GRANDVILLE – Anybody who’s ever needed a tooth replaced or a dental crown installed knows the routine.
Your mouth wide open, and discomfort settling in your distended jaws, a dentist holds up a series of color charts to your mouth until he or she finds one that matches the shade of your teeth.
Relying on that chart, a dental technician produces a crown or replacement tooth that will match the hue of the patient’s natural teeth.
If the shade matches, great.
If not, the tendency of most dentists and patients is to reject the replacement tooth or crown and start the whole process over again.
Using its expertise in color analysis, X-Rite wants to eliminate those mismatches with a new device that measures the shade of a tooth’s enamel. It then provides a digital read-out, which the dental technician can use to replicate the shade of the tooth being capped or replaced.
“We can improve their workflow method and make it more precise,” said Rich Cook, X-Rite CEO, in describing the biosensor technology behind the new ShadeVision System.
X-Rite brought the device to market this month after more than two years of development work using biosensors. The company has applied the same technology to a machine now undergoing clinical tests that determines a person’s skin cholesterol.
Biosensors represent a new product line for X-Rite, a 38-year-old Grandville company that produces precision instruments that measure light, color and shape for customers in the digital-imaging, printing, coatings, telecom, electronics and medical industries.
Biosensors are one of X-Rite’s “significant bets” for the future, Cook said.
“It’s not the total future bet, but it’s an area we’re making a serious bet on. We’re making several bets on it,” he said. “It’s going to be a nice big market for us. It will be one of our biggest product lines in three years.”
By contrast, X-Rite’s new Cholesterol 1, 2, 3 device will become “a nice small market” for X-Rite, Cook said.
Developed under a partnership with Toronto-based International Medical Innovations Inc., Cholesterol 1, 2, 3 measures the cholesterol level from the surface of a person’s skin.
The three-minute test involves dropping two drops of liquid onto the palm of one’s hand. The device then reads the color change in the liquid triggered by a chemical reaction, and provides the physician with the patient’s cholesterol level.
The device offers doctors a non-invasive technique to measure cholesterol that eliminates the need to draw a patient’s blood, as well as for a patient to fast prior to the cholesterol test, or wait several hours or days for results.
“You look through the skin, rather than draw the blood cell out,” Cook said.
To most patients, being able to test for cholesterol without piercing the vein in the crook of the arm is a huge plus and then some — though it’s only fair to note that drawing blood for cholesterol levels often occurs in tandem with blood-drawing for numerous other blood tests.
Nonetheless, being able to ascertain cholesterol levels instantly is something medicine has been unable to do heretofore. And being able to do so without needles can, in some cases, eliminate some medical waste control problems.
X-Rite provides International Medical Innovations the parts and electronic biosensors needed to produce Cholesterol 1, 2, 3, which has been accepted for use in Canada.
The device is still undergoing U.S. Food and Drug Administration trials in this country.
Cook expects to see further non-invasive medical procedures in the future resulting from the development of biosensors. Another use of the technology that has been developed, but which X-Rite has not been involved in, is a non-invasive method for diabetics to test their glucose levels.
“The technology is evolving from where you can do some pretty significant things already,” Cook said.
Another technology that is evolving — and that X-Rite is weighing for the future — is replacing film x-rays with digital x-rays. X-Rite for now is watching to see how the emerging technology develops before deciding whether to pursue it.
“We’re monitoring it because it could be one direction we might want to go in the future and make those devices,” Cook said.