Innovating medical devices towards better dental patient care

DentX has developed an innovative dental x-ray holder that makes dental x-ray taking a more comfortable experience, as well as an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered imaging recognition solution for film processing.

The brainchild of several National Taiwan University graduates, DentX combines both hardware and software solutions to innovate dental x-rays towards improving both patient comfort and image accuracy.

The typical intra-oral dental x-ray taking process is invasive, uncomfortable, and may repeat the process if the radiographs taken is not clear enough for diagnosis. Dentists and assistants usually use rigid cone indicators, bite forks, or finger press to position x-ray films during the radiograph taking processes. Even then, radiographs may not be accurate due to positioning difficulties or uncomfortable movements, hence patients would have to sit through the entire episode again.

Adding Comfort, Accuracy, Efficiency

DentX has designed several new intra & extra-oral devices that lead to more accurate positioning of x-rays while molding more naturally to patient oral structures. Its products can be physiologically customized based on types of x-rays taken, as well as varying positions and numbers of teeth needed to be recorded, thereby making the process more efficient for dentists and more comfortable for patients.

Co-founder and practicing dentist Theodore Kao said: “Some of the changes and obstacles confronted with in order to create better clinical experiences are basic and minimal, but dental practitioners are accustomed to current methods and set in their ways from doing it so often.

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“However, for many patients, it’s an important procedure for oral diseases diagnosis and deciding treatment plans, especially for periodontal problems and pediatric dentistry, but a painful and nauseating one. As a service industry, it is urgent that we make their experiences as comfortable and pain-free as possible.”

DentX reconstructed the entire dental x-ray procedure with a set of physiologically well-adapted, silicone-based soft materials for intraoral structures, and making the process more user-friendly by minimizing mouth opening. They’re also combined with newly-invented semiconductor digital films that result in clearer images, and consequently, better diagnosis.

Also, with their AI-related image recognition software, common oral-diseases and even significant suggestions implemented by world-wide experts could be given by analyzing intra-oral photos, which could be captured easily using smartphone cameras, making them essential in places where dental resources are insufficient, and allowing resource-strapped hospitals to cater to patients effectively.

Intellectual property is key

According to Mordor Intelligence, the global dental equipment market was valued at US$7.65 billion in 2020, and is expected to reach US$10.15 billion by 2026.

Due to the highly-regulated nature and complexity of individual countries’ dental healthcare systems, Dent X is looking to connect with life sciences institutes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other members of the dental community.

“We have filed patents for our devices under the Patent Cooperation Treaty — the World Trade Organization’s international patent system — which would pave the way for protection across the globe. We already own several patents in Taiwan, in addition to filing several provisional applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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“Currently, our devices are going through clinical trials at the National Taiwan University Hospital, one of the most prominent medical centers in Taiwan. We have also tested our devices at some local dental clinics in Taiwan and Singapore due to the patient-based nature of dental x-rays,” Dr. Kao added.

DentX devices are not yet available commercially, awaiting approval as a Class II medical device. This approval is pending several laboratory tests and other key aspects.

Setting an APAC launchpoint

Fresh off a two-year project with the Taiwanese government, DentX is now setting its sights on partnering with Asia Pacific dental associations and fundraising from venture capital firms (VCs) focusing on medtech or medical devices spaces.

Dentistry often has its own field and rules, so entering different countries can be difficult for independent companies like DentX. Global names include big brands like Johnson & Johnson, GSK, Medtronic, Dentsply Sirona. Drilling down to the local level, each dentistry association in different countries has its own standards for clinical practices, patient care, and hygienists.

DentX has set its sights on Singapore as its base to enter the Asia Pacific market, given the city state’s high dentistry standards in addition to being one of the largest dentistry markets in the region.

Dr. Kao noted that expenditure on dentistry services outpace medical services as most of the prices are set by free-market competition, as opposed to the public healthcare providers or employer-funded healthcare solutions that dominate many Asia Pacific nations.

“We are looking to build connections and partner with Singaporean hospitals, clinics and dental associations towards understanding local dental standards. At the same time, we can approach Asia Pacific medical device manufacturers, many of whom are headquartered in Singapore.

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“If Singapore’s dentists, doctors, hospitals, and hygienists are willing to use our products, DentX will likewise gain a reputation in their dental community,” Kao said, adding that the Taiwanese company is also open to collaborating with other startups in the dental and medtech space who can augment their products, such as 3D printing or local sales channels.

The DentX team is small but each stands a crucial role, with five members, each specialising in different fields including clinical dentists, professors, biomedical engineers, and marketers. The team is expecting to take on a few more projects along with the Taiwanese government, building its local market while innovating its solutions further.

Under the STPI Vision Programme, the DentX team will be paired with a mentor to help build a presence in the Asia Pacific region with a Singapore-first mindset. For more information on DentX, please check out their website.

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This article is produced by the e27 team, sponsored by 
STPI

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