Avoid tooth and money pain with Empident
About 75% of Germans suffer from periodontitis. The really bad thing about it: those affected often don't even know it. This ignorance about any kind of dental disease ensures that it ranks third in total medical expenditure in Europe - right after diabetes and cancer.
"We found it appalling how undervalued this topic is," says Sandra Paz de Lucas. In response, she founded the startup Empident in 2018, along with two co-founders, whose home dental scanner is the first to offer data-driven dental protection. This not only prevents dental disease, but also reduces the associated costs.
"Three interest groups are affected by dental complaints:
Firstly, the patients, then the dentists and finally the insurance companies, which pay for the costs of treatment. With our dental scanner, we can offer digital prophylaxis and thus ensure this efficient prevention. This benefits all parties equally: patients avoid dental diseases, dentists are relieved and, by creating data-driven risk models, insurance companies can also better understand the issue, take precautionary measures and ultimately save money.”
"Because right now, dental disease prevention is a black box”,
says Sandra. “It is basically the case that dental diseases are a chain of insidious processes. What starts with inconspicuous plaque becomes, unnoticed over time, caries and thus a problem. Patients perceive only two conditions: either they feel healthy or sick. Anything in between, a patient cannot judge - this leads to dental diseases remaining undetected for a long time. Not least, of course, because they are simply not directly visible to the human eye.
Dental diseases don't communicate.
"By the time it gets to the point where the dentist detects dental disease, it is of course too late for any kind of prevention. The doctor can only act reactively.
“This is where our dental scanner for the home comes into play. This is a brushless scanner including a mini camera, which can be purchased at a price of about 100 €. During use three to four times a month, oral hygiene data is generated, which is then evaluated by an AI. The results can be viewed by our users in a mobile app and, on the other hand, these are sent to their own dentist, as well as their insurance company.
Successful prevention leads to a win-win situation: Everyone involved gains health and saves costs.
"Ultimately, we generate our profit through the sale of our dental scanner as well as the transfer of the data generated with it to the insurance companies. The positive side effect of this is that we prevent dental diseases from occurring in the first place."
Ingenious in theory. Does your product therefore fill a gap in the market?
"Yes, indeed”, Sandra emphasizes. She continues: “There are already smart toothbrushes that continuously generate, store and evaluate data during dental care. But the quality of this data is questionable, because to determine the risk of dental diseases, the data must have medical relevance. An electric toothbrush can't do that.
“Empident sheds light for the first time into already described black box. Due to lack of technological knowledge, this area could not be served for a long time. What sets us apart is that our dental scanner generates only relevant data, such as the presence of caries or a noticeable redness of the gums. Through this type of tele-monitoring, we will be able to help individual households provide the most efficient prophylaxis and medical care in the future."
Teeth can be brushed for five minutes and still relevant areas are not cleaned.
An entire household benefits from your dental scanner. Does this generally target every age group?
"You could say that. In a sense, 6 - 99-year-olds should check their teeth regularly for dental diseases. In this context, we would also like to delve more deeply into geriatric medicine next year. Because seniors in need of care are particularly underserved, which is why we want to close this huge gap."
Empident - a startup by patients, for patients
"We are particularly proud that Empident was founded by patients. This gives us a unique perspective on the problem, bringing a stronger focus on patient-centered solutions compared to dentists. Our team was born out of frustration: One of us had been having problems with his teeth for a while, the other didn't want to be like his grandma, and last but not least, one of my daughters got cavities. We all asked ourselves the question:
Why am I incapable of brushing my teeth properly myself?!
"For this reason, we believe that with our Push, we have created a practical product from the patient's perspective that will add value not only to the market but also to successful dental disease prevention in the future."
Certainly. But have there been setbacks in the past?
"Not just one”, Sandra laughs. “We started with an analog product. But after weeks of talking to a wide variety of experts and analyzing our target group, we realized that we had to adapt our product to the market and demand. We also realized that there was extremely low readiness on this important topic of dental care. This is not least because many simply don't know that they are missing something.
As much as possible, as little as necessary -
Unfortunately, this attitude is also the rule in dental care.
"Of course, startups are passionate about their product. But that always carries the danger of only wanting to push through exactly what you have in mind. The result is that people don't listen properly and therefore the product can't realize its full potential."
Against this background, do you have any special advice for founders?
"On the one hand, listening properly, and on the other hand, engaging with the target group is enormously important. Since we have been consciously implementing this, our development has been more successful than ever before. Ultimately, a startup should never be afraid of failure - on the contrary:
Our motto is: fail systematically and quickly.
"Because this avoids going down wrong paths for too long. Also, of course, talk to as many different personalities as possible. This pluralism of opinions does make you waver, but that's the prerequisite for recognizing whether a product will be accepted or not."
What do Judith Williams, Die Höhle der Löwen and 5-HT have to do with you?
"The show, Die Höhle der Löwen, had hosted a clubhouse session a few months ago, which I attended. There, Judith Williams, one of the presenters, recommended to me that 5-HT is the top accelerator with a focus on the health sector. From then on, everything happened quickly: from contacting you to the first pitch coaching, it has been confirmed throughout how right Judith was with her advice. Because interdisciplinary exchange is essential for startups in the healthcare industry, we are always looking to exchange ideas with experts in a wide variety of fields.
5-HT helped us put the finishing touches on that."
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