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Artificial intelligence gives Danish dental health app global breakthrough and millions to scale

The article was produced in collaboration with TechBBQ.

Half of the world’s population has an untreated oral disease, making it the world’s most underestimated health problem, if you ask startup Adent Health.

In fact, more people worldwide own a mobile phone than a toothbrush. And with that knowledge in mind, Adent Health has developed an app where users take pictures of their teeth and mouth and answer questions about their dental health. The app then analyses the mouth and compares the results with millions of other mouths in the database, before giving the user tailored recommendations to keep their mouth and teeth healthy.

“Every mouth is different and we want to help users tailor the dental care that’s right for them. Based on our algorithms, we can match dental care based on what works for similar people. But we don’t stop there, because with our app we can track whether the routines actually have the desired preventive effect over time,” says Richard Bundsgaard, CEO and co-founder of Adent Health.

In a year and a half, over 60,000 users have found their way to the app. This has recently secured the startup an investment of DKK 15 million to continue growing towards its very ambitious goal: by 2025, Adent Health will have helped 50 million people take care of their mouths and teeth.

Learning from both camps

The Danish startup has developed artificial intelligence that can scan images from a smartphone, based on more than 40,000 dental hours. Together with its team of dentists and engineers, they have got the app certified as a CE-marked medical device with an accuracy of over 95 percent when compared to a dentist’s assessment.

So there is solid research behind the app. But Richard Bundsgaard explains that the company is not only looking at the research-heavy life science industry, but is also taking inspiration from tech start-ups in other sectors.

“We’re a bit in both camps, and we try to learn from the best on both sides,” says the founder.

Richard Bundsgaard was himself diagnosed with an oral disease in his early 20s. While it turned out to be a misdiagnosis, it was still a wakeup call for the entrepreneur, who has since maintained a strong focus on oral health.

After all, the well-documented technology doesn’t automatically make the app a success. And to reach the goal of 50 million users, the solution needs to be wrapped in an exceptional user experience that makes the app spread from user to user.

“None of us feel like patients, so it has to be a user experience – just like any other digital product. We expect exceptional user experiences today, and Vivino – which has also invested in us – is a good example to learn from. They may not have anything to do with health, but they also use scanning and know a lot about creating a great user experience,” says Richard Bundsgaard and continues,

“I think the magic happens when you mix something existing with something new. For example, when we have dentists and insanely skilled computer vision people in the same room, so the dentist’s sharp brain can translate into something a computer can replicate and learn from.”

Fact box: “Bridging the Gap

  • The project “Bridging the Gap – A more connected life science ecosystem” aims to establish networks and linkages across the life science sector (between biotech, medtech, healthtech and welfaretech etc.). At the same time, the project aims to connect the life science sector with the rest of the entrepreneurial community in Denmark and the Nordic region.
  • TechBBQ acts as a facilitator and catalyst in establishing networks where everyone is closer to each other and can benefit from each other’s knowledge.
  • The project is funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
  • Read more and see the ecosystem mapping here:

Both speed and research

While growth must be accelerated to reach millions of users, Richard Bundsgaard also looks into further development of the core product.

“Of course, we are not done building technology, and we especially need to learn from measuring impact over time. All sorts of treatments and care are sold, but it all comes down to efficacy. So that’s what we want to show and what we deal with,” says Richard Bundsgaard.

The research-driven approach doesn’t always rhyme with the Facebook motto “move fast and break things”. When you’re dealing with people’s health, you want the product to be mature before it’s launched. But in the end, according to the Adent founder, it’s always about the long-term impact – and that applies to healthtech startups as well as tech startups more broadly.

“Healthtech is super strong on data, and you can always learn from that. If you’re selling marketing software, you also have to show that you can get conversions for less money than your competitor – impact is always what counts,” he says.

Q&A: Morten Mølgaard Jensen, CEO – Copenhagen Bio Science Park

– What can tech startups learn from life science startups?
“It takes a unique insight into the healthcare sector to develop products and services that are both clinically approved, recognised by specialists that patients trust and will use, and that meet the stringent regulatory requirements of the industry. Tech startups need that knowledge as they move into healthcare.”

– Why should lifescience startups mix more with tech startups from other industries?
“Most tech startups are purposefully working on systematic data collection, artificial intelligence and data analytics, and this is where life science startups can gain valuable knowledge on how to organise their own data collection. In the early stages of development of a biotech & life science startup, clinical evidence is almost always a key “value infliction point” to be achieved. But many struggle with how to collect and process data at a scale that makes this a core value for the project. There are obviously a number of factors that come into play (access to clinical trials, access to patient data, ability to set up monitored trials, etc.), but as more and more startups rely precisely on patient data analysis as the foundation of their business idea, it makes a lot of sense to look for inspiration in an industry (the tech industry ed.) that has been working on this for a very long time.”

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