SMILE Health launched to advance innovation for accessible, equitable, and integrated oral care

CareQuest Innovation Partners, a company focused on validating and scaling solutions that improve oral health, has launched SMILE Health with MATTER, a healthcare incubator and innovation hub.

SMILE Health is designed to identify and accelerate early-stage start-ups at the intersection of oral health improvement and health equity advancement. It is an acronym that underscores the innovations the programme seeks: Simple, Minimally Invasive, Integrated, Low-barrier, and Equitable.

The global open call is focused on addressing critical needs in oral health. One in five Americans do not have adequate access to oral health care. And for many who do, the cost of care is insurmountable.

Dental expenses account for a quarter of all healthcare out-of-pocket spending — that means, in aggregate, patients are personally paying US$55 billion annually for dental care. Whether due to a lack of providers, high cost, social barriers, or infrastructure challenges, getting to and paying for dental care is difficult for too many people.

SMILE Health wants to change that. It is looking for innovators that are developing preventive or minimally invasive care solutions delivered both inside and outside of the dental offices, advancing racial, socioeconomic, and geographical equity in oral healthcare, or bridging the gap between medical care and dental care to improve health outcomes.

“Oral health is often seen as separate from overall health, when, in reality, oral health is a critical component of whole-person care,” said Mariya Filipova, chief innovation officer at CareQuest Innovation Partners. “Now more than ever, patients, providers and communities need integrated solutions that make oral care an integral part of the overall healthcare experience. We designed SMILE Health in response to that need.

“Our imperative at CareQuest Innovation Partners is to seek out and accelerate to market the next generation of transformative solutions that will make oral health more accessible, equitable and integrated, SMILE Health offers a handful of entrepreneurs the opportunity to build that future.”

Applications are open from 14 Mar through 22 Apr 2022. Up to 10 early-stage start-ups will be selected to participate in the 12-week programme that features access to dedicated mentors, a curriculum incorporating subject matter experts in the oral health, innovation, and venture capital, and validation studies with potential customers that will help participants refine key offerings.

Participants will receive a $10,000 stipend to support their participation. Selected start-up teams will be matched with SMILE Health impact partners who will help to validate solutions by providing resources, access to data, subject matter experts, and feedback.

The programme will culminate in a Demo Day in September, during which the cohort will present their solutions to a group of industry leaders, including potential investors, partners, and clients.

“Innovations focused on improving oral health have lagged the tremendous advances focused on medicine,” said Steven Collens, CEO of MATTER. “SMILE Health is the beginning of the end of that unfortunate dynamic and we couldn’t be more enthusiastic about partnering with CareQuest Innovation Partners on this work.”