Local Startup OperaDDS Brings Tech to Teeth

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Introducing new technologies to age-old industries that are set in their ways can be like pulling teeth.

Fortunately, that happens to be Dr. Bryan Laskin‘s specialty.

About seven years ago, the longtime dentist decided to grow from his successful solo operation in Wayzata and open another practice. But while he was shopping for communication systems to equip the new location, he grew frustrated with the antiquated and overpriced options available.

“I tried a bunch,” he says. “They all sucked, frankly.”

One day Laskin – a “gigantic tech nerd” – lamented to a friend that existing solutions, typically utilizing lightboxes and buzzers with a bunch of wires, didn’t take advantage of modern capabilities in the era of smartphones and wearables. The conversation sparked an idea and became the basis for his company OperaDDS, which launched a SaaS application by the same name a couple years ago.

His product was initially given away as a free secure email platform. That base model, along with a large network he’d built up over a decade-plus practicing and training in dentistry, enabled the fledgling brand to quickly gain traction. It now touches some 3,500 unique offices in Minnesota and beyond, according to Laskin.

While most of them aren’t paying subscribers yet, the groundwork is there as OperaDDS begins pushing forward with its true vision. The feature product is a comprehensive cloud-based communications package that encompasses both intra-office and patient interactions.

The customer-facing component is a HIPAA-compliant email and text messaging setup enabling dentists to offer more seamless and convenient service. But Laskin sees the most powerful application of OperaDDS playing out within the walls of the practice, better connecting hygienists and staffs. He says data shows that one-third of medical mistakes occur due to miscommunications.

The product is taking off, with about 500 paying users and endorsement from the Minnesota Dental Association. But already Laskin is moving on to solving another pain point – specifically, the very literal one that gives his profession an unpleasant mental association.

Sitting in a dentist’s chair while he or she hovers over you and sticks a whirring drill into your jaw is a nightmarish proposition in the eyes of many. The anxiety, awkwardness and discomfort amount to an experience you would probably rather not picture.

Laskin’s newest venture is all about enabling people in such situations to picture something else.

While attending an AR/VR conference, he saw a presentation from Chuck Olsen, CEO of Visual, about deploying virtual reality to reduce pain felt by surgery subjects and burn victims undergoing rehab. The lightbulb flipped on for Laskin, and brightened when he went online to do some research and quickly came across studies such as this one, which substantiates the technology’s effectiveness at lowering anxiety in a dental setting specifically.

He and Olsen came together to collaborate OperaVR, which is still in early stages. Laskin says they are currently finalizing the application’s immersive videos, which feature calming environments and are viewable on Samsung Gear VR devices that the business resells to offices.

This app runs parallel to OperaDDS, available solo or as an upgrade to the communications package. They haven’t yet begun making major investments in marketing, but Laskin has a head start with his entrenchment in the dental community.

He still practices in Wayzata one day a week, so the ambitious tech nerd is keeping a busy schedule facilitating growth. “Bitten by the bug,” as he puts it.

Hey, if it’s going to make a trip to the dentist a less odious undertaking, he can tell that bug to go ahead and bite down.

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