Orthodontics: More Than Just Aligners
Daniel Alter, MSc, MDT, CDT
In recent years, the dental laboratory market has become significantly more engaged with the orthodontic discipline. The advancement of digital dentistry has facilitated the production of orthodontic aligners, helping them become a focus for those laboratories that fabricate orthodontic appliances. As of late, more full-service dental laboratories have been offering these products to their clinicians as a source of service and growth potential—for both the laboratories and their dentist clients. Many dental laboratories have already invested in a lot of the hardware (eg, 3D printers) and software necessary to fabricate sequential models and their associated aligners, thereby reducing the barrier of entry into the orthodontic aligner/appliance market. This will play into significant growth in the orthodontics market—which is projected to grow to $9.72 billion by 2026. However, an estimated 80% of patients have alignment problems that will still require braces for treatment, restricting the market share that the leading aligner solutions can capture. This means that traditional metal braces will continue to hold a significant place within orthodontics.1
Lightforce Orthodontics, the maker of the first 3D printed bracket system, recently raised$14 million in its Series B round of funding (after raising $5.2 million in Series A), indicating that this is an area to watch. The orthodontic system uses materials similar to typical injection-molded ceramic brackets, but the unique approach permits both strength and customization. Each bracket is designed to fit an individual tooth's unique morphology. This personalization reduces treatment duration from between 12 and 24 months to just 6 months, according to LightForce founder Alfred Griffin III, DMD.1 Since LightForce secured FDA clearance in 2019, it has shipped over 50,000 3D printed parts.
For discerning dental laboratory owners and managers, this innovative technology bears observation. As it develops, it may provide an opportunity to tap into the remaining 80% of the orthodontic business currently unsupported and uncaptured by the aligner treatment model. Since many dental laboratories have already embraced digital dentistry, 3D printed brackets might be a way to add an unrealized revenue stream without significant investment in new equipment. The capability to offer customizable orthodontic treatment options would provide great benefits to patients, first and foremost, as well as to the laboratory's dentist clientele—while the laboratory can enjoy not only a new revenue stream but also added control of both orthodontic and restorative treatment outcomes. Is your laboratory ready to capture more of the orthodontic market?
It is my great honor and pleasure to elevate and inspire with knowledge.
1. LightForce Orthodontics, Maker of 3D Printed Braces, Raises $14M Series B. Medgadget. https://www.medgadget.com/2020/09/lightforce-orthodontics-maker-of-3d-printed-braces-raises-14m-series-b.html. Published September 2020. Accessed February 5, 2021.