MedTech is currently one of the most dynamic and profitable markets. Some coins have been able to disrupt hard-to-reach sectors due to restrictive regulations perpetuating a very traditional process. Among them is DR SMILE, a German startup that has become a big winner in the Forbes Under 30 Europe ranking. solve it? To democratize orthodontic treatments by combining cutting-edge technology with medical experts for personalized care. Interview with founding duo Christopher von Wedemeyer and Jens Urbaniak.
What prompted you to invest in the “smile business”?
Christopher von Wedemeyer : By launching DR SMILE in 2017, we sought to democratize orthodontic treatments, the moderation of which was exclusively for practitioners in Europe. Previously, most orthodontic solutions were either very impractical or very expensive. Through our company, we seek to offer an alternative by offering dental practitioner supervised treatments with personalized digital care at reasonable prices, while using modern technologies as well as comfortable materials. To do this, we have built strong partnerships with local dentists to achieve excellent results for the benefit of patients.
Over the years, many clinical studies have confirmed that aligners are just as effective as other traditional methods, such as fixed metal brackets (braces), in straightening teeth. However, there are limits to the range of orthodontic treatments that we perform at Dr. Smile: we focus on non-invasive treatments, primarily visible frontal tooth movement. For more complex treatments, ie if the patient’s main discomfort is related to occlusion and requires significant displacement of the molars, our orthodontic partners and dentists refer patients to specialists.
How do you deal with an unmet need in the market?
It all starts with a smile. We empower everyone to unlock their smile and build self-confidence by empowering dentists to provide affordable, reliable orthodontic treatments. While many consumers in the US are already familiar with orthosis, we felt there were still gaps in this area in Europe and room for improvement. Currently, splint providers who incorporate a digital approach are consistently accused of practicing a “home-made” treatment that does not meet orthodontic standards and endangers patients’ health.
We take Dr. Smile seriously and combine aesthetic solutions with the highest medical standards. Dr. Smile’s team consists of more than 500 experts from dental and orthodontic specialties and the latest dental technologies developed in Germany.
In our partner practices, we rely exclusively on the expertise of experienced dentists trained in orthodontic treatment. Together, we ensure that our clients benefit from complete professional follow-up throughout the treatment process. From an oral examination and 3D scan, during the first consultation, through the professional preparation of a treatment plan by our dental technicians, orthodontists and partners, to regular treatment progress checks and final checks in the referral practice. The techniques we use are among the most innovative in dentistry and dental technology.
You and your partner Jens Urbaniak have just passed the Forbes 30 Under 30 Winners List (2019). What sets you apart from other MedTech players?
As the European market leader in modern and innovative orthodontic treatment, we benefit from an exceptional patient acquisition rate and partner practices. Proud to be part of the publicly traded Straumann Group, we relish the opportunity to give patients their best smile. In addition, we offer dental practice partners many benefits of providing our clients with excellent standards of advice and care. We are “market makers”, in other words: “market makers”.
Our mission to make people smile knows no geographical boundaries. Dr. Smile continues to expand across Europe with a focus on professional growth, cultural awareness and diversity: that’s why we are so unique, “out of the box” as the Americans say!
In which countries was it established?
In Germany, of course, in Austria, France, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. We have a network of 640 partner companies.
How do you mutually benefit from this merger with Straumann, a giant in the production of dental instruments and components? What roles do you play now in DR SMILE’s growth?
DR SMILE perfectly complements the Straumann Group’s existing offering and supports its expansion of the consumer go-to-market model for physician-led orthodontic treatments. Across healthcare, including dentistry, there are three major disorders that are dramatically changing the way things have worked throughout history. These three trends are consolidation, digital technology, and consumer power, which impact all of our stakeholders. Digitization has also prompted younger generations to understand their health journeys differently, and today, younger people are in more control by relying on online research and social media. Patients are now more aware and educated.
Christopher von Wedemeyer and Jens Urbaniak: ” We take Dr. Smile seriously and combine aesthetic solutions with the highest medical standards.”
As patients become increasingly “consumers of health,” Stroman believes strongly that the direct involvement of medical experts in treatments will continue to be a critical success factor. DR SMILE fits perfectly into this strategy. Meanwhile, the Straumann Group increased its stake in DR SMILE to 100%. The acquisition by Straumann Group is a great opportunity for us. The Straumann collection stands for excellence, innovation and quality. The patented technologies we use are among the most innovative in dentistry.
The combination of our doctor-centric, digital approach, under the umbrella of Straumann, a market leader with extensive network and manufacturing expertise, creates the perfect partnership to sustain high growth momentum.
Concretely, what are your areas of growth and ambitions?
Our aim is to offer our treatment to anyone who lives in a city of more than 100,000 people across Europe. We’ve already done that in Spain and Germany, and now we want France to become one of our main markets. We understand the interest in investing in this market that has very strong potential for us, because none of our competitors have managed to establish themselves there and we are the first. We aim to be the leader in France in the very short term.
The European dental market is expected to grow from €8 billion in 2021 to €13 billion in 2028, and we want to be an important driver for the growth of this market. Within 10 years, we want to be the undisputed European market leader in the field of fine teeth, while expanding our range of treatments and product offerings, with an additional focus on oral health, whitening and veneers. We want to continue to break down traditional barriers at the start of treatment, offering each patient a transparent and seamless presentation from start to finish. Further expansions outside of Europe are also possible.
Is dental health still a luxury in our European societies?
Yes, this is why we want to democratize dental hygiene to give everyone the opportunity to gain self-confidence with symmetrical teeth for a winning smile.
Wearing braces 22 hours a day, is this an effort well accepted by your patients?
Patients wear braces 22 hours a day and switch between braces every two weeks. If needed, patients can book a video consultation with one of our dentists, who will then take them back to the clinic if any treatment adjustments require a physical consultation. Finally, with ClearQuartz™ material, DR SMILE takes orthodontic treatment to the next level. This innovative multi-layer material combines two strong outer shells with an elastomer core, making it significantly superior to aligning with a single-layer material. The hard shell improves durability and stain resistance.
The flexible core reduces initial stress while providing a high level of long-lasting strength. This now makes your treatment more effective. It provides a level of comfort that your patients will appreciate. The application is the central point of contact for customer follow-up. It also allows us to take a proactive approach to treatment and closely monitor its progress.
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