SMILE Health applications open, seeking oral health innovators

CareQuest Innovation Partners, a company focused on validating and scaling transformative solutions to improve overall health through oral health for all, in partnership with MATTER, a health care incubator and innovation hub, has announced that applications are now open for SMILE Health.

Now in its third year, SMILE Health is an accelerator programme for emerging startups designed to identify, validate, and advance solutions that increase equity and accessibility and propel the integration between oral health and overall health. The application period opens from 27 Mar through 8 May 2024.

SMILE Health
(Image: Business Wire)

Despite growing evidence proving that oral health is connected to overall health, only 37% of Americans saw both a physician and a dentist in the same year, as reported by the partners. SMILE Health advances solutions to help address this gap by bringing together innovators with industry partners and investors. The 12-week programme combines validation studies, industry expert-led curriculum and mentorship, and networking opportunities tailored to emerging health startups.

“Integrating dental and medical care is crucial to expanding access, advancing health equity, and improving health outcomes, and requires intentional collaboration between key stakeholders to make it a reality,” said Katie D’Amico, vice-president of Growth & Innovation at CareQuest Innovation Partners. “Through our SMILE Health community, we are proud to bring together leaders shaping the health care industry with mission-aligned innovators to advance new solutions that address long-standing challenges and transform health care.”

For the first time this year, the global call for innovators will centre around three tracks created and led by CareQuest Innovation Partners and industry partners who will take an increased role in the programme. Each track is linked to a pressing need for oral and overall health innovation.

The first track focuses on advancing accessible, equitable, and integrated health. It determines how applicants can make health care, including oral health, more accessible, equitable, and/or integrated. The second track reducing disparities through oral health by leveraging innovative oral health solutions to better identify and/or address health disparities. The third track connects chronic care with oral health, by examining how applicants can help people at risk or living with chronic conditions better manage their overall health through oral health.

“Chronic conditions are a leading driver of health care spending in the US, and uncovering ways to tackle these conditions in an effective and equitable way is critically important for Cigna Healthcare,” said Dr Cary Sun, chief dental officer at Cigna Healthcare. “As part of SMILE Health, we look forward to collaborating with innovators in the space to prove how a more integrated health care system could improve outcomes while managing costs.”

A minimum of five startups will be selected to join the 2024 cohort and receive a US$10,000 non-dilutive stipend to support their participation in the program. The programme will culminate in a Demo Day at the HTLH Conference in Las Vegas, US, during which startups will present their solutions to a group of industry leaders, including potential investors, partners, and clients.

“We are excited to participate in the SMILE Health programme, joining many premier organisations aligned to advancing innovation and supporting novel start-ups,” said Stanley Bergman, chairman of the Board and CEO of Henry Schein. “Henry Schein has a heritage of growth through innovation and a history of support for health care professionals and the patients they serve. Our participation in the SMILE Health programme reflects our commitment to advancing oral health.”

“Collaborating for almost two years on SMILE Health with CareQuest Innovation Partners has helped Colgate-Palmolive drive awareness around the connection between oral health and overall health and wellbeing, all of which are critically important to our company’s purpose to reimagine a healthier future for all,” said Maria Ryan, chief clinical officer at Colgate-Palmolive, “We are proud to partner on this important initiative to make oral health more accessible and equitable.”

Selected 2024 startups will be matched with SMILE Health industry partners. Partners include, but are not limited to, Cigna Healthcare; Colgate-Palmolive Company; Delta Dental of Massachusetts; Delta Dental of Washington; DentaQuest, part of Sun Life U.S.; Henry Schein; Pacific Dental Services; and Young Innovations. These partners will help advance solutions by providing resources, access to data, subject matter experts, and feedback.

“The SMILE Health programme is one of the most high-value, high-touch accelerators in the marketplace, helping innovators rapidly substantiate core areas of their business. We are thrilled to continue our collaboration with CareQuest Innovation Partners to build this year’s programme,” said Steven Collens, CEO of MATTER.

Related: CareQuest Innovation Partners and MATTER announce new partners and startups joining second cohort of SMILE Health programme