Oral health’s relationship to overall health is widely recognized, and it is linked to a host of illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease. One study found that people with gum disease were twice as likely to die from a heart attack and three times as likely to have a stroke. Despite this, there has been remarkably little innovation in oral hygiene since the introduction of the toothbrush.
The Lexington, MA-based startup PhotOral is developing a novel oral hygiene device that uses smart light technology and blue LEDs to combat pathogenic bacteria in the mouth. The concept originated in 2005 when scientists at Forsyth Institute were conducting research into teeth whitening techniques. They found that 455-nanometer wavelength blue light reduced inflammation and improved overall periodontal health of their patients, killing destructive oral bacteria and leaving the good completely unharmed. PhotOral has translated this into a handheld device, resembling a mouth guard, which is inserted into the mouth twice a day for 60 seconds to improve oral health. The startup also aim to seamlessly integrate the device with mobile health apps to enable tracking, measuring, as well as diagnosing oral disease.
Unlike brushing, flossing or using an oral antiseptic, which can kill the good bacteria along with the bad, the novel device from PhotOral only kills harmful bacteria. It is 100 percent safe and can be used by anyone, relieve inflammation and help restore an unbalanced oral microbiome. Promoting balance in the oral microbiome is an important factor in preventing disease, with some estimates that up to 80 percent of systemic disease have manifestations in the mouth. PhotOral could become a powerful tool to prevent these diseases, and even diagnose disease at an early stage.
The startup’s aim of integrating the innovative device with mobile health apps also provide unique opportunities for both users and health providers. It could measure and monitor oral health, enabling dentists to reallocate resources to where they are needed the most, and jump in for immediate care if they identify early warning signs. Developing a digital solution could improve relationship between patient and clinician as other digital health solutions, but also between dentists and other healthcare professionals, giving them a platform for communication and collaboration. Such a platform could become more important as we get a deeper understanding of the microbiome, as well as the relationship between oral and overall health. This highlight the huge potential of PhotOral and their technology.
The device is currently available for pre-order from the startup’s website for $229, with delivery expected to begin this spring.