Memories of having to go to the orthodontist generally brings back less-than-pleasant thoughts about the experience. In years past, those wishing to have their teeth realigned knew they were in for months to years of grueling adjustments and care. In addition to having a mouth full of wires and metal braces, every readjustment was certain to invoke a new round of discomfort. In addition, parents often dreaded orthodontics as much as teens given the cost. Routinely, the cost would be several thousands of dollars before all was finished.
More recently, however, newer dental innovations emerged that seemed to make things less painful and embarrassing. Clear, hard-plastic aligners hit the scene, which made things a bit more bearable. But despite these advances, costs remained high, limiting accessibility to those considering orthodontics. Though things had improved, straightening one’s teeth continued to be cumbersome. However, that may be about to change as even newer dental innovations hit the scene. Leveraging 3D printing, artificial intelligence and orthodontics, new product offerings threaten to disrupt the market yet again. (Read more about the impact 3D printing has had on manufacturing in this Bold story.)
“SoftSmile provides a foundational technology for making orthodontics affordable. We cut out the middleman, allowing doctors to design treatment plans, print aligners, and monitor patient treatment without outsourcing any step of the process.” – Khamzat Asabaev, CEO of SoftSmile
Introducing SoftSmile’s Dental Innovations
SoftSmile, a New York-based startup that launched in 2019, is poised to significant change the field of orthodontics. After extensive software development and consultation with more than 100 orthodontists, it has recently launched Vision. Vision is SoftSmile’s AI-powered treatment programs designed specifically for orthodontics. Leveraging machine learning, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence in orthodontics, Vision is revolutionary in its approach. In essence, the technology allows SoftSmile to eliminate much of the traditional supply chain in orthodontics. And as a result, costs as well as efficiency are much improved.
Using Vision, a patient’s mouth and teeth are analyzed from a variety of angles. Likewise, root depth, tooth width, and other data are collected in an effort to design the precise orthodontics needed. Using propriety algorithms that have over 50 patents, the software calculates the direction and applied forces needed. It then creates the exact aligners required, and it provides the necessary information for in-office 3D printing. Using SoftSmile, orthodontists can literally produce personalized aligners for any patient within hours right in their office.
Clearly, these are dental innovations that could rock the world of orthodontics. Traditional aligners must be produced remotely at distant facilities, and often, many must be revised after the first production. Also, even clear aligners routinely require the input from multiple professionals throughout the course of time. All of this adds to the cost, which prevents many individuals from considering orthodontics. But with SoftSmile’s dental innovations, these production inefficiencies and extra costs are eliminated. The entire process is faster, cheaper, and more accessible to all as a result.
“I was very impressed when I first started using the SoftSmile technology in my practice…The learning curve for this technology was fairly minimal and the software was completely customizable, allowing me to remain in control and produce a successful result for my patients.” – Roberto Stradi, DDS MSc, Caserta, Italy
Decentralizing the Orthodontics Market
For several years, the market for orthodontics has been dominated by Invisalign. Its dental innovations involving clear aligners that could be more easily adjusted revolutionized the market. But since that time, little has changed until now. And because Invisalign requires their aligners to be produced remotely at a manufacturing facility, costs and delays remain substantial. In fact, most individuals pay over $5,000 for orthodontics using Invisalign techniques. This centralized type of approach has done little to increase access to orthodontics to all. And it continues to cause delays in accurately customizing aligners to patient needs.
SoftSmile, on the other hand, is well positioned to disrupt the existing system with its dental innovations. Because the Vision software can determine the exact aligners needed on its own, there is no need to involve multiple professionals. Likewise, because the aligners can be printed on-site, production is not only accurate but also timely. Most dentists and orthodontists today already have 3D printers in their office. They have already become familiar with this technology when creating dental molds and models. Thus, SoftSmile completely decentralizes the orthodontics process, moving it from remote sites to the orthodontist office.
This decentralization process is important because it creates a completely new competitive structure. Instead of Invisalign having to compete with directly with SoftSmile, it actually must compete with every existing orthodontist. If each professional adopts SoftSmile’s software and owns a 3D printer, their office essentially becomes a true competitor to Invisalign. Because these dental innovations are less expensive and more efficient, it makes it difficult for Invisalign to compete. This is why many orthodontists see these dental innovations as a game-changer. In fact, because SoftSmile’s Vision software uses machine learning, even dentists may eventually be able to use this technology.
“The more data we receive and the more feedback from users, the more accurate it is, so it’s continuously learning.” – Damian Gerikhanov, Chief Engineer, SoftSmile
The Potential for a Global Impact
The overall global market for orthodontics is roughly $945 billion, which is astounding. But these figures are based on the existing limited access as well as current cost structures of the industry. With these new dental innovations, SoftSmile’s impact on the industry could have far-reaching effects. From one perspective, it could reduce global costs for these products. But at the same time, it will likely boost volume demand, perhaps over-compensating for a drop in prices. Regardless, SoftSmile’s dental innovations using AI and 3D bioprinting reflect dramatic market disruptions that can occur with new technologies. Before the decade is over, it’s quite probable its approach to orthodontics will become the norm.
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