HammTek’s Quest Towards Building A Unique Smart Dental Device

At Terkko Health Hub, we are proud to host many health and life science startups and support them in tackling global health challenges. Here we present to you one of our startup community members, HammTek Oy. 

Founded in 2022, HammTek Oy is one of our budding startup members at Terkko Health Hub. Driven by a passion for business and a strong desire for health tech innovation, they work towards developing an innovative device called HammTek, focused on solving global dental health problems.

The Complicated World of Dental Hygiene and Dentist Appointments

Excruciating pain, fever, and problems with eating and speaking are the symptoms not often associated with dental cavities. Surprisingly, untreated cavities are the most common health condition, according to the Global Burden of Disease, 2019. Untreated cavities can lead to a severe infection under the gums, which can then spread to other parts of the body and lead to serious complications in an individual.

“There is a difference between everybody’s oral flora. Some people don’t brush their teeth often, and you will not find cavities. And then some people brush their teeth day and night. And still, they have a bunch of cavities in their mouths. This is because everybody has different oral flora. Habits such as smoking, the type of diet, the type of drinks, and stress can affect an individual’s oral flora; hence, it is so much different from one person to another. So, nobody can say that I won’t have cavities; you must check that.”, says Dina Nyström, a dentist from Helsinki and CSO of HammTek Oy. Thus regular check-up is very helpful in preventing and diagnosing cavities. 

WHO estimates that oral diseases affect nearly 3.5 billion people. Prevention is always better, also in other dental disorders, as treatment of dental complications is often expensive and is not part of universal health coverage. However, visiting the dentist for general check-ups can often be tricky for many, especially in countries with a shortage of dentists and long waiting times for appointments like Finland. 

But what if there was a point-of-care device to detect dental abnormalities in the early stage that people could use regularly, skip general dentist check-up visits, and prevent severe dental health problems? 

This thought motivated three individuals, Javad Maleki, Sanaz Naderi, and Dina Nyström, to begin their quest towards building – HammTek, a smart tool for monitoring dental health. 

Sanaz Naderi (left), Javad Maleki (middle) and Dina Nyström (right). 

A Point Of Care Solution The Size Of A Toothbrush- The Device  

Since the founding of HammTek Oy in 2022, the point-of-care device has already undergone a few design iterations. The first and second-generation HammTek devices could detect only up to a few dental abnormalities. In the third and the current device iteration, the device can detect any kind of dental abnormality and could also suggest to the users what to do next. For example, if a consultation with a dentist is needed.  

Similar in look and size to a standard electric toothbrush, the HammTek device uses a camera and the Optic Trans-illumination method to take teeth photos. Transillumination is a technique where the sample is illuminated by passing light through the sample, in this case, teeth. In addition, HammTek’s size offers a significant advantage in terms of user-friendliness compared to the other big devices used in current dental practices, like X-ray machines and computer-aided diagnosis (CADx). 

The user begins by placing the device on one side of the mouth, gradually moving to the other, covering all the teeth as the device takes pictures. The images are then instantly uploaded to the HammTek mobile application. Using advanced artificial intelligence, HammTek swiftly analyses photos and evaluates dental conditions. Once the analysis is complete, it produces a report for the user. After a report is generated, an option pops up: would the user like to consult or schedule an appointment with a dentist? The team believes such a streamlined process saves the end user and dentist valuable time. It would let dental professionals devise more efficient treatment plans for their patients. 

“There are currently some applications out there that can detect abnormalities but are not registered as a medical device. They are just mobile applications that use mobile phone photos that we know cannot have good diagnostic level accuracy. Because when you take a photo from a mobile camera, it can, for example, not detect anything in the areas between the teeth. You can only take photos from the surface”, says Javad when asked about competitors in the market.

Sanaz using the HammTek device.

The Untapped Market – Finland’s Nursing Homes

HammTek aims to revolutionise oral care, not just for individuals but also for larger entities such as nursing homes and care facilities.

“One day, an elderly woman, assisted by a nurse, visited us at our dental clinic. The woman had dental pain and hoped her visit to our clinic would relieve her of her discomfort. The woman has been regularly hospitalised due to medical complications, had minimal mobility, and required regular assistance. After the check-up, we explained that she needed to undergo a procedure. However, before the procedure could be performed, she needed to take a course of antibiotics. We asked her to make another appointment and return for the procedure. The patient seemed a bit disappointed that we couldn’t help her with the pain on that same day. She already felt very tired with the journey she had to undertake to get to the clinic that day. That’s when I realised that the patient and the nurse undertook this inconvenient trip to our clinic for a basic check-up. These are the situations where I wished there was a way when this whole trip could have been avoided,” recalls Dina when asked about the current problems with dental check-ups. 

Though oral conditions are mostly preventable or treatable, the incidence is high among older people as they often do not receive the necessary routine care to maintain a good standard of oral health. According to a review of “Oral Health for healthy ageing” published in the Lancet in 2021, untreated dental cavities have the highest incidence at 70 years and older. Along with cavities, other oral diseases and functional problems are more common in older adults, like periodontal disease, oral cancer, and edentulousness. Oral cancers are of particular concern for older adults as around 95% cases that are diagnosed are among 40- and 60-years old individuals.

The HammTek team believes’ their device would help solve this problem by bringing oral disease diagnostics to the doorstep of elderly care centres in Finland. “We will distribute these devices for free to the nursing homes. The nursing homes could opt for a subscription plan which includes 200 device uses per year. There will be an option to add more uses to the subscription plan depending on the care home’s requirements”, says Javad, CEO of HammTek Oy, when asked about their initial plans to implement the devices in care facilities. With more optimised oral health management for the elderly and reduced external dental visits, there is a possibility for improved resident care in nursing homes and care facilities. This also saves costs and removes some burden from a healthcare system struggling with a workforce shortage. 

With Compliance and Regulations, The Journey Continues

The HammTek team has a ready prototype and plans to launch its first clinical trial in the upcoming months. They were fortunate to receive Tempo funding from Business Finland, which helped the team develop the device. Tempo funding is intended for those startups under five years old with a new product or service idea. With Tempo funding, individuals can plan their startups’ international growth by testing the idea’s functionality, gaining feedback from potential customers, and studying demand in the new global market. In the coming months, the HammTek team plans to start marketing the device in Finland as a testing ground and then expanding to other countries. 

Currently, HammTek has already made good progress and are in later stages of obtaining permission from The Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea) to test their device in clinical settings in Finland. They have completed the CE marking documentation based on Medical Device Regulations and are actively engaged with the appropriate authorities, including Fimea, to ensure all necessary approvals are in place before they start with their clinical trials. Many products require CE marking before they can be sold in the EU. CE marking indicates that a product has been assessed by the manufacturer and is deemed to meet EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements.

Every aspect of our device, from initial design to final product, is subject to meticulous inspection and validation. We collaborate closely with medical professionals to ensure that our device meets clinical needs, and we conduct continuous monitoring to ensure that any improvements are identified and implemented. Our commitment to quality is unwavering, and we believe it’s integral to our mission of enhancing oral health care through innovative solutions”, says Sanaz, CQO of Hammtek Oy, when asked about the device’s quality control measures. 

One of the biggest challenges with MedTech devices is scaling up and entering the market. Currently, the team is looking for investors to help them with the expansion. Further, the team is also looking for help and guidance towards successfully testing their device in the nursing home settings.

At Terkko Health Hub, we support the growth of startups by providing various partnership benefits and arranging many workshops, community events, mentoring and networking opportunities. These events focus on getting the right expertise and knowledge to the startups. We wish the HammTek team the best of luck in their future endeavours. Meanwhile, we will continue to work towards helping them as much as we can towards building a successful startup.

Text: Usha Mohanraj

Banner illustration: Usha Mohanraj

Photos: HammTek Oy