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This project, funded by Gebert Rüf Stiftung, is supported by the following project partners: Innogrant (EPFL); ETH Zürich Foundation, PioneerFellowship; different dental institutes at universities in Switzerland and abroad; Venture.ch; VentureKick.
Project no: GRS-023/17
Amount of funding: CHF 250000
Duration: 09.2018 - 04.2020
Area of activity:
Pilotprojekte, 1998 - 2018
We have developed a unique technology to build up centimeter-sized implants inside the body through a needle or a catheter of a few hundred micrometers. Our first application is an endodontic root canal filler. Annually, more than 200 million root canal treatments are performed by dentists worldwide due to infections within the root canal or in the vicinity of the root apex. In Switzerland alone, about 700’000 such treatments are performed each year. However, the success rate of endodontic treatments ranges between 62 and 83%, which is extremely low for a dental treatment especially considering our increased life expectancies. In 17 to 38% of the cases, the endodontic treatment fails within 6 years, in which case the patient has do undergo retreatments or eventually, loses the tooth. The major shortcomings of conventional endodontic treatment methods are the high rates of reinfection, incomplete sealing of the root canal or the root-end or insufficient cleaning of the canal. Furthermore, canal enlargements using files for the subsequent root filling materials weaken the tooth and often lead to a fracture of the root over time. Currently, endodontists use rubber (Gutta Percha) to seal the root canal. This material was first introduced in 1867, but lacks adhesion to root dentin and cannot be placed ideally into the complex, branched root canal system, which is a major cause for the failure of root canal treatments. We have developed a 100-µm thick optical probe and a light-active material, which can be used to tackle the above-mentioned drawbacks. The material is very easy to use and can be injected into the tiniest interspaces within the tooth, thus providing a much better sealing than conventional materials. The use of our technology can ultimately increase the success rate of root canal treatments and thus help to preserve the natural teeth. The goal of this project is the development of a final medical device prototype of the injectable, sterile filler and the corresponding illumination apparatus for the in vivo proof of concept and approval by authorities.
What is special about the project?
Our primary goal is to provide the dentists with a reliable tool to decrease the failure rate of root canal treatments and thus contribute to minimally invasive dentistry. This will allow patients to keep their natural teeth longer and avoid complicated and expensive implant surgeries. Furthermore, the chairside time required for an endodontic treatment is expected to decrease by one third, leading to economic benefits for the patient and the clinician. It thus reduces the overall healthcare costs, while giving more people access to restorative dental procedures. It also has to be noted that dental implants replacing natural teeth often lead to an inflammation around the implants, the so-called peri-implantitis, which potentially affects the general health of the aging population. Therefore, preserving the natural tooth through root canal treatment, without secondary inflammation or root/tooth fractures for as long as possible will avoid not only costly implant surgeries but also implant related inflammations.
Following our PhDs in biomechanics, photonics, and photochemistry we have developed the required set of building blocks for photopolymerized implants. With the support of the Gebert Rüf Foundation, we could transform our research into a product. The Gebert Rüf grant allowed us to test, evaluate and redesign our prototypes over and over until we were able to match the requirements set forth by medical doctors and their patients. As a result, we now have a solid value proposition for our customers. In parallel, we could also focus on the business aspects of the product and define a viable way to sell and market it. We were able to secure the funding required to bring the product to the market and then scale up the sales worldwide.
Persons involved in the project
Last update to this project presentation 07.06.2022