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From at-home orthodontics to coconut-flavoured floss: Meet the startups disrupting the dental industry

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For decades the experience of caring for your teeth looked something like this: Visit the dentist every six or nine months. Take home a new toothbrush from the hygienist. Use it to brush at least twice daily. Repeat.

If you or your child needed teeth straightened, you got a referral to an orthodontist, hoped your insurance and savings could cover it and paid whatever price you were quoted.

But today a host of companies are disrupting the dental industry with everything from at-home orthodontic impressions to coconut-flavoured dental floss in Instagram-worthy packaging to a $290 toothbrush alternative that promises to clean your teeth in six seconds.

Some are competing on price, slashing costs we’d come to think as fixed. Others are injecting luxury into the banal, working to position the age-old tasks of brushing and flossing into the realm of wellness lifestyle capturing the attention of kombucha and SoulCycle enthusiasts.

SmileDirectClub, the U.S.-based company that provides at-home, dentist-directed teeth straightening using clear “aligners” — similar to the ones provided by Invisalign — launched in Canada in November.

Orthodontic care from home

The teledentistry startup was launched four years ago and employs 3,000 people. It flips the traditional orthodontic business on its head by sending patients kits they can use to take impressions of their teeth themselves, eliminating the need for bricks-and-mortar clinics. 

As a result the prices are as much as 60 per cent less than traditional orthodontic care, says Alex Fenkell, who co-founded the company with Jordan Katzman. 

As you can imagine, anytime there’s a disruptive element or product that gets introduced, the establishment gets excited and worried.– Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer, SmileDirectClub’s lead dentist

The two met at summer camp when they were 13 years old. Fenkell says, “We both had a full mouth of metal wired braces. It was a pain point in our youth.”

As grown-up business partners, Fenkell says they were “shocked by the prices” and how much of the potential market for teeth straightening didn’t have easy access to orthodontic care.

Smile Direct Club clients receive packages like the one seen here for taking impressions of their teeth at home. (SmileDirectClub)

The at-home model allows SmileDirectClub to offer straighter teeth to people who live prohibitively far from the nearest orthodontist office. 

The Canadian Institute for Health Information says that in six of the 10 provinces people have access to less than one orthodontist per 10,000 square kilometres.

The company does have some physical locations, however, so-called SmileShops where those who live in major centres can opt to have their mouth scanned. Fenkell says the company has five Canadian locations open now and will open two more by the end of the year.

Flat price and payment plans

All SmileDirectClub treatments cost $2,350 for Canadian customers. Alternatively, they can pay a $300 deposit followed by monthly payments of $99.

The company can offer a flat fee because it doesn’t take on complex cases. 

“We focus primarily on mild to moderate misalignment, which involve crowding or spacing of teeth,” says Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer, the company’s lead dentist.

If a patient presents with a bite that needs to be corrected or misalignment that’s more severe, the company refers to a traditional orthodontist, he says.

SmileDirectClub follows the better known Invisalign, which pioneered the use of clear aligners as an alternative to traditional braces that adhere to the teeth.

Customers receive a set of disposable aligners each a little different based on where the teeth are meant to be, shifting gradually into their desired position.

But teeth straightening isn’t the only part of the dental business to change in recent years.

Sleek toothbrushes and Insta-worthy dental floss

If you’re a regular podcast listener, you may have heard an ad for a sleek looking electric toothbrush called Quip, with a subscription service that delivers new brush heads on a “dentist recommended schedule.”

Danish entrepreneurs just raised $1.5 million through crowdfunding of their Unobrush, a device that looks nothing like a standard toothbrush and promises to clean teeth twice as well in only six seconds. The company’s website explains that users bite down on a patent-pending medical foam that moulds to the teeth and uses pulsing to clean them all at once. The foam device then slides into a docking station that sanitizes the Unobrush using UV light.

Beam Dental, another company based in the United States, links data from the electric brushes it provides to the dental insurance it sells. Brush well and your insurance premiums will go down.

Sisters Catherine and Chrystle Chu created Cocofloss to make flossing more effective and appealing to customers who are otherwise engaged with wellness but falling down on the job of flossing. (Cocofloss)

Even humble floss is getting a makeover.

Catherine Chu co-founded Cocofloss with her sister, Chrystle Chu, a dentist in San Mateo, Calif., just outside San Francisco.

“She had been practising dentistry for several years in the Bay Area and she was so perplexed at this weird paradigm where she had a very healthy and young patient base who invested a lot in self-care, in going to the gym and eating the right foods, but for some reason or another were not flossing,” says Catherine Chu.

The two decided to invent a floss that would remove more plaque because it’s more textured, and that comes in stylish, colourful packaging that customers don’t mind leaving out on the bathroom counter. It’s available in some retail shops like Sephora and Anthropologie, but most customers buy through the company’s website, both through individual purchases and subscriptions, she says.

Not all of these changes have been as welcome as better and prettier dental floss, though.

Concerns about treatment quality

The Canadian Association of Orthodontists has major misgiving about the quality of treatment with the SmileDirectClub model, where treatment plans and patient monitoring are done remotely, says association president Jay Philippson, an orthodontist from Duncan, B.C.

“We should be concerned about quality of care. If I start a case I want to be sure I can finish it as best as possible. People at the direct-to-consumer companies, they can’t monitor the patients as well as we can,” says Philippson. 

Regulatory agencies in Canada are going to have an issue with it as soon as there is a complaint.– Jay Philippson, Canadian Association of Orthodontists president

He says dentists creating and monitoring treatment plans from afar don’t have as complete a picture of a patient’s dental history, including X-rays and full patient files. 

“Regulatory agencies in Canada are going to have an issue with it as soon as there is a complaint.”

At SmileDirectClub, Sulitzer, who has been practising for 34 years, says he doesn’t find the misgivings surprising. 

“As you can imagine, anytime there’s a disruptive element or product that gets introduced, the establishment gets excited and worried,” he says. 

But Sulitzer says that when he talks to wary dentists and orthodontists about the treatment process, company mission and that it doesn’t take on complex cases, many come around.

Fenkell draws an analogy to the auto industry, where there are vehicles at many price points. If only traditional orthodontic treatment is available, he says, it would be like saying that “unless you can afford a Mercedes-Benz, you don’t deserve to drive.”

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The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021

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Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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