By Genni Burkhart
Fortunately, the pandemic hasn’t stopped creative minds from entrepreneurial activity, as the U.S. saw a boom of 4.3 million new businesses in 2020. According to data from the Census Bureau, this amounts to a 24 percent increase from the previous year. Furthermore, it’s the largest increase in over a decade, and this year is on track to set yet another record.
As for the latest startups in oral healthcare, they’re using technology to advance efficiency in dentistry and eliminate dental pain. From speeding up the awkwardness of braces during the teenage years to implementing lightning-speed artificial intelligence (AI) to recognize an array of dental issues, investors are taking notice and funding these exciting innovations in oral care.
Putting the Money Where the Mouth Is
According to a recent article in the Boston Globe by Scott Kirsner, the pandemic is helping to drive millions of dollars of venture capital towards the dental market. In the article, Dai Feng (managing director of the investment firm CapitalAdvisors which solely invests in dental startups) states one reason as being, “A lot of dental care is paid out-of-pocket by patients rather than insurers, which creates incentives to keep prices at least somewhat affordable.” He continues to explain that adopting technology for dentists and hygienists improves efficiency and increases access to dental care for patients.
COVID-19 has also intensified the focus on health and wellness. With more communication happening over video screens, people are spending more time seeing images of themselves and want products and services that will improve their smile that’s staring back at them.
Let’s look at some of the dental startups with the most investment capital, and what they have to offer dentists and patients alike.
Leading U.S. Based Oral Health Startups
Founded in New York, Quip is best known for being a subscription-based toothbrush replacement service. With $160 million in total investment funding, Quip has redirected its focus on becoming the “go-to platform” for both personal and professional oral care.
By adding products such as flosser, gum, mouthwash, smart electric toothbrushes, and, in April of this year, a virtual orthodontist-enabled clear aligner service, Quip is taking a much larger share of the estimated $435 billion global oral healthcare market.
Headquartered in Miami, Florida, Neocis is the developer and manufacturer of Yomi®, a robotic device for dental surgery aimed at transforming dental surgery using advanced technology. With marketing clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Yomi® works with a dental surgeons’ capabilities to overcome surgical and treatment challenges and improve overall patient care.
A software as a service (SaaS) platform, CareStack is a practice management tool for large dental groups, helping them to improve productivity and patient care by combining practice management, patient engagement, marketing, and data analytics.
Based in Florida, the company was founded out of need by Abhi Krishna and Dr. Mark Huzyak to keep up with Mark’s growing dental practice. To date, CareStack has raised $74.1 million in funding and plans to expand operations and double the number of employees. So far this year CareStack has grown from 200 hundred employees to currently just under 400 and claims to have doubled its revenue in 2020.
Founded by dentists from Harvard School of Dental Medicine and PhDs from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Overjet was developed at the Harvard Innovation Labs. Overjet was derived out of a desire to solve some of the most challenging problems in dental care through the use of AI.
Overjet's main product is a “dashboard that aggregates the insights from the deep learning algorithms the startup uses to analyze the clinical data." The AI can identify common oral anomalies found in patient X-rays, and then collect those results in an accessible user interface.
With FDA approving its clinical use, Overjet looks to expand its AI software into dental practices across the U.S. This Boston-based startup has seen a growth in venture capital funding, as financing recently drew in $27 million, nearly quadrupling its total funding.
As the self-proclaimed “future of dentistry powered by AI,” Pearl offers a suite of artificial intelligence solutions aimed at instantly identifying dental issues with remarkable precision. Pearl uses proprietary technologies to read and interpret dental imagery, measuring numerous dental pathologies, restorative features, and anatomy.
Based in Lost Angeles, Pearl is a spin-off of the company GumGum, which applies machine learning to advertising and sports. Pearl has raised $11 million in financing from undisclosed investors as well as Craft Ventures, the investment firm set up by Yammer founder, David Sacks.
Seen as a competitor to Pearl, VideaHealth has developed its own software to recognize early tooth decay and gum disease from dental X-rays. Since the company was launched in 2018, investors including Zetta Venture Partners, Pillar, and MIT’s Delta V have contributed $5.4 million in seed financing.
VideaHealth has collaborations with dental clinics across the U.S., including a partnership with Heartland Dental, which operates nearly 1,000 clinics throughout the Midwest. The company plans to use its investments to further research and development, as well as hire more employees.
Fear is still the main reason people do not go to the dentist, and the startup Tend is turning this into an opportunity. While most startups are focused on oral hygiene products and technology, Tend is transforming the in-office experience. From aromatherapy to Netflix shows, this startup is aiming to make dental practices feel more spa-like for the patient.
The company has raised $37 million and plans to use its funding to expand into new markets across the U.S.
Oral health startups are furthering AI technology that will transform the diagnosis and treatment of dental issues and improve practice profitability. As the global dental services market is expected to grow from $365.57 billion in 2020 to $435.08 billion by the end of 2021, investors are taking notice.
These promising startups are ushering in a new era of oral healthcare by recognizing deficiencies in the current standard of care and elevating it through machine-learning technology. As the dental industry resumes in-person industry shows, look for keynote speakers from these companies to take center stage on how AI is revolutionizing dental care for patients and providing dentists with new avenues of growth.
Author: With over 11 years as a published journalist, editor, and writer Genni Burkhart’s career has spanned politics, healthcare, law, technology, business finance, and news. She resides on the western shores of the Puget Sound where she works as the Editor in Chief at DOCS Education out of Seattle, WA.