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STARTUP

When You Can’t Get to a Dentist, This Startup Will Bring One to You

For many people, a dentist visit can be a nightmare. Companies want to change that.

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BY Jemima McEvoy - 13 Aug 2018

http://inc-asean.com/the-inc-life/these-pictures-of-the-new-mcdonalds-headquarters-will-make-you-wish-you-worked-at-mcdonalds/

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Forget nap pods. The latest workplace perk? Try teeth cleaning.

Or at least that's the pitch from a new startup. New York City-based Floss Bar is hoping to ride the employee wellness bandwagon, offering to bring such services as teeth whitening and cleaning and even dental X-rays to the convenience of your office conference room.

Launched last year, the dental hygiene startup has clients in WeWork, General Electric, and The Lego Corporation, and has expanded to Boston and Connecticut with plans to reach California and Texas in 2019.

Floss Bar founder Eva Sadej points to the business benefits of dental health. "Your smile is a key way to build trust," she says. "Imagine if you had a meeting and didn't smile once. That business deal would not go through."

One of Floss Bar's early clients was ConBody, a fitness company that offers prison-style workouts. Founder and CEO Coss Marte says that the teeth cleanings seem to boost employees' confidence. "I hire people coming out of prison, so a lot of people that come out have very little confidence," he says. "It gives them confidence--feeling clean, and feeling a little bit more self-worth."

Floss Bar is not the first to the game. It has competition in five-year-old Virtudent, which is run by a dentist in Boston and raised $8 million from investors in July.

The tight job market has employers scrambling to offer a range of creative benefits to attract and retain hard-to-find talent. They also have plenty of incentive to invest in employees' health and productivity.

For employers, the Floss Bar service can amount to a no-cost perk, because it accepts most major dental plans. Those without dental insurance can pay $95 for a cleaning and $255 for a whitening, which compares to an average cost of $200 and $450, respectively, at a dentist's office, according to the company.

Employees like the convenience and time savings. "The biggest pro was the flexibility to schedule without having to miss work, and that I was seen at the time of my appointment," says Avi Lichtenstein, chief operating officer at real-estate startup Roomrs, who recently received a Floss Bar teeth cleaning at a WeWork in New York. "It made me feel comfortable getting my teeth cleaned even though I was at work--something I never thought I would experience."

Sadej, formerly an analyst at investment management firm Bridgewater Associates in Connecticut, started the company at Wharton Business School after struggling to make time for dental appointments while pursuing a master's degree in business administration. Six months after launch, she left school to commit to the business full time. She now has five employees and works with about a dozen freelance hygienists. Sadej declined to disclose the company's annual revenue.

The business solves a common problem, says Jeremy Kagan, a professor at the Columbia Business School and managing director of the university's Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center. "Nobody enjoys scheduling and then waiting at the dentist's office or doctor's office," Kagan says. "This is much more simple to deal with."

Still, a big obstacle is the fear associated with dentist appointments. About half of American adults fear going to the dentist, according to a recent survey.

Sadej says she is looking for ways to make dental exams not seem scary. "I tried running around in a giant tooth costume, down the street," she says. "It didn't work."

In the bigger picture, Sadej sees her business as having a social mission. "Our mission is access for everyone," she says. "If you want to provide access, you have to respect people's schedules. You have to move efficiently."

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