California company raises funds for smart lingual appliances
IRVINE, Calif., U.S.: Swift Health Systems raised $45 million in October for its lingual “Smartwire” appliance, INBRACE. The company seeks to address the needs of consumers and orthodontists with INBRACE by providing an invisible solution for light-force tooth movement that is led by clinicians. The appliance may be difficult to spot, but the technology behind it is turning heads.
INBRACE uses an all-digital platform that utilizes a combination of computer modelling and artificial intelligence algorithms to determine a path for tooth movement. The aligner consists of what the company calls a “Smartwire”—a loop made of the shape memory wire, nitinol. Readers may have seen the elastic memory effects of this nickel-titanium alloy in novelty products such as self-bending spoons, but the metal has found better uses in a range of highly advanced applications, among them producing mechanical energy from heat sources and making certain surgical implants. In the INBRACE system, nitinol is programmed with data taken from intraoral scans and used to personalize the wire to the patient’s teeth. The wire is fixed to the back of each tooth and applies nonsliding “Gentleforce” mechanics—as opposed to sliding mechanics—to deliver low-force, continuous tooth movement free of mechanical friction.
“Our Smartwires are ligated in each bracket with a novel locking loop design and with no sliding, it is truly friction-free,” the company says, adding that its “low-profile bracket that delivers torque with a round wire [is] an orthodontic first.”
Matthew O’Connell, Senior Vice President of Sales for INBRACE, said in a press release that the clinical benefits of using low force to move teeth are not new to orthodontists, but that INBRACE is the most consistent low-force treatment solution that has been developed so far. He explained that the wire delivers “as little as 5 g of force to move teeth, giving the body time to adjust and naturally retain healthy roots. These critical differences make INBRACE an entirely new treatment category within orthodontics.”
Treatable with INBRACE are cases of Class I spacing, Class I cases of mild and moderate crowding and moderate open bite and moderate deep bite, according to company information.
Backing orthodontists in the treatment of malocclusion
Treating malocclusion with INBRACE requires that patients visit their local orthodontic practice. This is a strength but also a weakness of the aligner because INBRACE finds itself in an evermore crowded tooth straightening market.
“Even with DIY orthodontic therapy on the rise, most consumers appreciate the benefits of supervised healthcare from a licensed professional.”
Dr. John Pham, CEO and co-founder of Swift Health Systems
In its marketing strategy, INBRACE contrasts its treatment model with that of clear aligner therapy and assures patients of safe orthodontic care. It claims INBRACE offers even greater convenience than clear aligners do, because the appliance does not have to be removed before meals, coffee or social occasions. At the same time, the company is utilizing a backlash against at-home or teleorthodontics by emphasizing that trained clinicians plan and lead orthodontic treatment with INBRACE.
“Even with DIY orthodontic therapy on the rise, most consumers appreciate the benefits of supervised health care from a licensed professional,” said Dr. John Pham, CEO and co-founder of Swift Health Systems, in an October press release. “INBRACE keeps patient care in the hands of clinicians, where the overall patient experience, oral health and treatment results are always top priorities.”
The flipside of this is that the company is reliant on partnering with orthodontics practices and on teaching clinicians how to administer treatment using INBRACE.
In May, the company had treated more than 1,100 patients with the appliance and it announced a national certification training program for its INBRACE technology. The program is called “Introduction to Programmed Non-Sliding Mechanics” and it was launched to boost the availability of INBRACE across major metropolitan areas in the U.S. At the continuing education course, orthodontists were introduced to the new technology and treatment cases were discussed. Participants were shown how to enhance their practice management processes to include the digital workflow that supports INBRACE.
The company did not immediately respond to questions from Dental Tribune International (DTI) regarding the current availability of the appliance across the U.S., but a search function on the company’s website that locates orthodontics practices that provide treatment with INBRACE indicated a fair distribution. DTI found that 98 practices offering orthodontic care with INBRACE were located within a 100-mile radius of the company’s home city of Irvine, California, 42 within the same radius of New York City, and 21 within the same radius of Washington.
The company said that it will use the $45 million raised in Series C funding to broaden the commercial availability of INBRACE by expanding its network of orthodontists and increasing its sales and marketing resources. It also said it would increase programs for consumer demand generation in support of new and existing providers of INBRACE. The new amount brings the total capital raised by Swift Health Systems for the appliance to $70 million.