Dr. Alfred Griffin, the co-founder of LightForce Orthodontics, is our guest on this episode of The Golden Age of Orthodontics. Dr. Griffin shares how LightForce has benefited patients and orthodontists in ways even the developer finds surprising. In addition, Amy introduces a new podcast for team members of the orthodontic office called Practice Talk. The host will be Lacie Ellis, and she is excited to share answers on topics staff members find challenging in their day-to-day office experience. Enjoy today's podcast with Dr. Griffin, and stay tuned for Practice Talk.
IN THIS EPISODE:
Dr. Griffin founded LightForce Orthodontics in 2015. He received his BS in Biochemistry from the University of Virginia, after which he completed a DMD and PhD at the Medical University of South Carolina while lecturing internationally in craniofacial biology. Dr. Griffin also has a Masters of Medical Science and Certificate in Orthodontics from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, where he currently serves as faculty, and he is an ABO-certified practicing orthodontist.
“You need to work with companies you trust because the impact of something going wrong is quite high. So building trust is something that we are driving towards because that becomes the standard that orthodontists stake their business on.” - Dr. Alfred Griffin
“The tools that enable doctors to have a better treatment plan and diagnoses will be the focus for LightForce in the future.” - Dr. Alfred Griffin
What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.
Dr. Leon Klempner: Do you ever receive a large order of brackets, have your clinical assistant in the back taking them and putting them into those little slots, like in the hardware store and putting them all away, and then all of a sudden somebody bumps in to him or her or knocks it over and they're all on the floor?
Yeah. You know, that's the beginning of a really fun day. We used to call that 52 pickup. Well, if you are using customized digital brackets, you don't have that issue in today's episode. Who better to discuss the topic than none other than my friend Dr. Alfred Griffin, founder. Of light force,
Dr. Leon Klempner: Welcome to the Golden Age of Orthodontics. I'm Dr. Leon Klempner, retired proud or certified orthodontist, director of Orthodontics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, faculty member at Harvard and the CEO of people in practice.
Amy Epstein: That's quite the resume there. I'm Amy. Thank you. You're welcome. I have an MBA in marketing and about 20 years of public relations and, uh, communications experience.
We co-founded the business of People and practice about 10 years ago, and we're a marketing. And growth consultancy for orthodontists specifically. And a big part of the work that we do is work with practices to promote the technologies that they're using that improve the practice and that improve patient outcomes and that improve the business to attract new patients.
So as my dad said, we're really happy that we have Dr. Alfred Griffin on our podcast today. As the founder and c e O of Light Force, he has a lot to say about how technology can improve the practice of orthodontics. Dr. Griffin founded Light Force in 2015. He received a bachelor's in biochemistry from the University of Virginia and then completed his dental degree and PhD at the Medical University of South Carolina, while also lecturing internationally in cranial facial biology.
Dr. Griffin also has a Master's of medical science and a certificate in orthodontics from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, where he currently serves as faculty like my dad does as well. And he is an A B O certified practicing orthodontist as well. So that is also quite the resume. Alfred, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for being here.
Dr. Griffin: Thanks Amy. Appreciate you guys having me. It's good to see you again. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Dr. Leon Klempner: Absolutely. Uh, welcome back. For sure. Finally got you back. Actually been trying for a while. You're, you're a busy guy and bye. And talk about resumes. That's quite the resume right there.
Dr. Griffin: Yeah. I got a three year-old that keeps me busy too. And a 30 year old.
Dr. Leon Klempner: Okay. Let you go top of the resume. Yeah, that's the most important part right there. Right. So, uh, it's been a, it's been, i, I guess a year and a half or, or or more since we spoke last. And it, it was like you were a startup when we first started talking and, and, and things have changed so much.
Uh, you know, the, the, like technology has exploded in, in all areas. Uh, earlier we were talking a little bit about chat, G p T and, um, you know, how that could affect things in the future, but there's so much going on. So, uh, bring us up to speed in terms of light force and, uh, what's been going on and, and, and how things developed and what new features.
And just kind of give us a, a quick overview.
Dr. Griffin: Totally. Um, well first of all, it's great to be back. Um, I remember the last time we spoke 18 months ago, uh, we were at a much different stage and you could say we were a startup. I would actually argue that, um, we want to stay a startup. At least have that mentality, uh, for as long as we can.
Cuz there's certain things about a startup that are very, um, Important and authentic that, that need to scale, such as, uh, you know, one of the things we talk about all the time is being the best company at listening to our customers. Um, focusing on the community, delighting people at EV with every interaction.
Those are things that are hard to scale as you become bigger, but are essential to scale in this industry. And the reason why is cuz they're, you know, only 10,000 orthodontists in North America. And the cost of being wrong is, is high. Word of mouth matters a lot. And that's, that's our best, uh, from marketing point of view.
Our, our best marketing weapon is word of mouth. When, when someone loves, uh, what we do or it changes their, their life, their practice, how they, their workflow, um, and they tell friends that's, that's the best way to market in, in our opinion. Um, from a product point of view, a lot has changed as well. So the last time we spoke, we had just.
Come out with translucent brackets. Uh, I think Leon, the first time we met in Dallas, you saw, uh, that we had white braces. And I think you even told me that that's, that's gonna be tough for some, some patients and, and you were not wrong, Leon. Um, it's great for, you know, the 12 and under. Loved it.
Call them AirPods for your teeth.
But we knew we had to, you know, make translucent braces. And so a lot of people at Lifeforce deserve a ton of credits, uh, for all the work they put in from material science point of view to, to make that happen. And then the other big advancement that happened, uh, August last year is we came out with fully customized buckle tubes for molars.
So up until, uh, August last year, we didn't even move the molar teeth. Um, or we didn't move second molars. We had stock tubes on, on sixes. So, um, You see the platform start to, uh, complete. And then the other thing I'd say on the back end that we don't really talk about as much is we've increased our level of sophistication in on the manufacturing side.
Uh, we actually just opened up a 36,000 square foot factory, uh, here in Wilmington, Massachusetts, and we've integrated a lot of processes that are ultimately beneficial to doctors that scale, quality control, traceability, knowing, you know, which part goes where to who. And, um, improving the logistics that, that are gonna improve, um, service level agreements so that, that.
Cases get there on time. Uh, so it becomes a very predictable business that, you know, if you're an orthodontist, like, like my dad, like, um, you know, a private practice that's, that's your, um, that's your livelihood. And so you need to work with companies that you trust, uh, because the impact of something going wrong is quite high.
So building trust is something that, that all these things are driving towards, you know, how can we continue to build the trust of. Of the orthodontic community and, um, become that standard of care that, that they, you know, stake their, their business on.
Amy Epstein: Yep. And you know, the, and what you're talking about with, you know, the best way to build, uh, you know, your company is through word of mouth and strong relationships and great, uh, customer support to the orthodontic community.
Um, and so what we do it as with orthodontists, also as our clients, but as marketers, we are really
speaking on behalf of the practice to patients. And so all of the work that we do is about translating technologies that benefit an orthodontic practice, um, to the patient to help them understand why a practice that's delivering this type of care would be one to go to.
So we're helping to build in a community the word of mouth around technologies like Light Force to bring them into a practice. So the question I have for you is, Can you put a fine point around the patient benefit of use of, of having light force as their treatment that the orthodontist recommends?
Like what does it mean for them?
Dr. Griffin: Yeah, totally. Great. Great question, Amy. So we've been in, um, we've been in business for three and a half years, uh, selling stuff. So, um, not a lot of data, uh, but very proud to say we did just get a, uh, a peer reviewed article out in, in J c o, um, and with very interesting datas, a retrospective, uh, trial, done a single practice, but looked at the last consecutive 100 finishes with light force and with.
Uh, stock braces and the outcome was that we saw a dramatic reduction in both treatment time and number of visits, and the number of visits reduced by, uh, eight and the number on average across, uh, five different categories of severities and the overall treatment time reduced by, um, uh, well over 40% across all the categories.
So the benefit to the patient is several fold. Um, one is, you know, the modern consumer, uh, wants an experience that you really can only get with digital and up until late force Digital orthodontics is largely synonymous with clear aligners. And, and what that means for the patient practically is that, you know, they're roughly 8, 7, 8 less times that you take, you need to take your child outta school or that you need to take off work.
You know, fewer visits to the orthodontist is a good thing for the patient. It's, uh, you know, good thing for the world if, if you talk about like, you know, burning fossil fuels and whatever. Um, but uh, there's a net benefit to patients there. The other reason, uh, that this is good is that when you look at all of the comorbidities across braces treatment, it's like white spot lesions.
Um, Uh, des uh, gingiva des and, uh, root resorption, the number one correlative factor for all three of those comorbidities is duration of treatment. So if we can reduce the amount of time patients are in fixed appliances, then then patients are gonna have far fewer, um, comorbidities as well. The other thing that we, uh, learned coming outta this study is that you got better outcomes.
Uh, what you put in is, is what you got. Um, And that, and that's gonna be continue to be true. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. That's why we always argue it's the artist, not the paintbrush. Um, so I think, think of any digital technology, clear aligners, light force, whatever. It's just a tool. So, Um, the, the outcome is more dependent, will always be more dependent on the person that's doing the diagnosis and treatment planning, which is, which is the orthodontist.
And that kinda leads into the next conversation is, you know, as you mentioned, you know, is AI gonna be a scary thing? What's, what does the future hold? Um, but uh, as an orthodontist, I couldn't be more enthusiastic or excited about the future. So,
Dr. Leon Klempner: Great, great. So Alfred, we, we were all in Chicago recently at the aao, and what struck me was, you know, number one, the number of, of different aligner companies that are out there, but there, there were also, you know, other companies that, that make, uh, custom fixed appliances.
So, you know, this is a question I get all the time. Um, as to, you know, what's the difference, let's say, uh, between light force and K L O and embraces on demand? Um, you know, I, I mean, not every, uh, product is ideal for every practice, but you know, the way that Amy and I see the, the orthodontic profession moving is to start with a digital scan.
And it's either gonna be aligners or it's gonna be some sort of, Of customized fixed appliances. So tell me a little bit more about, uh, light Force and, and how it may be different than, uh, some of the other competitors that you have out there in the marketplace
Dr. Griffin: now. Well, well first I would say that I think that this category that we're talking about is gonna be a growing category in the industry.
Um, And I also believe that a rising tide lifts all ships. So, uh, I have nothing but positive things to say about either of those companies and, and the other companies that may come into the space. I think that, uh, technology and innovation, particularly coming from orthodontists, which both of those companies were originally founded by orthodontists, is a good thing.
Um, I think that that orthodontists leading charge on innovation in our space is, is a good thing you've seen also in the past where that's gone wrong. Um, so, uh, the, the net is, is I, I'm very supportive of this entire category I expect to grow. Um, and then you look at your comments on, on other clear aligner companies.
Clear aligners are a category where you've got outside investors looking at orthodontics and saying, Hey, that's a, a product with proven demand. And proven gross margin profile, that's, that's a safe bet. A lot of the innovation on, in, in orthodontics, I think is gonna come on the demographics that are, or the, the, um, opportunities that are on the fixed appliance side.
Things that, uh, remove compliance or biomechanics as limitations to treatment outcomes. Um, And, and that's, that's what we're doing. Um, obviously we're one of the first movers there. Um, and we're gonna continue to, to both be, uh, quick movers, but also advocates for the space. Um, you may see differences in terms of, of approach, whether it's, it's a full customization approach or versus modular approach.
You'll see, uh, different qualities of material as well in this space. Um, but, um, You know, we, we are big believers in this space and, and again, believe that a rising tide lifts all ships. And I think there's room for a lot of people to be successful here. Yeah, sure.
Dr. Leon Klempner: Yep. That's, that's great. So if, if you recall on the last podcast, um, you know, it's customary for us to, uh, uh, take a question from one of our viewers.
So we have one right now, so if you don't mind, we'll go ahead and play it and then you could address that question.
Dr. Jackie Sheik: Great. Hi, this is Dr. Jackie Sheik from Northfield, Minnesota. As a current light force user, can you give me an idea of what new features we can expect in the near future?
Dr. Griffin: Love that question. We, uh, we, we get that quite often. Um, it's a great question. Um, Jackie's a phenomenal orthodontist and, and she's um, one of, one of the earlier users of, of light force living through some of the, uh, the, the ups and downs of, of bringing new product to market. But, um, To answer a question, I would say that any and everything's possible in, in orthodontics with, with technology.
And I also believe that, uh, most things that go in the mouth should be mass customized because there's a value to it. And so, you know, we're very focused on, on braces. The other thing I think that, that will evolve is, uh, ability to diagnose a treatment plan. Um, I think that one of the learnings we've had over the last year is that, Digital technologies like this make a good treatment plan and a good diagnosis scalable.
And what I mean by that is if you, if you look at the teeth in, in a digital system, you might pick up on things that you might miss. If you're just looking at, at teeth by line of sight and with a mirror, for example, you might miss a bolt discrepancy. You might, um, you know, miss, miss posterior torque or, or Walla Ridge, uh, you know, uh, considerations.
And so, You've got more levers to pull, looking at a case from a digital point of view. Um, and you can start with the end in mind. So if you do need to make torque adjustments across an upper or lower arch or do need to i p r or you just have a more focused, uh, diagnosis and treatment plan, and then you start with the end in mind, so you're going in the right direction the whole time.
Whereas with fixed appliances, stock brackets today or in an analog workflow, You, you stick stuff on day one and then you have to react every four to six months. And then if, if you start with initial treatment plan, you might miss some of the nuances eight months into treatment that you forgot about.
Whereas with digital, you can, and, and I say digital, including light force or aligners, you can look at a plan and um, always be reminded exactly where you're going. So I think the tools that enable doctors to better treatment plan and diagnose are gonna be a focus for light force. Uh, certainly I think that, uh, C B C T is a trend that, that we're gonna bet on.
Um, and, um, beyond that, I, I think there's a, there are a lot of opportunities, but, uh, they're. They're all gonna be reactions to, uh, our customer demand and the community that we're building. So we learn a lot from our community. That's been one of the fun things for us is that, uh, it really feels, particularly this last year where we've turned a corner where the product is no longer light forces, the product belongs to our community.
Mm-hmm. And, and I say that, uh, not only in terms of, you know, what informs our product roadmap, but also in terms of how, um, how people use our product. I'll give you a quick example actually, is, uh, you know, we've had bite turbos for a long time. Um, and obviously the, we've expanded the library and how you can use it.
But initially, bite turbos were conceived of just to, you know, uh, just to open the bites so you're not hitting on lower brackets, and the software will detect and tell you if you're gonna hit on lower brackets. If not, it'll put a, you know, bite turbo to tell you where it needs to be. I said I wouldn't use ortho hands and I did.
Um, but, um, but now people use those as a functional tool to set the desired overbite. And then they'll also use it to, to accelerate the bite opening for deep bite cases and make a lot of'em will even put on, you know, light elastics and the posterior day one and you see the bites fly open, which is really incredible to see.
So this is an example of us building a product, um, in synergy with the existing product and then our. Our community teaching us how best to use it. And then, and then that, that information spreads like wildfire. And the people who ultimately benefit, to your point earlier, patience mm-hmm. Has there, go ahead.
I say as, as patients, as patients win, the ultimate brand of orthodontics as a specialty also increases as well, which is another outcome that we're looking for.
Amy Epstein: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. It does seem like it's an ecosystem that you're building here with feedback from patients, from, uh, customers that are feeding the use cases.
Was there, you just described one, but are there like very surprising, uh, ways that your customers are using light force or are there practice benefits that you've heard of that have been realized since implementing Light Force within their, their
Dr. Griffin: practice? Yeah, good question. In initially when we built this, um, It, it felt like an obvious thing to do, um, for, for a lot of reasons.
But the two reasons we really, we focused on were, um, saving doctors time and, and saving money. The, the things we didn't anticipate that we're learning about is we do customer surveys and people learn about light force, and, and the profile of a, a light force customer is that they also greatly value. Uh, their mental energy and that of their staff.
Mm-hmm. And they also value, um, the regional brand and, and social capital. So what I mean by that, uh, for mental energy, that means if you're going over to a patient for a wire change for a 15 minute visit, is it actually a 15 minute visit or does it turn into a 45 minute? Uh, repo appointment or, uh, a longer time where you have to bend a lot of wire or, you know, brackets coming off, whatever it, it, it results in more consistency across treatment and also more consistency in terms of treatment times.
Um, the, the, the cases tend to finish on a tighter distribution of, uh, of treatment times. Um, what I mean by social capital is that, uh, are you guys familiar with, uh, NPS and Net Promoter Score? Mm-hmm. Yeah, I'm sure you guys are. Um, I, I've learned about it recently as well. It's something we track here, but, you know, if you think about regional NPS score for an orthodontist, that it's like your brand in the community, like mm-hmm.
What are you gonna get when you see Dr. Kutner? Is it, is it gonna be, you know, A great outcome. Is it gonna be a great experience? Um, are, are those patients gonna be motivated to go to their school, their country club, whatever, and say, that's the guy you wanna see cuz I got this outcome, this experience, this treatment time.
That's what we want for our users. We wanna win with our user, right? We say all the time, we wanna win as well. We wanna win 49%, but we want our, our customers to win 51%. So, um, you. We're learning that through our community. And, um, you know, that that's front of mind is, is making sure that we're providing value in addition to the time and money parts.
Uh, but we're learning more about how the system can be used to, to, uh, provide other currencies to our customers as well. Mm-hmm.
Amy Epstein: Great. Well this has been so informative. Um, you know, we stopped by and we're checking things out at the booth at the aao, but it's so nice to have you one-on-one here on the show today.
Um, if we have questions from our listeners and they'd like to reach out to you or learn more about Life Force, how can they do that?
Dr. Griffin: Uh, they can visit our website. And the other thing I'll just mention is that, uh, light Force Future is, is just around the corner. So June 1st to, uh, third in San Diego.
Uh, this is where we have all of our community of users comes together and we talk about best practices. So, um, it's gonna be a very exciting few days, lots of awesome speakers and, um, You know, there's a new frontier of digital orthodontics and what a fully digital, uh, practice looks like. And, you know, having been in, uh, the industry for only three and a half years, there's still a lot to learn.
And so for me it's, it's the most exciting time of year cuz you get to, to hear how people are using the product, how they're using it to win, grow their practices, uh, you know, an insight into financial metrics and, uh, ultimately how to benefit patients. So, I think that, uh, that's, it's a great thing for new users, but, but particularly for existing users to fine tune, um, how to use it.
Amy Epstein: Great. Well, listen, thanks so much again for being here. We look forward to the next time you're on the show and we'll be following you closely in terms of the innovations that Light Force will be putting out over the coming months.
Dr. Griffin: Awesome. Thanks again. Thanks so much, Amy. Great. See Leon. Thanks. Bye-bye.