Digital orthodontics company raises funds for 3D-printed brackets
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., U.S.: LightForce Orthodontics is a digital dentistry platform that provides orthodontists with fully customized 3D-printed tooth-moving tools. Its customizable 3D brackets are the first of their kind on the market, and they are designed to reduce patient visits and treatment duration. The company launched LightForce this year, after five years of research and development, and has now raised $14 million (€12 million) in funding for the further development and commercialization of the system.
The LightForce treatment process begins with the orthodontist sending a scan of a patient’s teeth and a treatment plan to the company’s technicians, who then create customized brackets and trays. The system uses ceramic material that is specially formulated for 3D printing, but which is otherwise virtually identical to that used in injection-molded brackets.
The founder of the company, Dr. Alfred Griffin III, told Dental Tribune International that the digital workflow resembles that used in clear aligner therapy. “LightPlan is the proprietary treatment software developed by LightForce that enables mass-customized braces,” he said. “Doctors have complete control over every aspect of the treatment plan and can utilize a simple cloud-based interface for adjustments and approvals.”
“Our treatment plans are unique to each individual patient and largely follow the clear aligner workflow,” Griffin continued. “Where our technology diverges is when the orthodontist uploads the patient’s scan to our LightPlan software, which enables the doctor to adjust the teeth virtually in order to create a perfect smile and bite for that unique patient, enabled by automatically designed braces.”
Griffin explained that the LightPlan software generates bracket files, which are then printed at LightForce’s centralized manufacturing plant in Cambridge. The brackets are then delivered to the orthodontist’s office about a month later.
Increasing personalization in orthodontics using digital tools
LightForce aims to provide treatment for malocclusion, which is as individual as each patient is. “A person’s lips, jaws, teeth and smile are individual, and it’s important to customize the tools that impact his or her face,” Griffin explained. “3D printing provides the ideal solution for patients, as it allows for customization and uses modern technology to address an age-old problem. We’ve found 3D printing to be the best solution for orthodontic applications because it enables complete personalization for each patient—it can print complex geometries, in this case unique tooth morphology that would otherwise be unavailable to patients.”
He added: “On the one hand, we believe that the days of bracket prescriptions are numbered; on the other hand, we welcome the days of ‘tooth prescriptions’ for mass-customized appliances like aligners and 3D-printed brackets that can adapt to achieve a desired final tooth position for that unique patient.” Griffin said that, in the future, he expects that there will be a rapid expansion of 3D-printing technology within the dental industry.
LightForce Orthodontics was founded in 2015. Over the last five years, Griffin and his team have undertaken extensive research and development for what is now the company’s eponymous treatment platform. No one could have predicted that the 2020 launch of the bracket system would take place in the midst of a global pandemic, but it seems that the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 has not hampered the company’s plans.
“In light of the ongoing pandemic, technology that reduces in-person dental visits is crucial not only for patients but also for the orthodontists and their teams that are caring for them,” Griffin said.
Hundreds of orthodontists throughout the U.S. are already providing treatment using LightForce brackets. Griffin said that the company will use its newly acquired funds to further develop its technology and product offerings and to scale its operations in order to meet what he called a recent surge in demand for more efficient dental technologies.
The funds were raised in a Series B funding round that was led by investors Tyche Partners, Matrix Partners and AM Ventures.