3d-printing dentistry

Formlabs raises $150MM

Formlabs raises $150MM in a Series E round. This investment values the 10-year-old Somerville, MA company at $2 billion dollars. A double unicorn is an… ibex?


It was a viewing of Print the Legend in Nov 2018 that turned this author into a Formlabs and CEO Max Lobovsky fan. I had helped select the Form 2 as a high-volume manufacturing platform some years before, but it was the documentary — which paired Formlabs + Makerbot against 3D Systems + Stratasys — that expanded my understanding of Formlabs from the local option to a vendor dedicated to 3D printing as a revolutionary platform.

The form factor and price point may make the Formlab’s family of products seem like toys compared to machines costing 10 or 100 times as much. That’s the strategy! If ubiquitous 3D printing is your goal, then Formlabs is showing how to do it.

The form factor enables single piece-flow. This is a lean manufacturing concept that strives to reduce batch sizes in exchange for easier error handling and load balanced workflows. Incremental changes in capacity are easy and affordable to implement. Go small to go big!

That’s not to say that 3D printing — and in particular, the SLA kind of printing — has sustainability challenges regarding material recycling and energy consumption. How is 3D printing greener than other types of manufacturing? It would be good to know the answer to that question.

The platform is one thing but what makes it valuable is the types of products that can be made. So, to that end, we need more end-use materials! When can we start printing clear aligners? What about greener materials? Could we print a compost-able dental model?

Congratulations to Formlabs raises $150MM and good luck meeting the needs of the dental industry in the future. Read more about the dental industry on the Metatooth blog.



Dentsply Sirona acquires Byte for $1 billion

According to Morningstar’s GLOBE NEWSWIRE, Dentsply Sirona acquires Byte in an all-cash deal for $1.04 billion.dentsply sirona acquires byte

Quite remarkable that Byte is a “unicorn” in the direct-to-consumer dental space. It joins industry-leader and rival Smile Direct Club who raised over $1 billion with their IPO last year. Smile Direct Club took a beating in the press along the way. Byte avoided this by highlighting the dentist-directed aspect of their business. Also remarkable that a staid 135-year-old company like Dentsply Sirona would acquire a company whose domain name is The direct-to-consumer business model was once anathema to companies in this market. Dentists are asking pointed questions on LinkedIn and other platforms. The “dentsply” of Dentsply Sirona is a mash-up of Dentists’ Supply Company, which started out making dentures in New York City circa 1899. (Full disclosure, the author was an employee of Dentsply Sirona from 2014-2017.) A good reminder that successful businesses change to meet the market, especially when that market is growing at >20% per year!

Where to go from here

This observer would expect the combined offering to allow CEREC Primescan users easy access to the Byte product line. The existing dentist-directed service allows consumers to purchase direct, Byte gives Dentsply Sirona’s orthodontic customers access to proven tele-dentistry tools. Some orthodontic practices now start all patients — including teens — with clear aligner trays, switching to brackets only if the trays are not being worn correctly. This acquisition gives Dentsply Sirona a fighting chance against Align Tech‘s dominance in the clear aligner market. Not to overlook that Byte is a consumer-facing brand that can be leverage into other product lines.

The strength of Dentsply Sirona’s materials portfolio might also be a consideration. Current best practice for producing clear aligner trays at scale is by vacuum forming to a printed dental model. Might this acquisition encourage a printed end-use product? We will have to wait and see.

What are your thoughts on Dentsply Sirona acquires Byte in particular or direct-to-consumer dental products in general? Please leave a comment!

3d-printing dentistry marketresearch product

Yankee Dental 2020

Metatooth went to Yankee Dental 2020 and here’s what we found.

3D Printing

Micron Dental was showing their P305 printer. This printer uses LCD technology as the light source. Micron claims less lens distortion issues with this technology over the SLA and DLP types. It is being sold as a bundle only, which includes a wash & cure station.

The P305 lacks the design flair of the Formlabs Form 3B  or SprintRay Pro. The exterior design would not effect performance, but it does limit access to the print plate, with a side door of just 18 inches. Compare this to the “hatch” approach provided by the other two vendors. Does this effect usability? Micron users please comment below!

Formlabs was present as well, showing the Form 3B. No new materials were shown. The hunt is still on for a printable clear aligner tray. Everyone seems happy to be selling model resin! Formlab’s PreForm software is free to download and use, which was news to Metatooth.

Finally, Great Lakes Dental Technologies showed an economy desktop LCD printer the UNIZ Slash Plus.

Dental CAD

Metatooth watched a demonstration of 3Shape‘s Bite Splint and Indirect Bonding modules. 3Shape’s design software is available stand-alone, at prices comparable to other stand-alone software. However, the yearly maintenance fees are required for the software to operate.

Look for 3Shape to support Polygon File Format (*.ply) in the near future. This will enable non-3Shape users of this data to receive the color information collected by TRIOS scanners. This would be a welcome addition to those supporting open standards and protocols in the dental industry.

Practice Management Software

There were a number of companies offering software products that worked with the leaders in practice management software. Hopefully more of these offerings will keep coming. Metatooth recommends software products that integrate using the vendor’s API, not via an understanding of the vendor’s database schema.

This market is quite regional, so for the Northeast, Metatooth considers these the market leaders.

  1. EagleSoft from Patterson Dental
  2. Dentrix from Henry Schein
  3. OpenDental

Relative newcomer carestack might be one to watch.


Artificial Intelligence vendors were centered around perio-charting assistance and some other voice-to-text tasks. BOLA.AI offered the most functionality. This area will continue to grow, especially as practice management systems (see above) move to the cloud and add API support.


Direct-to-consumer companies looking to add a clinical channel were present. quip was the most well known to Metatooth, but another toothbrush service — BURST — was also on the scene. Colgate, Oral-B, and the like had throngs at their booths. When does quip or BURST become an acquisition target?

There was also an anti-snoring device from Zyppah. This self-molding thermoform device is available directly from the company. A “dentist only” channel was being presented.

Metatooth had a great time at the vendor exhibition of Yankee Dental 2020. What did Metatooth miss? Tell us about it in the comments!

Yankee Dental 2020
dentistry review

Teeth and Oral Health in America

Teeth and oral health in America is a complex issue, which invariably means class is involved. The mouth is part of the body, but for reasons that remain unclear, dental colleges were created separately from medical colleges. This silo-ed approach to education has been mirrored in the way dentistry is delivered, separate from physical care. The real economic pressures that have created our current healthcare crisis are also shaping the way oral healthcare is delivered. Mary Otto has authored a book investigating the oral healthcare landscape.

The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America

By Mary Otto
291 pp. The New Press. $26.95.

This book was brought to my attention by a recent article on dentistry in The Atlantic. Otto covered oral health for the Washington Post and is now the oral health topic leader for the Association of Health Care Journalists.  She’s contributed to and while Teeth is a scholarly work supported by ample notes, it remains highly readable. It was reviewed in the NY Times Sunday Book Review after it’s publication in  2017. The topics it covers are just as relevant in 2019!

The state of one’s teeth says a lot about one’s economic status. The same economic forces that have driven the uptake of cosmetic dentistry also make it harder for oral healthcare to be delivered to under-served populations. Initiatives that could help deliver oral healthcare face opposition from dental associations. These initiatives typically involve allowing dental hygienists to provide (unsupervised by a dentist) cleanings to school children in “dental deserts” or expanded licensing for dental therapists.  These are policy changes that can and do work, but push back from organized dentistry has been hard.

One example given is in the case of Deamonte Driver, whose death from an infected tooth drove the State Children’s Health Insurance Program debates of the aughts and the Affordable Health Care debates of the teens. It seems like the simplest solution to providing access to oral healthcare is expand the pool of practitioners who can provide these services, but the fear that dental hygienists could threaten the dentist’s business model is a powerful block to these kinds of changes.

What role does technology play?  I offer two avenues:

1. Technology providers need to continue to innovate with new products and therapies. Advancements in endodontics, implantology, and (yes!) prosthetic therapies provide avenues for dentists to provider better and more effective care for their patients.

2. Technology must continue to reduce costs. Not only is cost reduction attractive to technology providers, it also creates the margin space for therapies that were first developed for the premium market to be made available to the value market.

What role do providers have in improving teeth and oral health for under-served populations? Tell me about it in the comments!


Evidence Based Dentistry

The Atlantic’s May 2019 issue includes an article by Ferris Jabr entitled “The Truth About Dentistry“. It highlights the dearth of evidence-based studies and strong procedural controls in the profession. The author claims that the prevalence of private practices is one reason for this. I think some specialties are more rigorous then others, but I agree with the author’s thesis. It may be that a benefit of so-called Dental Service Organizations is to enforce compliance with best practices.  Technological advances might help too!

The article details the malpractice of one dentist, prone to over-treating patients as well as billing for “phantom” treatments.  There will always be bad apples, but I would agree that for some practices, the economics of the dental office drives procedure choice rather than the patient’s best interests.

Patients are also consumers.  Especially in dentistry, where paying out-of-pocket is common, these consumers — especially younger ones — will be choosing less-invasive and less-costly procedures. What tools do dentists need to improve patient outcomes and maintain a healthy practice? Tell me about it in the comments!