Continuing our series on innovative disruptions in the dental industry, we’re looking at what could be the future of dental hygiene: floss bars. Love them, hate them, or never heard of them, this trend could transform the way people receive basic preventative dental care. The Floss Bar offers an on-demand, potentially lower-cost alternative to traditional dental care. Already in New York City with four locations, floss bars could become a mainstay in urban settings. Are you ready?
Backing Up: What Is The Floss Bar, Anyway?
The Floss Bar got its start in 2017 when founder Eva Sadej saw a gap in the way the dental industry traditionally reached and treated patients. Many Americans avoid the dentist. They may experience fear or anxiety, or simply lack dental insurance. Some may lack the time to schedule an appointment. For these patients, emergency rooms can become the dental provider. ER visits for dental or tooth care account for almost ten percent of cases. Between the rising cost of dental care and Americans’ perceptions of visiting the dentist, Sadej felt there should be an easier, more direct, and less costly way to reach people who need basic dental care. Furthering her mission was finding out that dental hygiene on its own is an extremely lucrative industry.
The Floss Bar offers regular hygiene care, professional teeth whitening, x-rays and basic exams, and Invisalign consultations. They refer out for anything else, like fillings, crowns, and specialty dental care. Although hygienists staff the chairs at The Floss Bar, there is always a referring dentist who performs more complicated dental work. The business model seeks to monetize what would otherwise be empty operatory chairs or, alternatively, help a dentist fill a regular pipeline of patients with a high case acceptance rate for basic or advanced dental work.
What Makes It Innovative?
The Floss Bar targets Millennials in their early 20s to mid-thirties who are most likely to skip the dentist due to work or schedule constraints. They have non-traditional hours: they are only open for a few hours in the morning and afternoon (before and after normal work hours), and typically 12-7 pm on weekends. Patients can schedule an appointment for the following day or walk in. The Floss Bar also offers shorter, on-demand teeth cleaning that includes a polish, floss, and mouthwash for patients who might be on their way to an important appointment – or who simply don’t floss at home and want to keep their teeth cleaner.
The business model is contrary to how many traditional dental offices operate. They have full daytime hours, some have evenings or weekends, and appointments are usually scheduled several weeks or months in advance. Appointments can easily run late or over (The Floss Bar guarantees a maximum 45-minute appointment that almost always begins on time) and the option of same- or next-day appointments is usually unheard of. On-demand, quick services are typically not offered at all. Then there’s the insurance or paying out of pocket.
Innovation Has Its Detractors
The Floss Bar can certainly be seen as a direct competitor to traditional dental care – and it is. It seeks to change the way people go to the dentist. Some dentists say floss bars can undermine the value of a dentist, take business away, risk legal action by diagnosing cases, or discourage patients from seeking regular cleanings at a dental office that is under the close supervision of a licensed dentist. Based on our research, The Floss Bar does not diagnose cases but rather refers patients if the hygienist sees something that should be addressed.
Dental CPAs is not here to take sides; however, as practice management consultants we would encourage our dentists to think of The Floss Bar as a creative inspiration for how to serve your own patients in ways that make sense for them. Can you expand office hours, offer different or unique services, make it easier for patients to afford dental care, or change the patient experience from that of a traditional dentist visit to a fun, inviting, and relaxing experience? Maybe there are ways you can bring dental service to your patients through a mobile dental office or teledentistry.
Since The Floss Bar is innovating dental hygiene, how can you innovate your own hygiene practice? Ask your patients, think outside the box, and make 2019 the year that your dental practice truly becomes about the patients. Contact our team at Dental CPAs if you have questions on how to innovate your practice.