One of the most common questions I get when doing an interview or introducing Beam dental to a new person is ‘how the heck did you get into dental benefits?’ Fair question. There is nothing in my background, nor the backgrounds of our co-founders, that suggests that we would be the perfect people to bring a disruptive idea to the dental industry. In fact, our high level CV looks extremely typical for a tech startup: 3 young males who met in engineering school and started building things together when we got bored with classes.
However, our story diverges quickly from there. The average startup with that founder genesis is doing payments, or SaaS, or social, or music, or maybe even drones…but not dental insurance. So, how did we get interested in the dental industry? One nudge in that direction was family: my sister is a dentist, and the mother of our Chief Operating Officer, Alex Curry, is a dental hygienist. The other influence was an R&D contract we worked on at a dental manufacturing company that was located just blocks from our engineering classes. This not only accelerated us toward being founders, but eventually led us to a deeper study of the dental industry, which allowed us to form the founding thesis behind Beam: to increase the accessibility and affordability of dental services for all people.
I was amazed the first time I learned that there are over 100 million people in the United States that don’t have dental coverage1. This was in 2010, and the Affordable Care Act was still relatively new and contentious. There was a large national discussion happening around the right to affordable health care access, and a common figure cited at the time was that 50 million Americans didn’t have health insurance2. In many people’s eyes, this was a criminally large population. I acknowledge that health insurance is far more comprehensive and important coverage than dental, but it really struck me that it appeared everyone was ignoring a component of the health care access discussion.
The most common association people have with dental care is that it’s ‘expensive’. The perception that going to the dentist is an expensive endeavor is not without merit; if you need crowns, bridges, root canals, gum surgery, orthodontics, or multiple fillings, the price tag can be a major deterrent from getting the work done. In other words, ‘if it’s not going to kill me, I’d rather deal with pain and save the money now’. It is this dynamic that often traps people in an endless cycle. Putting off dental care begets more needs, especially when preventative actions like routine cleanings and good oral hygiene haven’t been taken. So, at Beam, we had a radical idea: what if we could use technology to activate a more aggressive preventative care regimen and break members out of this pattern of expensive care?
Today, Beam has invigorated the tired dental plan by adding the first dental wellness program. We care so much about preventative health that we’re not only covering two routine cleanings annually with every one of our plans , but we’re going one step further and giving each member our sonic powered Beam Brush, refill heads, paste, and floss, delivered right to their door for the life of their plan. If we cover someone, we want to give him or her everything they need to avoid major oral health issues in their life.
In addition to the Beam Perks program, our mobile app displays usage of the Beam brush for the user and their family, and also helps members find local dentists in our network and schedule appointments. We believe that by using a modern set of tools, we are not only improving the insurance product itself, but also making the experience of accessing dental services more delightful and convenient as well.
And it doesn’t stop there either. In order to fulfill our mission, it will require much more innovation, and we’ve only scratched the surface. Everyday we understand more about the problems people face related to the affordability and accessibility of dental care. As this journey continues, we hope be the catalyst in the industry for drastically reducing the uninsured population in the United States.