During the last several years, two of the more popular topics on this site have been the company S-Ray and digital dentistry. I am routinely asked by acquaintances “what’s going on with S-Ray?” or some variant of that question. In May of this year, I was fortunate enough to attend S-Ray’s annual investor day. And after a busy summer, I finally caught up with Dr. Scott Parker, Executive Vice President of S-Ray, Inc., to find out…well…what’s going on with S-Ray?
MD: Let’s remind everyone of the S-Ray concept and vision. And have there been any significant changes in direction since we caught up a year ago?
SP: As one of the leading experts on digital technology in dentistry, you are aware that there is a strong drive throughout the medical and dental industry to adopt and implement digital technologies. Embracing this movement not only makes workflow more efficient, it also allows for more accurate diagnosis and more profitable business.
The concept of using ultrasound for medical imaging has been around for many decades. It is a significant portion of the $100 billion spent in the US each year on medical imaging. As the push for safer alternatives to radiation continues, ultrasound is quickly becoming the most universally accepted option to ionizing radiation in the world. Also, because ultrasound imaging is more cost-effective than other imaging options, it is a much more viable option in economically challenged areas.
Currently, S-Ray is positioned as the leader in dental ultrasound because of our unique and exciting platforms of offerings. The last time we spoke, I mentioned that we were 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. That vision has not changed, but we have begun to shift our focus from design to product implementation.
MD: That actually segues into my next question. In May you held some preview meetings of intra-oral and table top product designs. What progress on product development since then can you share?
SP: You are referring to the Voice of the Customer interviews we conducted with clinicians and Key Opinion Leaders. These took place at the California Dental Association meeting in Anaheim using the KaVo Kerr booth space with the goal of determining if there really was a need for an inexpensive bench-top impression scanner and if so, which design was the preferred form for placement in a dental office. The results of the studies determined that not only was there a need for an impression scanner for the dental office, there is also a need for improvements in existing intraoral scanners. We believe that we can provide that improvement by offering multiple industry changing functions in just one intraoral device.
Let me back up a bit and say that as a market driven company, we believe that the market will determine the need for new products. We also believe there should be a process in all that we do. I have seen too many times where a company will design a product based on the components available on the bench at the time. As they test components in the lab to prove their concept, they then take those parts and build
a shell around them. It has led to some bleak and ugly products over the years that are neither ergonomic nor aesthetic.
At S-Ray, we are not only market driven, we also believe in a design based approach to creating new and innovative products. Having our research lab based in Seattle gives us a distinct advantage over other companies. Not only is our lab right in the middle of one of the top locations in the world for ultrasound research and development, we are also surrounded by highly capable technical designers and programmers. In fact, the same company that helped design Microsoft’s X-Box Call of Duty controller was instrumental in bringing our designs from concept to digital design and then to tangible prototypes. It is the most recent design of the intraoral mouthpiece which we are calling ClearView SCAN that we believe will provide dramatic improvements in the profession by offering multiple functions in one easy to use device.
MD: It seems like the hardware – ClearView SCAN and ClearView LAB – is just the tip of the iceberg. Is it fair to say that S-Ray is really working on a platform approach?
SP: Yes, that is correct. We realized early on that a platform approach would prove beneficial to S-Ray as a company as well as the dentists and labs who use our products and services. By allowing for multiple functions in one device, it makes it much more efficient and scalable. Instead of having to buy a new device for each function, you can add multiple functions to the same device.
Just to confirm the point, when a patient comes in for an exam, x-rays and periodontal probing occur independent of each other and each taking a fair amount of time to perform. If there are any concerns about cracks, the doctor may use a bite stick to try to localize where the crack is. This is often a difficult diagnosis and inaccurate at best. Now, imagine if all of those functions could be performed by just one device in a short amount of time and render the results in a 3D image immediately. That is a platform approach – multiple functions and services that make the workflow much more efficient and cost-effective. And, it’s all digital and archivable for future comparisons.
As you mentioned, these are just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more planned which we will reveal when the timing is right.
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: There are many things that are rapidly evolving in the industry right now. Dental Service Organizations are definitely here to stay. Sleep apnea and airway management are a rapidly growing segment. But, without a doubt, the transition to digital will continue to have the largest impact on the dental industry. It affects every segment of the dental industry. Whether in the lab with 3D scanning, milling, and printing of prosthetics, or in the dental office scanning everything from airway, to implants, to digital images and charts.
Pretending that it is not here to stay would be like using a slow speed handpiece for every procedure. Sure it works, but there are much more efficient options available today. Digital dentistry makes each business more efficient, more predictable, and less stressful.
MD: Lastly, the question on everyone’s mind. When will dentists and labs be able to purchase the first S-Ray product(s)?
SP: Stay tuned and check in often on our website. We are getting closer every day to making this a reality.
Thanks again, Dr. Parker, for taking some time to update us on the progress at S-Ray. I look forward to what’s to come. If you have questions of your own for Dr. Parker and S-Ray, please reach out to them.
I look forward to sharing future updates from Dr. Parker and S-Ray via articles on this site or an upcoming podcast. Thank you for reading.