Dentist set to disrupt implant industry with help from SONAMI partnership

In a world of innovative ideas, sometimes it makes more sense to reinvent the product, and not the entire wheel. Take dental implants, for example: the titanium screw that fuses to bone is the wheel, but everything else about the implant, the material and procedure can be redesigned and reinvented.

Dr. Norman Kwan, a dentist, inventor and entrepreneur, has devoted the last 25 years and millions of dollars doing just that, in hopes of revolutionizing the dental implant market. It’s an industry he sees as lacking in contemporary technology and one that remains unaffordable for too many, with the typical cost running $3,000 to $5,000 per tooth.

In his mission to invent a better product and process, Dr. Kwan credits his own approach to realizing early on that these medical devices with screws needn’t follow the general principle of dentistry but can be viewed with a mechanical engineering eye.

And it’s one of the reasons that led him to Mohawk College’s Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) to utilize their expertise in DMLS technology (metal 3D printing). The project was made possible thanks to funding through the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led consortium funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

“I have always thought, there must be a better way — a way that can be simpler, more effective and affordable,” says Dr. Kwan, who is the only dental implant manufacturer in Canada (St. Catharines, Ont.), likely due to the monumental cost of having to meet the strict clinical validation process for Health Canada and the United States’ FDA.

An outlier in his profession, Dr. Kwan has spent several decades providing teeth replacement with dental implants to his patients (in four practices throughout Southern Ontario) for half the cost, half the healing time and without the need for bone grafting. And he has his own long-term clinical validation studies to prove the success rate of his product, BioHex™ — a one-piece, single-stage dental implant and restorative system intended for universal use for any dental practitioner to provide the process safely and reliably.

“These types of resources and the technical know-how made available by Mohawk through the government, are invaluable in allowing us to move on equal footing, if not faster, to the big boys,” Dr. Kwan explains

In order to take BioHex™ from his own practice to a wider market, Dr. Kwan first needed to make his system even more effective by exploring leading-edge technology like digital 3D applications and emerging dental materials. It’s a crucial next step of innovation that only Mohawk’s facility could provide, he says. The research team experimented with various materials, examined different printing technologies and collaborated with the dentist to evaluate the optimal solution for him to consider.

“These types of resources and the technical know-how made available by Mohawk through the government, are invaluable in allowing us to move on equal footing, if not faster, to the big boys,” Dr. Kwan explains. “Without this help, it would be almost impossible to be in the game.”

“The game” sees Dr. Kwan getting in motion the wheels to have his methods widely adopted by first educating other dentists on how to offer this technology to more people, safely and reliably while benefitting the bottom line.

 “When we can put the fee so affordable and with a superior product that still offers the dentist a profit, that is significant enough to disrupt the $2 billion global implant industry,” Dr. Kwan predicts. “I believe this is the technology for the future of dentistry.”

As an applied research lab, Mohawk College’s Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) and its team of expert staff, faculty and students, can provide a test bed for industry to develop new products and processes. For information about the SONAMI funding, contact [email protected] or visit the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC).