Providing patients a voice for oral health (pun intended)

Danny Grannick

September 14, 2021

5 minute read

Providing patients a voice for oral health (pun intended)

We’re really excited about healthcare transformation! New diagnostics (like genomics), treatments (like immunotherapies), and technologies (like the phone in your pocket) are changing how healthcare is packaged and delivered. Simply put: we can reach more people, more personally, to provide better care.

Diseases like cavities and gum disease are overlooked, even though they are the most prevalent in the world — and preventable. Oral health extends beyond our mouths, playing a role in the risk or progression of other chronic conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.

We tend to silo oral health and care from the rest of our healthcare experience. There are physical barriers — literally locating and getting to dental providers for consistent care, and mental barriers — like overcoming the anxiety associated with dental procedures or the embarrassment about the state of our oral health. Over 80M US adults avoid dental checkups every year because of inconvenience and anxiety. You are not alone.

Ignoring oral disease doesn’t make it go away. We mask the early symptoms of disease like tooth staining and bad breath with cosmetic bandaids, including teeth whiteners and chewing gum (FYI — this is not working as well as you think it is). This behavior leads to over 2M ER visits annually (over $2.3B in healthcare costs) for dental conditions that could have otherwise been prevented.

At Bristle, we believe that addressing and improving oral health is one of the most essential and actionable steps in improving overall health at a population scale. Through our saliva test and personalized treatment plans, Bristle provides everyone with the insights and tools they need to meaningfully improve their oral health.

It’s hard to change deep-seated opinions about oral health. When our whole experience revolves around dental drills, cavity fillings, and root canals, it’s not surprising that people prefer to blissfully ignore the state of their mouths.

Bristle is here to change that — and here are a few ways we’re getting it done:

  1. Focus on the patient rather than the system. We strive to deliver care the way that works for you, rather than marginally improving the status quo. Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but we think that starting from the ground allows us to reimagine the experience. It empowers us to provide accessible, affordable, and user-friendly products without having to compromise.
  2. Personalize everything. It’s a lot more than including your name in a marketing email. We are focused on delivering insights and recommendations to help you improve your oral health — everything from dietary advice to oral care product suggestions and prescription treatments. We all know we need to brush and floss. What about the aspects of our life we don’t realize we can improve? That’s where Bristle comes in.
  3. Prevent disease instead of reactively treating it. New diagnostics make it possible to detect disease at the earliest stages when patients have the highest chance of recovery and the most treatment options. In oral health, it’s the difference between prescription toothpaste or mouthwash and a root canal. In cancer, it can be the difference between treatment and no options at all.

Prevention is more than the kind of treatments we use — it’s also about making small but significant changes in our lives to address risk factors for diseases we may be susceptible to in the future. Understanding our risk for heart disease might encourage us to exercise more often or eat healthier.

Small changes cumulatively make a massive impact on our overall health — and we think your mouth is a pretty great place to start.

Full disclosure — lots of pieces I touch on were inspired by a16z and their coverage on the wave of innovation hitting healthcare. a16z is not an investor in Bristle.

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