On a single day in 2017, no fewer than 10 patients with poor oral health wrecked by DIY solutions came into orthodontist Adam Schulhof’s office.
“They had been through some direct-to-consumer type orthodontic treatment,” he says. “Their bites were messed up, and they had some problems.”
The bigger problem, says Schulhof, was that the orthodontist had been cut out of the process.
“Circumventing a supply channel to increase convenience and reduce costs — that works in many, many different verticals,” says Schulhof. “But in healthcare, if you’re circumventing the doctor, it ceases to be healthcare.”
Schulhof started Grin to bring orthodontists together with technology and bridge the gap between in-office and home oral care, with a take-home device that connects to an app and sends information to the orthodontist’s office. In 2021, P&G became a strategic investor in Grin, which will be displaying its products at P&G’s exhibit space at CES.
Learn more about Grin and Schulhof in this month’s Startup Spotlight, and scroll down for the transcript:
Everybody in the startup world loves the idea of disruption. But when it comes to healthcare, it’s got to be responsible disruption. Circumventing a supply channel to increase convenience and reduce costs — that works in many, many different verticals. But in healthcare, if you’re circumventing the doctor, it ceases to be healthcare.
So Grin is a telehealth platform. The goal is to empower consumers by increasing convenience, transparency, affordability, and even personalization of their oral care. We exist as an app on the patient or consumer side. And as a platform on the doctor’s side, thereby being able to connect the two at any time.
Whenever a patient is taking a scan with Grin, and then watching their video back and seeing deep into their mouth, every tooth in their mouth, a view that they’ve never seen before — the first thing they do after they say, “Cool!” is they turn back to me and ten they say, Oh, I really need to go for a cleaning. It’s really just a matter of knowledge, and the more we know, and the more we can track what’s happening in our mouth, the better off we are.
I’m an orthodontist, I have a practice in New York City. And this is circa 2015, where I started seeing a lot of patients coming through my doors. And unfortunately, they had been through some direct-to-consumer type orthodontic treatment. Their bites were messed up, and they had some problems going on. And it was happening more and more and more, and, one day, I think it was around 2016, 2017, where I was seeing 10 new patients that day and 10 out of 10 were these unfortunate patients that had attempted this, you know, direct to consumer, do my own tooth straightening from home kind of situation. And it hit me that there is a severe gap in the market whereby consumers are looking for those kinds of options. So instead of saying those options are terrible, I was really looking at it as, what am I as an orthodontist doing wrong that I’m not getting the right kind of narrative out to the market of what orthodontics is, what it can do for you, how important a doctor is in that orthodontic journey. And so I started talking to groups of orthodontists because I was lecturing at the time all over the world, and really sharing with them this market research that I had done locally in New York. And every single one of these patients that I had spoken to said to me one very important factor and it wasn’t price. It was actually convenience. Each and every one of them said to me, Well, you know, when I had orthodontics back when I was 7, 10, 13 years old, I remember going to the orthodontist every single month. I don’t have the time in my life now to go every single month.
Now, the reality is that in my practice, I was seeing patients, even back then, over FaceTime and Whatsapp Video and all of these other things that we were doing. But never did I actually market that to the public. Never did I actually get out there to the public and say, Hey, orthodontics today can be very different than it was years ago. Just with infusing technology into the journey, we’re now able to reduce the complexity and costs of orthodontic care. So that’s really where it started. And looking at potential partners and looking at very, very big companies, it was always about who is really aligned with our mission to be able to not just bring an innovative solution to the market, but actually create almost a new category of better oral care than existed prior. And that’s exactly what I found with P&G.
I believe that the AI that we’re building is going to help make that process even more streamlined, and even better. And in some ways, we’re going to be able to track what’s happening in patients’ mouths, to an extent that even the human eye can’t, and to find problems before they arise. So that it’s not about okay, now you have to go to your dentist, and there’s a costly procedure that needs to be done. Rather, hey, you know what, this is starting to occur. Let’s take care of that right now, where it’s easy to take care of, and then give you the right tools for ongoing care so that it doesn’t become a larger issue. So all of these things, you know, it’s not just about increasing the accessibility, but also increasing the specificity of what we’re finding and empowering the consumer to know so, early and in advance.
So the AI technologies that we’re building, and then the data that we are collecting, to the extent that data like this has never been accomplished. Has never been collected before. We’re going to start having data of course boomers in their home, their oral care needs changes like never before. And that’s going to allow us to create even more innovation and technology around how we can improve it to the next level.
Some of the things that we’re looking towards in 2022, and some of the reasons that we’re going to be at CES with P&G are the more consumer-facing aspects of what we can do with Grin. So over the next two quarters, we are going to be accessible to consumers directly. And then through consumers, we can then actually put you in contact with local dentists and providers.
For any young CEOs, startup entrepreneurs out there. The road ahead is long, but it is extremely fun and from my perspective, and, you know, when you can get to a point where you actually create inroads to companies like P&G, and you actually get your product into consumers’ hands and start hearing that feedback, and actually, ultimately changing patients lives — for me, I mean, all of it is worth it. So very, very difficult road, but I think anything that’s worthwhile does take effort. And so that effort is almost small in comparison to what we’re seeing now on the back end of all of this.