Going to the dentist is often an opaque process in which you’re seldom, if ever, given the price you’re going to pay for your treatment before setting foot inside the door.
While most of us have learned to accept the terms of today’s medical industry, two Brooklyn-based dentists are attempting to upend the traditional route to dental treatment.
Richard and Derek Giddon, a father-and-son team who have nearly 40 years of combined dentistry experience, have created a new tool to discover affordable dental care that allows consumers to pick the price they’re able to afford.
“When you go to the dentist and have x-rays and an exam, they tell you what you’ll need, and then, what it costs,” said Derek Giddon in an interview with Business Insider.
“I can’t think of any other industry in 2018 in which the consumer is so completely powerless. If you can’t afford the fees that the doctor gives you, what options do you have?”
The Giddons’ solution to this problem is Smylen.com, a website that matches dentists with patients seeking treatment. The website is modeled after an early version of the affordable hotel-searching tool Priceline, which originally let people search the site for hotel rooms based on location and cost.
Like the early version of Priceline, Smylen lets you search for the dental treatment you use based on cost and location in a reverse bidding process. This reverse bidding process is an important aspect of the site, said Giddon, because it provides dentists that partner with Smylen a degree of anonymity.
“The dentists aren’t hanging a sign outside their window that says ‘$99 Crowns,'” said Giddon. “These fees exist within the system, and the only person who knows they’re getting the cheaper deal is the person who gets it.”
Giddon said he hopes Smylen will provide options for people who are uninsured to receive dental treatment. A recent study by the American Dental Association found that less than one-third of young adults make yearly trips to the dentist because they think it’s too expensive.
“There’s nothing that exists right now to give people this type of service,” said Giddon. “It’s a major problem in this country. Everyone is always talking about affordable care, but if you don’t have coverage, affordable care is often inadequate in terms of covering what you need.”
Giddon anticipates Smylen’s service will provide options for services that aren’t typically covered by insurance as well, including cosmetic procedures like tooth whitening, dental implants, and Invisalign.
While Smylen is designed to provide Americans with affordable dental treatment, Giddon said he believes the medical community will benefit from the company’s offerings as well.
“It’s a new way of bringing dentists business,” said Giddon. “If they know that there are times or days of the week when their office is empty, they can set the fee and services they want to offer during those times.”
In an effort to offer only premium services, the dentists who partner with Smylen are rigorously vetted, said Giddon. The company uses the same vetting process used by insurance companies when partnering with a new medical office.
“We feel strongly that our focus is that we have the right dentists,” said Giddon. “These dentist have stellar reputations. You shouldn’t be nervous when you’re sitting in their chair.”
Smylen’s services, which launched on Monday, are so far only available within New York’s five boroughs, but Giddon hopes to bring its service to the rest of the US as well.
Here’s how it works:
First, you pick the dental treatment you need.
If you’re unsure of which service is right for you, you can use Smylen’s self-diagnosis tool to get a general idea of the treatment you might need.
Then, pick the fee you want to pay for the service you picked and place your bid.
Smylen connects dentists and patients through relevant area codes. Currently, Smylen provides its services only within New York City, but Giddon says he plans to expand Smylen’s offerings to different parts of the US later this year.
After you enter your credit card information, you’ll be matched with a dentist. If the price you picked is an acceptable bid for a dentist, your card will be charged the moment you match. In this instance, my bid for a $99 whitening service matched with a Brooklyn-based dentist.
Because Smylen’s price point tool is based on bids, you may have to enter several different amounts before you match. Once you do, you’ll be prompted to pick a time that works.