A look at the history behind Ultradent’s VALO line of LED
curing lights and what it took to create the newest addition,
the VALO X.
To truly understand what makes the new VALO X so exceptional, you must go back to the early 2000s when Ultradent introduced its first wand-style curing light with blue LEDs. These corded lights had a clunky plastic body and copper rods to drive heat away from the LEDs to the body of the wand so they would not burn out, which was far from ideal. They were among the first of their kind, and although they were a step in the right direction, they certainly needed work.
After living through these pain points, the engineering team at Ultradent set out to reinvent the curing light—and that is how the VALO line was born.
To address the main quality issues of these early LED lights, engineers at Ultradent’s Utah facility replaced the plastic body with aircraft aluminum for improved heat transfer and moved the LEDs to the end of the light, says Neil Jessop, VP of research and development. They also designed the VALO with a unibody construction that was sleek yet durable, providing dentists with a true workhorse light that could survive drops. Improved thermal management and a 9.7-mm lens size (other lights were at 6 or 7 mm) were among the features that set this light apart, along with a low-cost battery that was easy to replace.
The next iteration in the award-winning line, the VALO Grand, available in corded and uncorded versions, improved upon the original with a nearly 12-mm lens. This created a product with enough LED power to distribute light over a 10-mm molar for a uniform cure—a significant advancement.
That brings us to the latest version: the VALO X. The biggest enhancement is the 12.5-mm lens aperture that allows for an even more complete cure. A powerful custom LED chip delivers optimal curing depth and beam collimation with better thermal management. Other features include aerospace-grade aluminum construction, a low-profile wand design that allows for comfortable access to all regions of the mouth, optimized power output, an accelerometer that easily changes modes, and 12 LEDs (8 curing lights and 4 white lights).
VALO X is a powerful broadband curing light with new capabilities, with features like its new 12.5-mm lens and custom LED chips. These features allow for optimized curing depth and beam collimation, as well as better thermal management. The light itself is constructed from space-grade aluminum for durability. It also contains an accelerometer designed to make it even easier to change between Standard and Xtra Power curing modes, giving clinicians a new flexibility in the curing process.
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“The engineering process is typically several years long, and it stands on the shoulders of what VALO already built,” Jessop says. “Everything that VALO was, VALO X is just a better version. I’m really proud of that because it’s hard to do year over year. In 2008 there was nobody like us, but the world has changed in so many ways following VALO. Everything compares against VALO because we’re the target, we’re the ones who stand out front.”
That puts the pressure on the team to get it right, Jessop says, and he knows they have with VALO X.
“VALO X is that next step forward,” he notes. “It truly performs clinically better and is a better user experience top to bottom.”
A Powerful Light
The goal with VALO X is to allow clinicians to cover an entire molar for a more uniform, complete cure, which the 12.5-mm lens achieves. It offers better polymerization than the competition, and that expanded beam coverage is what Jessop is most proud of with the VALO X.
“Doctors don’t want to play target practice with a small light,” Jessop says. “They want to be able to cure a bigger area.”
There are other lights on the market that have a 12-mm lens, but they don’t properly distribute the light over the entire area. All the energy might come out of the middle 6 mm, meaning you are not curing the entire restoration like you think. If almost no energy comes out of the perimeter, that could lead to incomplete cures and trouble with your restorations down the road, including cracks and even failures, leading to additional chair time and costs, as well as unhappy patients.
“Doctors typically don’t know this is what’s going on. It could be 6 months or a year later when something fails and they don’t know why, especially with deeper boxes,” Jessop explains. “We want to cover the whole tooth every time. We can maximize the curing footprint with a uniform blend of light so dentists can have confidence their light is hardening the composite.”
Sleek and Sturdy
Taking the light from 9.7 mm to now 12.5 mm required more driving power, Jessop says, and one of the challenges was keeping the light from becoming too big and clunky to accommodate that power. The engineering team focused on giving the VALO X a low, narrow profile so it is easy for clinicians to reach and cure posterior restorations with the light, while remaining a comfortable experience for patients. Ergonomics was also a priority.
The aluminum body gives the light durability and helps manage the LEDs, keeping them from overheating, Jessop says. Unlike many other curing lights, the VALO line does not have vents, simply because it does not need them. The VALO X, like its predecessors, is also sealed incredibly well, further enhancing its durability.
“The unibody construction has better seams and matching of machining,” Jessop says. “All the VALO lights have incredible craftsmanship, but that’s taken to another level with the VALO X.”
Although all VALOs come with an inexpensive long-lasting battery, engineers created a new version for VALO X to help ensure customers don’t mistakenly buy a nonrechargeable battery that could lead to problems with the light. The single battery comes with circuit protection and costs about $25.
The Accelerometer, a Novel Feature
The accelerometer function is new to the VALO X, and makes it easy to change between the 2 curing modes, Standard and Xtra Power. You can go back and forth by flipping your wrist instead of having to find and push a button, eliminating awkward fumbling during procedures and reducing the likelihood of dropping the light. This time-saving feature allows you to stay focused on the task at hand, improving efficiency.
The light also comes with both black light and white light diagnostic aid modes, Jessop says, and you can go back and forth between them by drum tapping forward and sideways. When changing modes, whether diagnostic or power, the light makes sweeping tones rather than beeping so it stands out from other common office sounds.
“The accelerometer was hard to accomplish,” Jessop notes. “A lot of people said it wouldn’t be successful, but it has been. It never accidentally changes modes. It’s an intentional movement and incredibly reliable. We’re the only curing light that has it, and it’s definitely one of those things that’s going to be hard for anyone to replicate. It’s a nice, novel feature that just makes the curing light easier to use.”
With the VALO X, Ultradent engineers wanted to give dentists an experience they couldn’t find with any other light. They have accomplished that with the larger lens size and beam power, the accelerometer, the low-cost battery, and the sleek and durable design.
VALO X is by far the most powerful light available today, Jessop says, putting out more total energy than anything else on the market. And, most importantly, it does its job, properly polymerizing restorations in a short amount of time so dentists know they are getting a complete cure every time.
Each new generation of curing lights must prove it is performing the polymerization task better, Jessop says, and the VALO X certainly does that. And in the end, that is what really matters.
“The world is changing and expectations for customers are increasing,” Jessop explains, noting there are now other high-quality lights on the market, though none quite on the same level as VALO X. “Ultradent has driven change in the space. If VALO didn’t exist, I don’t know if these products would have stepped up. It’s good to know we have worthy adversaries, and the world is becoming a better place because of what we’re doing.”
Of course, there are still the cheaply made curing lights that dentists might be tempted to order from the internet. Don’t make that mistake. They will leave you with restorations only partially cured and will only cause headaches for your practice. For a relatively small one-time investment, you can have a powerful VALO X that is built to last.
“It’s a beautiful piece of engineering,” Jessop says. “When you amortize it over all its uses, it’s a pretty low-cost device. Not many products get used that frequently, so you need durability and quality. You don’t want to compromise.”