Hundred years of Shofu

Established on 15 May 1922 in Kyoto, Japan, Shofu is a global manufacturer deeply involved in the field of dentistry offering a wide range of dental materials, equipment and instruments.

Over the years, the treatment philosophy in dentistry has shifted from invasive to a more conservative approach, with Shofu spearheading development of products and technologies, emphasising prevention and preservation of natural tooth structure.

Commemorating their centennial anniversary, Mr Noriyuki Negoro, CEO and chairman of Shofu, takes a trip down memory lane to ponder on the company’s founding years, and how they will continue to revolutionise the dental industry in years to come.

Founding years

Mr Kajo Shofu III, the founder of Shofu, was involved in numerous businesses, including the export of ceramics, industrialisation of ceramic manufacturing, and the insulator business based on Kiyomizu-yaki porcelain technology, as Mr Negoro shared.

In 1915, during a visit to North America to expand sales channels for the export of ceramics, the founder was advised by Dr Mitsuru Okada, MD (later professor of oral surgery at Keio University School of Medicine) on the need for domestic production of high-grade porcelain teeth.

The journey was not a walk in the park — as it required identifying tooth shapes and sizes suitable for the Japanese people, sourcing biocompatible materials and appropriate manufacturing methods.

After overcoming several challenges seven years later, Mr Shofu III realised his dream with the help and cooperation of many people, successfully manufacturing the first high-grade porcelain teeth in Japan — laying the cornerstone for Shofu.

In 1965, Shofu succeeded in developing the world’s first dental spherical amalgam, “Shofu Spherical Amalgam”, recognised by clinicians as a revolutionary product with significant handling and mechanical properties; it was considered a breakthrough in the dental industry.

Additionally, the company’s rotary instruments was well-regarded, and the brand reputation of “Shofu Abrasives” was established not only in North America but also in the global market.

Such innovation helped propel the company’s overseas expansion, leading to the establishment of sales offices in the US in 1971, Germany in 1978 and Singapore in 1980.

Mr Negoro also shared that during the 1980s when Shofu was under a crisis due to Japan’s healthcare reform, then-President Kajo Shofu V changed the company’s focus from quantity to quality and implemented management reforms to ensure the company’s survival, under the slogan of “Response to Change”.

“The foresight of the president and commitment of the employees resulted in the development of a series of high-quality value-added products that helped transform the company into a highly profitable business. As a result, in 1989, Shofu became the first company from the Japanese dental industry to be listed in the Osaka Stock Exchange and subsequently in the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2007,” he added.

Since then, the company has diversified its product range to include not only artificial teeth, but a wide variety of dental products, laboratory materials, preventive products, and materials for digital dentistry. Now an international enterprise, Shofu has subsidiaries and sales offices in the US, Germany, UK, Singapore, China and in recent years Italy, India, Brazil, the Middle East and Taiwan.

Mr Negoro continued: “These developments aim to contribute towards improving the standards of dental care. The R&D-oriented and innovation-driven management approach adopted since the company’s founding is proof that our founder’s passion for ‘high aspirations and drive for achieving them’ lives on in our DNA.”

Mr Noriyuki Negoro, CEO & chairman of Shofu (Left) with Mr Tetsuo Takami, president & COO of Shofu (Right)

Commitment to better dentistry

According to the Global Burden of Disease study published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016, dental caries remains the most common disease in the world, despite regional disparities due to economic status and healthcare systems. The Lancet and Journal of Dental Research also reported that more than 30% of people have untreated dental caries.

Hence, Shofu’s vision is to continue to provide proven products for better dentistry worldwide with a commitment to quality and excellence, emphasising that beautiful teeth are the symbol of health and happiness.

With the dental field continuously evolving having digitalisation, artificial intelligence (AI), and dental material science taking the centre stage in product innovation, Shofu maintains profitability and growth by identifying expansion opportunities.

“As a company, we had focused our business activities mainly in Japan, a stable market with a generous national medical insurance system and successfully introduced many revolutionary products over the years contributing to the development of dentistry. Our success in the domestic market laid the foundation for international expansion, with more strategic business activities extended beyond Japan to capture the global market,” he explained.

Based on their management philosophy and vision, Shofu is actively engaged in business activities to increase their global presence with continued efforts to provide evidence-based product innovations using cutting-edge technology with end-to-end solutions for the wider dental community.

And although the company promotes globalisation in its business activities internally and externally, Mr Negoro highlighted that it is equally important for them to adapt to local needs across diverse markets.

For instance, the Shofu Dental Asia-Pacific subsidiary has been a crucial part of Shofu’s global footprint looking after its growth in the Asia-Pacific and Middle-East markets. Recognising that the local treatment trends had shifted from aggressive to minimally invasive, Shofu has become the official partner of the Minimally Invasive Cosmetic Dentistry (MiCD) Global Network and its digital platforms.

Mr Negoro shared: “Our team at Shofu Dental Asia-Pacific felt that the MiCD philosophy matched very well with the benefits of our range of bioactive products, hence we have worked closely with Dr Sushil Koirala and like-minded clinicians to establish the MiCD Concept and treatment protocol.”

Continue reading here. Published in Dental Asia September/October 2022 issue.