A new start-up wants to expand dental office hours to nights and weekends. The company, called Floss Bar, allows patients to schedule an appointment with a hygienist during hours when dental offices typically aren't in use.
The goal is to make basic preventive dental care as seamless and affordable as possible, according to Floss Bar Founder and CEO Eva Sadej. She came up with the idea when she couldn't convince her partner to make a preventive dental appointment during regular office hours.
"It just seemed like a big waste of time," Sadej told DrBicuspid.com in an interview. "For busy people, we care about our teeth, but our time is valuable, too."
Like a staffing service
Only 36% of U.S. adults visited the dentist in 2015, according to recent ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI) research. The research has long cited cost as a barrier to care, but lack of convenient appointment times may be keeping people from the dental office, too.
That's where Floss Bar comes in. Patients can use Floss Bar's website to book and pay for dental services online. Health history also is gathered at the time of booking, so they don't have to fill out paperwork on the day of the appointment.
Floss Bar currently works with three dental offices in New York City. Appointment times depend on the office, but they usually start around 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and are also available on Saturdays.
Sadej sees the business model as a win-win for dentists and hygienists. Hygienists can use Floss Bar to earn extra money and build their own client list, while dentists can make passive revenue and get referrals during hours when they typically wouldn't be seeing patients.
“For dentists, Floss Bar is a lead generator," Sadej said. "You make money by opening your doors, and we make money by facilitating basic services."
While the focus of Floss Bar is on preventive hygiene services, patients can also book in-person and virtual dentist visits, teeth-whitening appointments, and consultations for clear braces. All Floss Bar services have a transparent price for both patients paying out of pocket and those with insurance. Furthermore, about 70% of Floss Bar customers pay out of pocket, suggesting that the service may be reaching those who don't already visit the dentist on a regular basis.
Sadej plans to expand to 12 offices in New York and eventually to surrounding states, including New Jersey and Connecticut.
"That's the great thing about being a technology-based business," Sadej said. "Once you figure out the nuances per state, you just plug them in and go."
Technicalities and legalities
Sadej spent four months working with two different law firms to craft the legal framework for Floss Bar, but she says dentists still question whether the service is lowering the quality of care by giving patients the option to forgo a dental exam. Mark Feldman, DMD, executive director of the New York State Dental Association, had no opinion on Floss Bar, but he stressed the importance of following New York's direct personal supervision laws.
"If a patient goes to a hygienist for care, then the patient may have some underlying disease or medical condition that actually makes it dangerous for them to have those dental hygiene procedures," Dr. Feldman told DrBicuspid.com. "So that's why our law requires a dentist to have direct personal supervision over patients that come to their practice."
But Dr. Feldman also noted that any technology that gets more patients into dental chairs can't be a bad thing.
"If new online technology will get patients that don't normally go to the dentist to set up a convenient appointment, and the dentistry is practiced legally in that state, it's a wonderful idea," Dr. Feldman said. "I believe more and more dentists are using technology, not just Floss Bar, to make scheduling patients easier."