How Orthobrain’s platform could bring orthodontic care to millions who need it
For most who were born or had children in the last 30 years, it’s understood that the dentist and the orthodontist are two very different things. We see the dentist for check-ups and regular procedures, and we see the orthodontist for very expensive specialty procedures that straighten our teeth. But what if that paradigm could shift? If orthodontics became part of a regular dentistry practice’s offerings, with reduced costs and improved access, how would it change things? For the orthodontic experts at Richfield startup Orthobrain, that difference is everything.
“Orthobrain enables a general dentist practice to deliver orthodontic care at a level and quality comparable to what an orthodontist can do,” said Dr. Dan German, founder and CEO. “The digital world makes that possible because the dentist is able to share photographs, X-rays and clinical findings through our secure, cloud-based platform. We’re able to create a list of problems, solutions, predictions, prognosis and detailed instruction on how to treat the patient from start to finish. In essence, we’re putting a virtual orthodontist in the pocket of a general practice.”
That sounds great in theory, but German and the Orthobrain are working to make people understand just how impactful that difference can be. For instance, he points out that in 2019, research found that 60 percent of kids in Detroit weren’t able to see a dentist, let alone an orthodontist. Similarly, 65 percent of counties in the U.S. don’t have an orthodontist, meaning care is concentrated in metro areas. He said estimates show that 66 percent of the global population could benefit from orthodontic care. And for many of those people, that care isn’t just about vanity.
“We used to think that orthodontics was an elective field that was for wealthy people who could afford to get their teeth straightened,” he said. “But research has found that orthodontics has a profound impact on your ability to succeed and how you’re labeled by your peers or even teachers. It’s shocking and unfair, but it’s true, and it’s worldwide. Research out of the Middle East showed that people with crooked teeth are more likely to be bullied and are rated as less intelligent and trustworthy. So in a classroom or in an interview, you don’t have the same opportunities. Our work is a way for us to help make the world better.”
To do that, Orthobrain is going to need to grow, and that’s just what they plan to do. This month, the company announced a major Series A funding round of $9 million. Co-investors in that fundraise range from the JumpStart NEXT II Fund and the JobsOhio Growth Capital Fund to China-based Care Capital. That diversity reflects the company’s mission: start in Ohio and grow across the world.
“This funding is critical for us to build a global, scaled company,” German said. “We’ve proven the model of one orthodontist and an assistant; now, we want to scale it and take it global, which requires a lot more resources. Now, we’re transitioning into a more AI-driven platform and doing business in Canada and Australia. This is enabling us to advance our technology while we scale up.”
That process of scaling is already in the works. Orthobrain has built a platform that’s useful for everything from a small, independent dentist to larger practices and even conglomerates like Aspen Dental. By partnering with any and every type of dentist, Orthobrain can expand their offerings while growing their impact on the world.
“We’re leveraging the knowledge of an orthodontic expert by about 25 times,” German said. “An orthodontist in a typical brick-and-mortar practice takes on about 300 new orthodontic patients a year. One Orthobrain orthodontist working remotely from the digital platform can oversee about 500 dentists that treat about 7,500 new orthodontic patients a year. We’re talking about a huge increase in efficiency, effectiveness and accessibility and a decrease in cost. It’s like comparing an electric car that can go 300 miles on one charge to one that can go 5,000 miles. It’s a quantum leap forward.”
To make that leap with an eye on the rest of the globe, Orthobrain has found the perfect launching point in Ohio. From funding and talent to the health care partnerships they’re cultivating, longtime Ohio resident and proponent German said northeast Ohio gives the company everything they need to shine.
“We have a number of different individuals and organizations that are committed to helping people be successful,” he said. “There’s a lot of support available. I can go to Bounce Innovation Hub in Akron or JumpStart in Cleveland and those folks can provide mentoring and other support, and we have world-class health care networks here in Cleveland. Meanwhile, the business community in Cleveland has been so generous with their time. They seem to want to pay back in the form of helping others be successful. So Cleveland has been a great home for us.”