental-focused businesses is a varied collection of makers of implants and braces, dental support organizations, software firms servicing dental practices, as well as dentistry-focused device makers.

Companywide, their employee count grew 1.6% to 140,705; that compares to no change last year and a nearly 1% drop in 2021.

The seven companies that reported revenue collectively saw a 0.7% decrease in sales to $6 billion; a year ago, they increased 31%.

Biggest Jump

The biggest local headcount increase was 316% to 636 at Orange-based Western Dental & Orthodontics, which has been growing through acquisitions.

Western Dental is one of several companies under parent Sonrava Health, which is now one of the nation’s largest dental support organizations with 4 million patient visits annually in nearly 600 affiliated offices in 21 states. Its companywide employee growth also jumped, 30%, to 7,112. The Business Journal estimated its revenue at $1 billion.

In June, Sonrava Health acquired 24 offices in Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania. Western Dental is on a physical growth spurt, too; it relocated its Costa Mesa office in June to a larger space across the street. The company counts 250 offices in California.

Western Dental Chairman and Chief Executive Daniel D. Crowley takes on the same titles at Sonrava.

Wall Street Wild Rides

Foothill Ranch-based Biolase Inc. (Nasdaq: BIOL) had a topsy turvy year as it reduced its headcount 20% to 69, the biggest decline on this year’s list. The company has struggled to convince Wall Street about the value of its dental lasers as its shares have declined 99% in the past year.

On July 26, it announced a one for 100 reverse stock split to enable to continue being listed on Nasdaq.

Another company that’s had a roller coast ride on Wall Street is Laguna Hills-based Sonendo Inc. (NYSE: SONX). The company’s shares fell as low as 86 cents last October, soared as high as $2.95 in December and currently trade around $1.45 and a $74 million market cap.

Its OC employee count fell 11% to 154, which follows a 37% increase last year. Companywide, it still grew 7.5%. Its 2022 revenue increased 26% to $41.7 million.

In May, the company announced that more than 1,000 of its “GentleWave System,” which treats root canals, are now on the market.

“This achievement is a testament to the effectiveness of the GentleWave System, which offers a simplified workflow for doctors and an elevated patient experience,” Sonendo Chief Commercial Officer Michael Smith said in a statement.

 Three Largest

Topping the list again was Newport Beach’s Glidewell Laboratories, the world’s largest privately held provider of dental lab products, which has an estimated 1,500 employees in Orange County and 4,000 companywide.

No. 3 Envista Holdings Corp. (NYSE: NVST) reported a 15% increase to 690 employees. Envista last week reported second quarter sales grew 2.6% to $662.4 million.

“As anticipated, we saw sequential acceleration in our core growth as well as an expansion of our adjusted EBITDA margin,” CEO Amir Aghdaei said in an Aug. 2 statement.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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