Few people enjoy visiting the dentist. Even a regular checkup can end up bloody and painful. Many dislike going to the dentist so much, in fact, that more than 25% of Americans just don't go at all, despite the risk of cavities and gum disease. "People say to my face, 'Oh my god, I hate dentists," says Dr. Sara Creighton, a San Francisco dentist. But she is undeterred: "That means there's an amazing opportunity," she says.
Creighton recently teamed up with Lowell Caulder, a former investment banker (and one of her patients) to launch an Indiegogo campaign for Studio Dental—a dentist's office on wheels that travels around the city, parking itself in front of partner workplaces. The company has already secured partnerships with Google and Dropbox to bring dental services to their offices.
"When I was in dental school, I was looking at options for me to go into when I graduated, and the opportunities for young dental professionals sucked," says Creighton. So she built up a practice while still in medical school. "I had great success there, but I was very curious why every single day I had people coming in saying 'I haven't been to the dentist in three years, I haven't been to the dentist in five years.'" Studio Dental, she says, is an attempt to make it easier, more fun, and more convenient for people to utilize their dental benefits. In other words, if people dread making the trip to have a dentist clean their teeth, the dreaded dentist will come to them.
Studio Dental is creating an alternative to the standard dentist's office—a 230-square-foot office on wheels containing skylights, TV monitors, and 12-foot ceilings. The biggest challenge: making the tiny office feel spacious. "Every piece of space is multifunctional and has a purpose," says Caulder.
The office was designed by Montalba Architects—the same firm behind Creighton's recently sold brick-and-mortar office, which received accolades in 2011 from Inc. Magazine for being one of the World's Coolest Offices. "I trust their ability to interpret dentistry," says Creighton.
Is this another over-the-top perk for tech employees? Maybe. The Indiegogo video throws around phrases like "user-centered experience," while an anonymous tech worker named Preston waxes poetic about the wonders of having a dentist's office that comes to him. But Studio Dental will serve everyone, not just employees of partner companies. So if Studio Dental's online schedule says it will be in your neighborhood, maybe because you happen to live near Dropbox, you can get your teeth cleaned too.
After about a year of scoping out the San Francisco market, Creighton and Caulder will start thinking about expanding—adding more trucks, more dentists, and even more cities. "The medium-term vision is to have multiple trucks—like an Uber almost, so you can see which truck is near you," says Creighton.
Adds Caulder: "The long-term vision is both mobile and traditional—a group practice like One Medical ... of high-quality, tech-savvy dentists who work for a brand that stands for good dental care." Studio Dental will put all of its communications online. In addition to having an online schedule, patients will be able to make appointments online and receive email receipts post-visit.
Studio Dental apparently resonates. At the time of writing, the company has raised more than $20,000 out of a $40,000 goal on Indiegogo, with nearly a month left of fundraising. And by early January, the first truck will be roaming the streets of San Francisco.