Posted on: Thursday, June 7th, 2012
If the Invisalign story is any indication, one does not have to be a dentist to invent the next major advancement in dentistry. After a century of metal braces being the foremost method of straightening teeth, two Stanford business students changed the game forever.
Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth were graduate students at Stanford University when they discovered they had a mutual dislike for metal braces. Wirth reportedly had a terrible experience with braces in high school, while Chishti had just finished an adult tooth-straightening program. That was all the motivation and dental training required for two business students to invent the next best thing in orthodontics.
Due to the recent removal of his braces, Chishti wore a clear retainer to keep his teeth in place. He noticed that when he neglected to wear the retainer, his teeth would begin to move out of alignment, but they would return to their proper place when the retainer was replaced. The logical conclusion was that plastic could be used to move teeth as well as to keep them in place. The idea was not a new one; the partners soon discovered that orthodontists had been experimenting with the possibility for years, but no one had applied computers to the problem. With Chishti’s background in computer science, the two found a way to implement 3D computer-imaging technology to fabricate clear, plastic teeth aligners.
The partners knew they were on to something but initially met with a lot of resistance from potential investors. Perhaps two twenty-something business students with absolutely no dental education did not inspire the confidence of multi-million dollar investors. Venture capitalists and dental industry leaders alike turned down the idea; some of them even had a good laugh. Eventually, the two did receive the notice of a major venture capitalist firm in Silicon Valley, when Chishti caught the attention of the investors by nonchalantly popping a plastic aligner out of his mouth, where it had gone unnoticed for the duration of the meeting. $100 million later, Align Technology was born.
Chishti and Wirth set up shop in 1997, but the battle wasn’t over for the young startup. As is often the case with any drastic change, the dental industry was resistant to embracing the idea. At that time, computer imaging technology was a new concept to orthodontists. Furthermore, the business of applying and adjusting metal braces was a lucrative one, and no one wanted to risk losing good business on a hare-brained scheme. After all, the company founders had no dental training! This problem was quickly solved by appealing to consumers. Since orthodontists and dentists weren’t prepared to embrace this new technology, Align found a way to force them to do so – educating their patients. In the fall of 2000, Align launched the most aggressive consumer advertising campaign that has been seen in the dental industry, before or since. When patients began to ask for the treatment by name, dental practitioners had to provide them with Invisalign or be left behind by their competition.
Since then, Invisalign has grown into a multi-billion dollar company. Since the treatment is more comfortable, convenient, and inconspicuous than traditional metal braces, it is preferred by patients and practitioners alike.
Simply Smiles Sarasota is your Florida source for the latest dentistry services. Set up your free dental consultation with Dr. Gekht today by calling 941-921-4654.