Thanks to improved tooth-brushing habits, regular dental care and ubiquitous fluoridation, most Americans have benefited from better tooth health. And yet, many still lose their teeth, whether due to injury, decay or periodontal disease. In fact, studies find that approximately 178 million people in the United States are missing at least one tooth, and a surprising 40 million are missing all their teeth.
Currently, dental implants are the top choice of treatment due to their predictability and durability, yet less than two percent of those impacted by tooth loss are able to reap the benefits, due to cost, access or medical conditions that prevent them from being a viable candidate for the surgery.
The newest company to join the Fogarty Institute, iDentical, aims to offer a new solution through its drill-free, non-invasive dental implants that leverage the latest 3D technology with the goal of making tooth replacement safer, faster, more affordable and less-invasive.
Transforming a complex procedure
While current dental implants treatment options may be effective, as with any surgery, there are drawbacks. Currently, patients have to wait three to four months after their tooth is extracted for the site to heal. Then, a trained dentist drills a hole in the patients’ jaw bone and screws the titanium implant into that hole. The surgery requires a highly skilled practitioner, such as an oral surgeon, which is a major investment for dental offices and contributes to a cost that is out of reach for many patients, with the procedure sometimes topping $5,000 a tooth. There are also risks involved, including a 13 percent possibility of nerve damage when drilling.
iDentical’s technology addresses current dental implants’ pain points in three easy steps: The dentist extracts the failing tooth and sends it to the startup. iDentical then creates a 3D model of the tooth, applies its proprietary design features and manufactures the customized implant. The new tooth is then shipped back to the dentist, who places it where the original tooth root was. This easy process not only shortens the time frame to place the implant to a week following the extraction, but allows any family dentist to place the implants with minimal training.
With a total serviceable market of 17.6 billion potential candidates, iDentical’s future looks bright.
A creative solution to a pervasive issue
iDentical co-founder Todd Wedeking, MA, DDS, FICOI, himself an experienced dental implant surgeon, was at a medical conference when he sketched the invention behind iDentical on a napkin. He had been successfully using 3D X-rays to place implants in his practice and realized 3D technology could be used to make a copy of the tooth that would naturally fit in the socket site where the original tooth root was, thus vastly improving upon the current drilling practice.
The invention was put on hold while Todd and his wife, Iris Wedeking, a seasoned entrepreneur and leader, were opening several offices in the Bay Area designed to address the rapidly growing need for implants, while keeping costs low. Frustrated by the shortage of skilled dentists who had the appropriate training to perform implant surgery and the challenge of making the procedure more affordable, the couple returned to Todd’s idea to manufacture personalized implants.
“Our goal is to democratize dental implants with this faster, safer, less-invasive and lower-risk solution,” said Iris, the company’s CEO. “Our technology will open up the dental implant market to over 130,000 family dentists in the U.S. and promises to greatly reduce patients’ costs.”
Joining the Fogarty Institute
Joining the Fogarty Institute was the next natural step, as they were looking for an organization that shared their values and priorities, while providing necessary resources. “During our initial meetings with the executive team, we shared our goal of developing innovative technology to make an impact on patients’ lives,” said Iris. “The ability to both find common ground and be able to benefit from such a seasoned team is an ideal situation for us.”
The startup has already drawn the attention of several investors and is actively fundraising to continue optimizing the device and preparing for clinical trials.