Several years ago, I became aware of a company working to harness the promise of ultrasound technology as, among other things, an imaging modality for dentistry. I became acquainted with a couple of the executives and first published Sounds Like a Cavity in 2012. In this special update, we’ll hear from Dr. Scott Parker, Executive Vice President of S-Ray Inc., about the latest developments and progress of their ultrasound solution for dentistry.
Michael Dunn: Please remind us again of the S-Ray concept and vision.
Dr. Scott Parker: S-Ray was founded on the principle of offering a better alternative to radiation-based imaging, while giving clinicians state of the art tools to facilitate more accurate diagnosis.
The system design consists of an ultrasound controller in a USB cable connected to a very soft and comfortable mouthpiece with embedded ultrasound transducers. In less time than it takes for a quick set impression, every tooth in a patient’s mouth will be scanned and the image shown on a chairside computer monitor. This design is very portable and uses either Wi-Fi or network connections to send and receive data from a secure data storage location.
Because ultrasound does not emit radiation, the S-RAY platform will not have any risks associated with cancer. This means that it is safe to use on pregnant women and young children. It also means that it can be used more frequently, which will help a dentist find cavities and cracks sooner and provide more preventative care. While dental x-rays are generally considered to be low exposure, ultrasound is a safer alternative to dental x-rays as there is zero ionizing radiation.
MD: It has been a while since Sounds Like a Cavity was published. What is new since then?
SP: Our portfolio of intellectual property has expanded significantly since our last conversation. S-Ray Incorporated has owned its primary patent for several years, which provides coverage for the unique way of using ultrasound for dental applications. More recently, an additional 31 provisional patents have been secured for other aspects of the system and additional software. There are many more patents in process in order to establish a strong base of continued development ideas.
There has also been significant improvement in the design and capabilities of the S-Ray system. Our current ultrasound platform includes two different scanners – one to scan inside the mouth, another to scan impressions – and a stable of separate software applications. Adding function will be like downloading apps to a smart phone or tablet; a dental professional will be able to download additional software applications or apps to the S-Ray controller. These apps will provide additional features and data viewing capabilities – cavity detection, crack detection and periodontal pocket measurement, for example.
In addition to typical intraoral scanner uses (such as creating crowns, bridges, inlays, onlays, veneers, partials, implants, clear aligners, mouth guards, orthodontic appliances and models) new, unique indications such as 3D caries and crack detection are possible. Because the ClearView SCAN includes sub-gingival scanning, digital periodontal pocket measurements can be included in the same scan and automatically linked to dental practice management software for charting.
We also have updated our website. Check it out if you want to learn more about who we are and what we are doing: S-RayInc.com.
MD: Let’s look into the crystal ball. What trends do you think will have the biggest impact on the dental industry in the next few years?
SP: Two things are rapidly changing in dentistry.
First, we are seeing more and more dental practices consolidating into group practices or merging into corporate dental conglomerates in order to better manage expenses and staffing. We see this consolidation throughout a good portion of the world as corporations use the leverage of scale to bring their expenses down.
Second, along with these groups being focused on better expense management, they have generally embraced digital technology to improve the efficiency of their business systems. Across all platforms of dentistry, we are seeing a transfer into a digital workflow model in dental offices and dental labs.
A clinician who embraces this inevitable change to digital early rather than later has many advantages over others in the profession. That advantage diminishes quickly over time as everyone begins to adopt the technology. My advice to those on the fence is not to be afraid of new business models and new technologies, but to learn more about them and how they can make your life easier.
MD: You mentioned your new website. What else is next for you and S-Ray?
SP: We are currently raising capital to expand our lab facility as we research and develop new platforms in dental ultrasound. It has been a lot of fun (and has required countless hours) to push into a new field of dentistry. We are finding that we have to create our own trail as we are in uncharted territory. This is both exciting and challenging since we have to be able to adapt and change quickly as we learn about the nuance of imaging both hard and soft structures found in the oral environment.
Many of our development projects are still confidential, but our goal for 2014 is to have our first scanning product functional before the end of the year and showing superior results to existing technologies, be it an x-ray, an intraoral scanner, or a traditional impression.
In clinical dentistry, we are often able to solve a patient’s needs within a few weeks. If they have a cavity in their tooth, we can get them back and fill it in a short amount of time. Some complex cases, however, demand several years to finish as they require multi-disciplinary planning and many years of tooth movements and/or surgeries to get an appropriate foundation to build upon. While development of our scanning system has not been as quick as what most dentists would like to see, we do not want to put our system on the market before it is truly ready.
At this time, we are very excited by our progress and the possibility of this new reality in dental imaging coming to market soon. The possibilities are mind-boggling and significant. It will change the way we do dentistry in just about every field of our profession – from diagnosis to periodontal therapy, and from implantology to orthodontics. All will be impacted by what we are doing.
To learn more about S-Ray and their advancements, contact them through their website.
And please feel free to comment here or contact me for any suggestions on topics to cover on this site or improvements I can make. I look forward to hearing from you!