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Meeting the massive need for better dental care in Indonesia

Published on November 21, 2022

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In Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation on Earth, there is an astounding need for improved dental care and personalized treatment as it relates to teeth replacement, malocclusion, and a plethora of other oral health issues.

Research shows that, as recently as 2012, almost three-quarters of Indonesians had unmet needs for dental care, but only slightly more than 2% perceived that they required dental care and less than 1% were already accessing dental services. 

What’s more, only 2.8% of the Indonesian population brushes their teeth properly, said Indonesian Minister of Health Budi Gunadi Sadikin, speaking in March 2022 about the necessity for national attention on oral health. Factors behind these problems include a lack of awareness about dental health, reluctance, and difficulties in accessing services, he said.

A dental care startup is born

With the national spotlight shining on oral health, six entrepreneurs with expertise in oral care and the dental industry got together during the pandemic to launch KLAR Smile, a business aimed at improving dental health among Indonesia’s locals.

On a recent podcast hosted by Helen Wong, managing partner at AC Ventures (ACV), KLAR CEO and co-founder Ellen Pranata shared more about challenges in Indonesian dental care and how KLAR plans to make a unique impact. 

Although KLAR’s long-term vision is for holistic oral health care, the startup is focusing first on treating the massive issue of malocclusion, or lack of proper teeth alignment, by making clear dental aligners available nationwide at affordable prices. 

Already known as the “Invisalign of Indonesia,” KLAR began by setting up a central facility outside of Jakarta for orthodontic treatment planning and custom manufacturing. The team established partnerships with 1,000 dentists throughout the nation and rolled out an app for consumers.

In September 2022, in a round co-led by ACV, KLAR secured series A funding of US$4.5 million. KLAR plans to use the new funding to support the further growth of its presence nationwide. 

Why focus first on malocclusion?

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During the podcast, Ellen pointed to malocclusion problems such as gapping teeth, overcrowding, and bite issues as major culprits behind cavities, adding that cavities are even known to contribute to general health problems ranging from heart disease to diabetes. 

About 80% of the Indonesian population needs treatment for malocclusion issues, while 40% suffer from cavities. The cavity rate is higher for Indonesian children, coming in at 80%.

“The lack of enough dental providers has made the situation even worse,” Ellen remarked. Orthodontists are particularly lacking, accounting for only 800 of Indonesia’s 37,000 dentists. 

How does KLAR help?

KLAR’s mobile app helps deliver dental access to Indonesia’s consumers by allowing patients to “upload their smiles” for dental consultation, Ellen said. Users are also able through the app to find out whether they are good candidates for the treatment of malocclusion. Users can receive tips and reminders about brushing and other aspects of oral health via the same app.

Consumers can also use KLAR’s app to obtain a referral to a nearby KLAR-affiliated dental provider. If a patient is in need of malocclusion treatment, KLAR’s orthodontic team can design a treatment plan to be implemented by the customer’s dentist. Also at its central office, KLAR manufactures custom-made clear dental aligners. In between dental visits, providers can remotely monitor patient progress through the app.

With the new funding, KLAR will move its mission forward on two fronts: educating consumers about oral health and creating new product offerings to complement KLAR’s existing services.

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