MATTER and CareQuest Innovation Partners open applications for SMILE Health seeking innovators bridging the medical-dental divide

In its third year, SMILE Health advances innovations that accelerate the integration of oral health and overall health to achieve greater equity and access and reduce the total cost of care

March 27, 2024 (Boston, MA and Chicago, IL)MATTER, the premier healthcare incubator and innovation hub, in partnership with CareQuest Innovation Partners, a company focused on validating and scaling transformative solutions to improve overall health through oral health for all, today announced applications are open for SMILE Health. In its third year, SMILE Health is an accelerator program for emerging startups designed to identify, validate and advance solutions that increase equity and accessibility and propel the integration between oral health and overall health.

Despite growing evidence proving that oral health is connected to overall health, only 37 percent of Americans saw both a physician and a dentist in the same year. SMILE Health advances solutions to help address this gap by bringing together innovators with industry partners and investors through a 12-week program that combines validation studies, industry expert-led curriculum and mentorship and networking opportunities tailored to emerging health startups.

“Integrating dental and medical care is crucial to expanding access, advancing health equity and improving health outcomes, and requires intentional collaboration between key stakeholders to make it a reality,” said Katie D’Amico, vice president of growth & innovation at CareQuest Innovation Partners. “Through our SMILE Health community, we are proud to bring together leaders shaping the healthcare industry with mission-aligned innovators to advance new solutions that address long-standing challenges and transform healthcare.”

For the first time this year, the global call for innovators will center around three tracks created and led by CareQuest Innovation Partners and industry partners who will take an increased role in the program. Each track is linked to a pressing need for oral and overall health innovation:

  1. Advancing Accessible, Equitable and Integrated Health: How can we make healthcare, including oral health, more accessible, equitable and/or integrated?
  2. Reducing Disparities through Oral Health: How can we leverage innovative oral health solutions to better identify and/or address health disparities?
  3. Connecting Chronic Care with Oral Health: How can we help people at risk or living with chronic conditions better manage their overall health through oral health?

“Chronic conditions are a leading driver of healthcare spending in the U.S., and uncovering ways to tackle these conditions in an effective and equitable way is critically important for Cigna Healthcare,” said Dr. Cary Sun, chief dental officer at Cigna Healthcare. “As part of SMILE Health, we look forward to collaborating with innovators in the space to prove how a more integrated healthcare system could improve outcomes while managing costs.”

“We are excited to participate in the SMILE Health program, joining many premier organizations aligned to advancing innovation and supporting novel start-ups,” said Stanley Bergman, chairman of the board and CEO of Henry Schein. “Henry Schein has a heritage of growth through innovation and a history of support for healthcare professionals and the patients they serve. Our participation in the SMILE Health program reflects our commitment to advancing oral health.”

“Collaborating for almost two years on SMILE Health with CareQuest Innovation Partners has helped Colgate-Palmolive drive awareness around the connection between oral health and overall health and wellbeing, all of which are critically important to our company’s purpose to reimagine a healthier future for all,” said Maria Ryan, chief clinical officer at Colgate-Palmolive, “We are proud to partner on this important initiative to make oral health more accessible and equitable.”

A minimum of five startups will be selected to join the 2024 cohort and receive a $10,000 non-dilutive stipend to support their participation in the program. The program will culminate in a Demo Day at the HTLH Conference in Las Vegas, during which startups will present their solutions to a group of industry leaders, including potential investors, partners and clients.

“SMILE Health highlights the importance of oral healthcare innovation, which is often overlooked in considering the ‘whole’ health of a person,” said Lee Shapiro, managing partner of 7wireVentures. “Programs like SMILE Health de-risk investment in healthcare startups by validating solutions in a real-world environment, opening the door to investors eager to drive meaningful change in the healthcare industry.”

Selected 2024 startups will be matched with SMILE Health industry partners. Partners include, but are not limited to, Cigna Healthcare; Colgate-Palmolive Company; Delta Dental of Massachusetts; Delta Dental of Washington; DentaQuest, part of Sun Life U.S.; Henry Schein; Pacific Dental Services; and Young Innovations. These partners will help advance solutions by providing resources, access to data, subject matter experts and feedback.

“The SMILE Health program is one of the most high-value, high-touch accelerators in the marketplace, helping innovators rapidly substantiate core areas of their business. We are thrilled to continue our collaboration with CareQuest Innovation Partners to build this year’s program,” said Steven Collens, CEO of MATTER.

The application period is open today through May 8, 2024. For more information and to apply for SMILE Health, visit

About CareQuest Innovation Partners

CareQuest Innovation Partners propels solutions that transform oral health. Together with investors, innovators, entrepreneurs, care providers and community partners, we validate and scale new ways to improve overall health through oral health. Joined by the shared mission to improve the oral health of all, CareQuest Innovation Partners is the for-profit subsidiary of CareQuest Institute. To learn more, visit


MATTER, the premier healthcare incubator and innovation hub, includes more than 900 current and alumni startups from around the world, working together with dozens of hospitals and health systems, universities and industry-leading companies to build the future of healthcare. Together, the MATTER community is accelerating innovation, advancing care and improving lives. For more information, visit and follow @MATTERhealth.