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Smile! Brighter’s alternative to dental insurance keeps your pearly whites from falling out

Image Credit: Brighter Facebook

Oral is important. Hygiene, that is. And Brighter wants to make is as easy and affordable as possible for people to gives their mouths the care they need.

The company announced closing $15 million for its online service that acts as an alternative to dental insurance.

Through Brighter, people without dental coverage have access to preset prices for services from hundreds of certified, vetted dentists. Brighter negotiates with dentists to offer the “best possible” rates for over 500 procedures and claims to save members an average of 50 percent on their dental costs.

“Americans spend close to $50 billion a year out of pocket on their dental care, and they do so with no idea of what dental procedures should cost them until they are sitting in the dentist’s chair,” said Brighter founder and chief executive officer Jake Winebaum.

Patients can search through information about pricing, available appointment times, education and credentials, reviews, office amenities, and pictures and videos of the dentist. They book online and pay after their appointment.

A report commissioned by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) said that America is in a “dental crisis.”

An estimated 47 percent of the American population does not have dental insurance. More than 47 million people have limited access to dental care, and bad dental health negatively affects overall health, increasing the risk for diabetes, heart disease, and poor birth outcomes.

Cost is one of the major deterrents to seeking regular dental care, and this endemic issue is particularly pronounced in low-income communities among racial and ethnic minorities, older adults, and people who live in rural areas.

Winebaum said that as companies have cut back on employee benefits due to escalating health-care costs and economic troubles, the problem has become even more pronounced.

Furthermore, access to information about dentists and their pricing is limited, and Winebaum saw an opportunity to bring the “kind of price and reputation transparency” that exists in other consumer markets, such as auto and travel, to dental care.

Brighter leverages the power of group buying to negotiate affordable out-of-pocket rates. This approach allows Brighter to bypass insurance companies while still making financial sense for dentists.

Tenaya Capital director Stewart Gollmer said this flips the dental insurance model on its head “by creating a marketplace where dentists compete for patents based on price, quality, and convenience.”

The company tried a couple of different approaches before it found one that stuck. It experimented with matching patients with dentists and facilitating appointment scheduling and finally found this model, which seems to be working.

Brighter launched this service in June in the Los Angeles area and has more than 600 dentists in the network and thousands of patients.

This third round of financing will support national expansion of Brighter. Tenaya Capital led the round, with participation from existing investors Mayfield Fund and Benchmark.

Before founding Brighter, Winebaum was a founder and CEO of Business.com. He also served as chairman of the Disney Internet Group, overseeing Disney.com, ESPN.com, ABCNews.com, ABC.com, and Family.com.

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