Can Plant-Based Really be High-Tech?

by Lou Shuman, DMD, CAGS and Thais Carter of Cellerant Consulting Group

In Combining Botanical Foam with the Latest in LED Innovation, PhotoDynamic is Poised to Revolutionize Home-Based Oral Hygiene for Ortho Patients

Moving from research and development to an operationalized business is a milestone for any company but in the case of PhotoDynamic – a small, Halifax, NS-based firm – bringing its Phyto-Light device and foam to the dental industry isn’t just an institutional milestone. It is groundbreaking for every orthodontist or GP who has dealt with white spot lesions or periodontal damage from the poor home hygiene of orthodontic patients, and a potential game-changer (and I don’t use that word lightly) for the 20% of the population in Canada and the US considered “high plaque formers.”

In the midst of rebooting a clinical trial stalled by COVID-19 earlier this year, we caught up with PhotoDynamic CEO Martin Greenwood to discuss the characteristics that set this product apart and merit a financial investment by the American Association of Orthodontists – the first in the Association’s history.

LS: Can you give us a quick rundown of what, exactly PhytoLight does?

MG: It is a simple, two-part system. You spray the foam into the mouth tray, put it in your mouth, hit a button to turn on the LED lights in the tray, which in turn activates the photosensitizer in the foam’s botanical extract. The entire process takes about one minute, after which the patient can simply rinse the tray under tap. It is fast and effective, easily incorporated into a daily routine and verifiably prevents many of the issues dental professionals see in orthodontic patients, such as white spot lesions, stains, or decalcifying tooth enamel around brackets.

We’ve also developed smart technology around this product so that compliance data can be sent directly to the orthodontist or GP to monitor at-home use. They can then reach out to patients or parents with reminders, praise or support.

LS: Plant-based technology can sound a little “pie in the sky.” Before I put this in a patient’s mouth – what is actually in the foam?

MG: Dr. Sherri McFarland, PhotoDynamic’s founder, is a photochemist whose area of research is photodynamic therapy and how plants create compounds that are activated by sunlight to defend themselves against microorganisms. In tracking the chemical expressions of invasive species able to survive in hostile environments, she rediscovered Japanese knotweed – which is what our product is based on – a super plant that combines daily, safe attributes, a truly effective photosensitizer, is harmless enough to bake in pies and already sound by FDA standards. In preclinical work, we’ve seen that it can have an effect similar to chlorhexidine, but something you can use in a very safe, gentle way every day at home.

LS: What I love is that you’ve paired this 100-year-old plant with the latest in LED technology and then tied it all in with data.

MG: This is the first time in history that LED technology has provided the opportunity for us to get the amount of light into the mouth with the efficiency it requires; it just wouldn’t have been possible even four or five years ago. Our company has been chasing efficiency in LED technology to make this a 1-minute treatment – one minute, once a day, seven days a week, and unlike brushing, the tray does all the work for you.

Bluetooth technology and the IOS or Android app that patients download allow information sharing and support at a whole new level. This has been especially valuable to parents who want to support their kids and do right by this investment in their oral health. This is the long, expensive process of making beautiful smiles. Patients and families can now own the fact that if they do this right, they can have great outcomes.

LS: I don’t have braces, but can I use it?

MG: (laughing) We’ve developed this product specifically for brace wearers, but we see this technology as an essential way for high plaque formers of all kinds to address that challenge. With that in mind, we’re developing a second product that will meet those needs. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I encourage your readers to go to and sign up for our email list. We hope to release the new clinical data at the end of the year and officially launch at the AAO meeting in May.