A young Gilbert company is using a medium that has helped hospitality and transportation businesses thrive to achieve similar results in the dental industry.

Dental Genie launched the nation’s first-ever online dental marketplace last year. The aim is to help independent dentists grow their client base while assisting consumers with saving money on services and getting them to see dentists when needed.

The platform is geared toward patients who have put off vital procedures due to costs, lack of insurance and other similar barriers. It also assists independent dental practices battle the wave of large corporate dentistry that has infiltrated markets across the country.

The founders of the technology startup are two people with business backgrounds and a dentist, said CEO Chris Anderson. The trio came together in hopes of solving problems the dentist, who prefers to remain anonymous, recognized in his industry.

“One of his pain points was trying to compete with corporate dentistry. He wanted to create a tool that he felt would help independent dentists compete,” Anderson said.

How it works

Consumers can search by ZIP code or procedure to find a list of dentists in their area and see prices for services ranging from extractions and root canals to fillings and dentures. The search will also show consumers how these prices compare with services by insurance-only dentists. Anderson said Dental Genie users’ savings could range from $200 to $3,000 per service.

On the flip side, dentists on Dental Genie are able to post their availability in addition to procedures. This means they are able to fill up empty appointment slots and generate more business.

Dental Genie launched the online platform in 2018, a year after the company started. More than 100 dentists are part of the network, and it sees an average of 20 new users a month who book appointments, Anderson said.

Currently, 99 percent of its dentists are in Arizona, but the goal is to expand to other parts of the country. If plans come to fruition, the company will have 10,000 in-network dentists by 2020. Recently, the startup received a $1 million capital raise.

Demand for dentists and patients

The demand for the company’s service isn’t surprising. Nearly 59 percent of adults skip regular dental care due to cost, according to the American Dental Association. Also, 19 percent forego the trip because they cannot find a convenient location or appointment time.

Dental Genie responds to both concerns.

A combination of the high cost of dental care and dental insurance becoming less affordable is creating an increase of cash payers. Most of them, Anderson explained, are put on the sidelines due to sheer price.

The business model also comes to the aid of families who use up their dental benefits before halfway through the year.

“The number one reason people don’t go to the dentist is fear of the unknown costs. Dental Genie provides that transparency and brings patients together with dentists with not just ratings or reviews, but also pricing,” he said.

Anderson said the feedback from dentists and patients has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We’re helping solve some issues for dentists. We’re also helping patients be more comfortable knowing they can afford to go to a dentist. It’s marketplace for both sides to come together,” he said.

Dental Genie also gives small dental offices an affordable marketing tool to compete with the big budget that corporate dentistry has at is disposal. It also encourages aggressive pricing among dentists.

“Every dentist has empty chairs and wants to increase their gross revenues. This is a way to do it,” said Anderson.

Local patients find dentists

Symen VanderLinden, a dentist and co-owner at Aesthetic Family Dental Care in Chandler, has been able to keep his business steady while serving new patients since joining Dental Genie about a year ago.

More than 20 new patients have said they found him via Dental Genie. However, that number could be more because not every new patient chooses to declare how they discovered him, VanderLinden said.

About half of Dental Genie’s referrals have become regular patients.

“Dental Genie is a unique platform for a unique opportunity to find dentists through a different avenue. It also provided us, as a dental office, to see patients that are available for time spots we have open,” he said. “As a business owner, if your schedule is full, you do well.”

VanderLinden’s Dental Genie patients are typically in for procedures rather than routine cleaning. Some have been to another dentist and seek a second opinion while others have been price shopping.

VanderLinden said the platform has facilitated opening the door between dentists and hesitant patients.

“I’m impressed with what Dental Genie is doing. Not only are they providing patients with solutions, but providing solutions for doctors as well,” he said.

Heather Parsons is on a self-insurance plan that does not include dental benefits, and when she needed a tooth extracted, she found herself for the first time doing the legwork, which was daunting and overwhelming.

Through Dental Genie, she found Morris Oswald and his Mesa practice, Red Canyon Dentistry.  

“Dental Genie did what I was doing but made it 10 times easier,” said Parsons, who spent two minutes filling out the online form that allowed her to filter results by a 5-mile radius from her Mesa home, the procedure, and desired price range. “It brought up a slew of different dentists that could do the extraction and the walk-out-the-door rate.”

Parsons previously had an oral surgeon do tooth extractions. She estimated going with Oswald and Dental Genie saved her about $360 on the procedure.

Patient reviews of Oswald on the website played a big part in her decision. Parsons is so pleased with her choice that she recommended Oswald to others, including her mother, who has an upcoming appointment with him.

“He was so easy-going, so thoughtful and answered all of my questions. He wasn’t rushing me through,” Parsons said. “He’s exactly what I was looking for and what I wanted.”

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