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Exclusive: Two Front nets $3.5M to empower orthodontists

May 31, 2022
Illustration of a mouth with the two front teeth made out of money.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Two Front, a Los Angeles startup looking to redefine how orthodontists run their practices, raised $3.5 million in seed funding from Craft Ventures, founder Ingrid Murra tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Demand for the perfect smile is high, but orthodontists are coming out of residency with major debt burdens that make it challenging to start new practices.

How it works: Two Front makes it easy for dentists to add orthodontics-as-a-service to their practice, while helping orthodontists build their brand and practice without exuberant startup costs.

  • “We’ve Uber-ized the orthodontics model so orthodontists can start practices for free,” Murra says.
  • Whereas opening a new clinic is typically a high-expense endeavor, Two Front allows orthodontists to partner with and see patients out of up to 20 community dental offices each month, both in-person and virtually.
  • For dentists who "give up" one chair, it’s an opportunity to incorporate orthodontics into an existing platform and generate passive income, Murra says. (Ten orthodontics patients translate to some $150K in passive income, she notes.)
  • Two Front, via its technology and operating system, handles the various practice management needs, taking care of payment plans, scheduling and two-way communication between patients and orthodontists.

Context: After a decade-plus of schooling, the average orthodontist is left with $597,000 in debt, with student loan levels surpassing $1 million in some cases, per an April report by Student Loan Planner.

  • For patients the demand is high, but orthodontic treatment is pricey and insurance coverage minimal. "One in four are looking for mental health care, but even more are looking to straighten their teeth," Murra says.

Yes, and: In concert with the specialty's supply and cost problems, an explosion of DTC mail-order teeth straightening companies have grown in popularity, and dentist referrals to licensed orthodontists have grown less frequent.

  • While more affordable, Murra believes these DTC models pose major risks to teeth health, negatively disrupting the clear aligner market.
  • Off-shore technicians in Eastern Europe lack dental expertise, are not licensed orthodontists, and use tooth movement software to move teeth, Two Front notes. “People are getting really hurt,” Murra says.
  • Lawsuits and complaints have surfaced around DTC, at-home aligner companies, with claims of false advertising, allegations including gross negligence toward patients, and negative outcomes including lost teeth, jaw pain, bite misalignments — all of which require costly follow-up treatment.

Between the lines: “The past seven years folks have tried to get rid of the orthodontist," Murra says. "We’re putting orthodontists back into the model.”

What’s next: The funding will help Two Front build out its team, operating system and platform, and obtain its goal of signing on 100 dental office partners in Los Angeles by the end of the year, Murra says.

  • Two Front, after achieving density in Southern California, plans to target other major markets like New York, Miami and Dallas, and ultimately has global aspirations, Murra says.

The bottom line: "This is the private practice of the future without the overhead."

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