A company that makes the ‘Tesla of toothbrushes’ just acquired a dental plan startup

  • Quip, a startup that makes electric toothbrushes, is acquiring dental plan startup Afora.
  • The combination puts a company with a consumer oral health product and a startup that runs a dental plan under the same roof.
  • The hope is to get more people thinking about preventive oral healthcare by increasing access to dental check-ups.

It started with a sleek, venture-backed toothbrush, dubbed the “Tesla of Toothbrushes.”

Quip, a New York-based startup that makes subscription electric toothbrushes and is known for its ubiquitous subway ads, wanted to start with something people use twice daily.

Now, the company is looking to go deeper into oral healthcare, acquiring dental plan startup Afora in an unusual pairing.

But it’s a business model Quip has been working toward since launching the company about three years ago, CEO Simon Enever said.

“We thought it’d be a better place to start and get people interested and engaged by hopefully trying a toothbrush that caught your eye on the subway, and then over time increasing our assistance we can give you in the health space,” Enever told Business Insider.

Ideally, the hope is to get more people access to going to the dentist on a regular basis in addition to taking care of their teeth by brushing twice a day – as opposed to only going to the dentist when your tooth starts to hurt.

Quip, which also announced an additional $US10 million in funding from Silicon Valley Bank in addition to the $US12 million it has previously raised, sells electric toothbrushes that start at $US25. For $US5 every three months, Quip will send you a replacement brush, or for $US10 if you’d like toothpaste included.

Quip cofounder CEO simon
Quip CEO Simon Enever Courtesy Qup

Afora, meanwhile, is a dental plan that isn’t technically insurance. Instead, for $US25 a month, members get access to Afora’s New York City-based network of dentists, including two cleanings a year, an annual exam and X-Rays -preventive services that are often covered under insurance plans. Beyond that, if a procedure is needed for a cavity, Afora has a list of negotiated prices that members can pay directly to their dentist.

The combination of a dental plan with a company with a consumer-facing product like a toothbrush may be unexpected, but it’s not alone in redefining what a healthcare company looks like. Over the past few months, pharmacies have acquired insurers, hospitals have gotten into the drug business, and insurers are starting to own doctors offices, blurring the lines around what defines a healthcare company.

Preventing oral health issues

In many ways, the health of your mouth is linked to the health of the rest of your body. For example, gum disease is linked with an increased risk of certain cancers, and infections in the mouth have been linked to lung and heart disease. There are also major disparities in the kind of dental care Americans get based on factors including ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and location.

And people aren’t going to the dentist as often as they likely should. Only about two-thirds of all Americans visited their dentist within the last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The American Dental Association recommends regular visits to the dentist for preventive check-ups, whether that’s once or twice a year or more frequently.

Eventually, the hope is to offer Afora memberships to Quip members who are using the toothbrush subscription service to complete the picture of preventive oral healthcare. Acquiring Afora helped Quip to get more embedded more quickly in that preventive care.

“We’re just excited to complete that full 360-degree care, and this makes that happen a whole lot sooner for us and gets them the membership and network we had on that side as well,” Enever said.