They say beauty comes at a price.
And when you’re getting braces, it probably means burning thousands of dollars and being dubbed a geek for two years.
But a Singapore startup is changing all that with new invisible orthodontic braces that are priced at just a fraction of other brands seen in the market.
While the cost of invisible braces in Singapore typically ranges from S$6,000 (US$4,415) to S$10,000, Zenyum says its invisible braces cost only around S$2,200 on average.
And while most braces are worn for an average of 24 months, most patients using Zenyum need to wear its invisible braces for only three to nine months “to see a smile transformation”.
According to Zenyum’s CEO, Julian Artope, the braces launched in October are also more comfortable than traditional orthodontic braces, “due to the fact that they are removable and nearly invisible”.
“So far, we did not have any complaints where there was discomfort that caused alarm. We even have people (asking) whether they can remove their traditional braces and switch to Zenyum,” he said.
It might sound too good to be true, but Zenyum is already being used by dentists and the company has so far partnered nine clinics across Singapore.
But Zenyum isn’t for everyone, and will not be applicable to more serious cases that need major straightening work.
Zenyum’s braces do not actually speed up the teeth aligning process, but only provide minor adjustments, the 33-year-old told Business Insider.
Zenyum focuses mainly on aesthetic corrections to the front teeth, meaning that it’s not the best solution for those who need to re-align molars or change their entire bite or jaw structure.
Some unsuitable conditions include improper bites and severe overcrowding that require extractions.
However, for those who need only minor corrections and for ex-braces wearers whose teeth have shifted out of place over time, this is definitely an option to consider.
By qualifying potential customers and only accepting cases which it is confident of treating, variability is reduced and Zenyum is able to give a standard fair price of S$2,200 per treatment.
When asked how the company manages to keep costs low, Artope said that it “verticalises a lot of the value chain by acquiring and qualifying potential customers in-house”.
By doing so, it reduces the overall cost for its partner clinics and passes these savings on to customers.
Oh, and the fact that the braces are produced in Southeast Asia translates to low shipping costs and reduced environmental footprint.
And despite the lower prices, Artope said that his company still drives “monthly five-figure revenue to partner clinics”.
But before it could set foot in Singapore’s regulated, strict healthcare scene, there was a lot of homework that had to be done, Artope, who is from Germany, said.
“It took nearly a year to properly understand and navigate the legal and regulatory environment and get the necessary licenses to operate the business,” he told Business Insider.
While Singapore’s top-notch, stringent regulation might deter some, Artope saw it as an opportunity to make sure processes and quality control are at the highest levels.
“We take on a big responsibility by changing someone’s appearance and needed to convince people that we are worthwhile of their trust, time and dedication,” he said.
Artope – who has more than a decade of experience starting companies across Europe, North America and Africa – sought funding for the business from previous business partners and a range of MedTech investors and funds in the region.
And he believes the company “will become the biggest single direct-to-consumer distributor of invisible braces in Singapore in 2019”.
Not only that, Artope also has his sights set on Southeast Asia.
“Eventually, we want to scale the know-how and success from Singapore to other countries within the next months. This might also mean an additional larger investment round at some point,” he said.
How Zenyum works
A potential customer first sends a photos of his or her teeth and fills out a short survey. Zenyum then books a consultation session at one of its nine partner clinics where the customer gets X-rays, a 3D scan and impressions done.
A 3D simulation will then be created. After approval, Zenyum will start producing customised aligners within two to three weeks.
The customer switches to a new set of aligners every five to seven days.
Zenyum’s invisible braces need to be worn for 22 hours a day and should only be taken out for eating, drinking and cleaning.
The company uses the Zenyum app to check in on customers to make sure that their teeth are moving as predicted, and connect them with their treating doctor. Should there be any issue, customers have to head down to one of the partner clinics to get a proper in-person consultation with an expert.
For customers who are not happy with the results despite following all instructions given, Zenyum will produce additional aligners at no additional cost.
Just like other orthodontic braces, retainers are recommended after treatment. Zenyum plans to start offering these from February for S$300 with a 24-month warranty.