Have you noticed the wave of new startups selling dental care treatments, oral hygiene products, and even basic orthodontic services — all directly to consumers online. From luxury toothpaste subscriptions to invisible teeth aligners and smartphone-powered LED teeth whitening devices, there are literally hundreds of venture-backed DTC brands trying to disrupt dental care. A few like SmileDirectClub and Quip have almost become household names, raising impressive sums of capital to cut out the middle-man — i.e. the credentialed doctor or practitioner.
Read on to discover the fastest-growing direct to consumer brands in dental care and better understand what’s driving their growth. If you’re in a hurry, click here to jump to our list of top startups trying to improve the wellness of your mouth.
So what's behind the rise of DTC dental care?
According to the U.S. department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 108 million Americans do not have dental insurance. Since programs like Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover adult dental services, and only about 2% of dental insurance plans in the U.S. cover orthodontia, there’s a large portion of the population that don’t have access to affordable dental care.
Affordable is the keyword, because orthodontic treatment can cost upwards of $7,000 out of pocket. Even among those that might be able to afford it, more than 49 million people in the U.S. do not have access to dental or orthodontia care as a result of dentist shortages, further compounding the difficulty to receive care. These systemic problems have made consumers hungry for care and opened the door for startups who can figure out how to provide dental services with less friction, and at a much lower cost.
Focus on Preventative Care
For the majority of Americans, oral hygiene is perceived as a critical daily practice. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice and using floss once daily. In addition, the ADA has maintained the importance of replacing the toothbrush head every 3 months.
These widely accepted oral care guidelines encourage recurring product use, which is key to success for any subscription. This opportunity for recurring revenue, coupled with the fact that only 40% of work-age adults in the U.S. see a dentist every year, has caused investors and founders to shift focus toward preventative oral care solutions.
Top Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Dental Care Startups
These oral care brands offer a wide range of products and services designed to promote better oral hygiene. These brands have raised a large amount of venture capital to deliver innovative dental products to be sold directly to the consumer. Don’t see your favorite on our list? Send us a note and let us know why you think it ought to be included.
DTC Dental Care Startups
Funding / HQ
|Candid offers affordable invisible aligners that straighten teeth without visits to the orthodontist.|| $78.4m|
New York, NY
| Greycroft Partners|
Smile Direct Club
|SmileDirectClub affers clear aligners that straighten teeth without visits to the orthodontist. They also recently launched an oral care product line as well.|| $1.3b|
| Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB)|
|Byte offers clear plastic aligners without visits to the orthodontist, as well as a high frequency vibrations therapy mouth guard that makes your aligners more effective.|| -|
Los Angeles, CA
|Smilelove offers clear aligners that straighten teeth without visits to the orthodontist.|| -|
|Quip is an oral care brand that offers an electric toothbrush and a subscription for new brush heads. Quip also recently entered the dental insurance industry with the launch of Quipcare.|| $62m|
New York, NY
| Blue Scorpion Investments|
|Goby sells sleek electric tooth brushes and other premium oral care products as a low-price monthly subscription.|| $2.2m|
New York, NY
| BBG Ventures|
Lerer Hippeau Ventures
Red Sea Ventures
|glowup. offers a premium at-home teeth whitening kit that uses LED light to brighten your smile.|| -|
Santa Monica, CA
ShopSmiles by Colgate
|ShopSmiles by Colgate is the brand's initiative to sell directly to consumers online, offering a teeth whitening and oral hygiene products subscription.|| -|
New York, NY
Burst Oral Care
|Burst provides affordable oral care products on a subscription basis, including a powerful electric toothbrush.|| $20m|
|SuperSmile is yet another premium oral care product brand with the option of a subscription.|| -|
New York, NY
|HiSmile provides oral cosmetic products such as teeth whitening kits and toothpastes that contain all natural ingredients to brighten teeth without sensitivity.|| -|
|AlignerCo offers an affordable way to straighten teeth with invsibile aligners sent directly to your door.|| -|
New York, NY
|Uniform Teeth mails clear aligners to you after one in-person consultation and 3D x-rays with a board certified orthodontist.|| $14m|
San Francisco, CA
| Canaan Partners|
|SnapCorrect offers an affordable way to straighten teeth with invsibile aligners sent directly to your door.|| -|
|Cocofloss is a creative and mission-driven oral care and wellness company with a luxury fragrant floss.|| -|
San Mateo, CA
|Dandy mails you clear aligners after an in-person visit and 3D x-ray with a board certified orthodontist.|| $4.32m|
New York, NY
Moon Oral Care
|Moon makes innovative vegan oral care products including stain prevention teeth wipes, a teeth whitening pen, and popping breath mints.|| -|
El Segundo, CA
|Hello Products sells a full suite of oral care products that are:|
- all natural
- never tested on animals
- made in the USA
| Acquired by Colgate-Palmolive in January 2020|
| Harmony Partners|
|RiseWell offers premium, all-natural oral care products that are backed by science, and even has a line for kids.|| -|
New York, NY
|Goodwell developed the first battery-free powered toothbrush and offers other oral hygiene products that are recyclable and compostable.|| $1.3m|
|Twice offers a vegan, chemical-free teeth whitening toothpaste. Every purchase provides dentistry to someone in need through their charity work.|| -|
New York, NY
|Bite is a sustainability-focused startup with a toothpaste alternative that comes in the form of a small tablet made of all-natural ingredients.|| -|
Marina Del Ray, CA
|Boka provides modern oral care powered by nature + science.|| $.2m|
We’ve been watching the dental care space closely and publishing many in-depth reviews that compare brands head to head. For instance, I recommend checking out our comparison of LED teeth whiteners from glowup. vs Smile Direct Club vs HiSmile , or get a feel for online clear aligner providers with our Candid vs Byte bake off. If you’re in the market for a new toothbrush, evaluate your subscription options with our Quip vs Goby vs Sonicare post. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay ahead of the online dental care trend and learn more about popular direct-to-consumer brands.
What product lines and services are dental care startups disrupting?
While dental care is a general term that we are using to bucket a lot of product and service categories. Here are a few of the hottest markets where VCs have invested heavily, and DTC dental care startups are shaking things up:
- Invisible Aligners / Clear Braces / Invisalign
- Teeth Whitening
- Toothpaste and Oral Hygiene
- Electric Toothbrushes
- Dental Insurance
As more startups sell dental services directly to consumers, people like dentists, orthodontists, supermarkets, and insurance brokers may see their share of the overall pie shrink.
Regardless, it’s an exciting time to watch the dental industry evolve. Hopefully direct-to-consumer dental startups begin to tackle larger systemic healthcare problems beyond just cheaper cosmetic treatments, but overall they have already delivered a ton of value to patients.
As always, we’d love to hear from you, especially if you work in dental care or at a direct-to-consumer company, or if you’ve been a customer of any D2C dental / oral care startups. Don’t hesitate to reach out anytime or subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed about top wellness brands cutting out the middleman and selling directly to consumers.
Why are dental care startups doing to appeal to consumers?
Now, patients receiving orthodontia treatments can do so from the comfort of their own home as their aligners are mailed directly to them and communication with an orthodontist and/or a dentist can be done through video chat. Those patients that do not have access to a dentist or the time to visit a dentist in person can still receive treatments through teledentristy. Likewise, customers no longer need to remember to buy new toothbrush heads, more floss, or toothpaste because they can sign up for a reoccurring delivery every few months to make sure they are keeping up with their oral care.
Historically, the dental care industry has been heavily consolidated with a few large key players that have strong brand awareness for their products. Direct to consumer oral care startups are making cheap alternatives to classic oral care products. For example, Quip sells an electric toothbrush for $25, compared to other larger brands that sell electric toothbrushes for over $100 each. In addition, 40 of Invisalign’s patents expired in October 2017, allowing direct to consumer startups to enter the clear aligner space with a cheaper product and orthodontic services using teledentistry. The cost of treatment through SmileDirectClub is $1895, compared to upwards of $7,000 for treatment through a traditional orthodontist. The direct to consumer model creates savings for the company that is then passed on to the consumer through cheaper products.
What's allowing such rapid growth among dental care startups?
Besides better pricing and more convenience, there are several key factors driving the growth of D2C dental care startups:
Advertising, New and Old
Most DTC brands start with a social media advertising strategy. However, as social media is inundated with digitally native brands vying for consumers’ attention, more and more DTC brands are investing in TV advertising. TV advertising reaches a broader consumer base, increasing brand awareness.
Additionally, the storytelling nature of TV ads invites consumers to engage with the brand on a deeper level. For brands that offer services such as teeth straightening and whitening, TV advertising reaches a target consumer base that is less active online. SmileClubDirect, Candid, and Quip are brands that have invested heavily in TV advertising to reach a broader consumer base.
Product Line Expansion
Like many other DTC brands, oral care startups are expanding their product lines beyond one oral care product or service and are becoming larger lifestyle brands. With fierce competition and VC pressures, DTC brands are expanding into new markets and services in order to build an empire. Quip started out selling electric toothbrushes and replacement heads and has recently expanded into dental insurance through its latest offering Quipcare. On the flip side, SmileDirectClub is expanding beyond teeth aligners and is launching an oral care line that includes products such as toothpastes, a water flosser, and an electric toothbrush.
Another way DTC brands that are looking to scale grow their customer base is by expanding into retail, and oral care brands are no different. Many oral care brands are exploring retail partnerships as a way to keep growing. For instance, like many DTC brands before it, Quip now sells its toothbrush base in Target stores across the nation. Quip is focused on giving people access to oral care products and services so it’s a natural move to be in retail stores where more people will have more access to their products. Likewise, SmileDirectClub opened up SmileShops inside CVS stores and recently announced that its new oral care product line will be sold in Walmart. The expansion into retail is a tried and true growth strategy for many DTC brands and as competition in the oral care space continues to grow, brands will continue to enter the retail channel.