The Big Business of Direct-to-Consumer Dentistry

Image: Quip

In recent years, tech has revamped traditional healthcare. Now, startups want to reimagine how you care for your teeth.

Dentophobia. Dental care took a nosedive during the pandemic, falling over 70% last year. Even before COVID, solo dental offices were struggling, rolling up into private equity firms and group practices.

Today, the industry continues to face widespread challenges:

  • 59% of adults avoid the dentist due to costs, and 23% of Americans lack dental coverage.
  • 61% of adults experience dental fear, and 15% are so anxious they avoid the dentist entirely.

A PR Problem. Racked with student debt, dentists have become infamous for “creative diagnosis,” or upselling unnecessary services. Experts estimate that Americans spend up to $13B a year on fraudulent dental work.

The profession is “under assault from insurance companies,” says pediatric dentist Dr. Jeffrey Camm,  resulting in “alarming” trends.

The opportunity. Despite dated practices, dentist offices still see 500M visits annually, topping $100B in spend.

The first wave of disruptors, DTC brands innovated with toothbrushes like Quip and chewable toothpaste tablets. Impress, which recently raised $50M, overhauled orthodontics.

Others crafted at-home experiences, from Wally Health’s oral kit to lifestyle sets like Apa Beauty, claiming to feature the “Rolls-Royce of toothbrushes.”

Taking aim at dental practices, a new wave of startups are joining in.

  • Tend announced a $125M Series B this year to craft a better dentist experience, complete with Bose headphones, Netflix shows, and high-tech equipment.
  • Mobile dentistries Lydian and HENRY (recently acquired by Onsite Dental) do the same  — with 50-foot offices that come to you.
  • Level, a digital insurtech platform, raised $27M in April to revamp dental benefits.

According to Khosla managing director Samir Kaul, companies like Level can do for insurance “what Square Cash did for person-to-person payments.”

Takeaway: Dentistry is a massive but tired industry plagued by decaying ethics. Filling in, forward-looking startups hope to give dental care a rebranding that has been long overdue.

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