Telluride Venture Accelerator: Awestruck Dental

Let’s play a little game of free association. I say “dentist” and you say? Probably something like “no thanks” as you back out the door.

According to one scientific website, one of five people fear going to the dentist. In the extreme, the fear gets a name: odontophobia.

Dick Fulton at Telluride’s Fourth of July Parade. Notice the smile.

Dick Fulton, founder and CEO of Awestruck Dental at Telluride’s Fourth of July Parade. Notice the smile.

And researchers have a number of ways to explain the phobia. Fact is our mouths are a very vulnerable part of our bodies and basic needs are threatened when the mouth is under siege, such as having open air passages.

Reclining in a dental chair is also hard for some, because when we are prone, we tend to feel helpless. (Just like any animal.)

And having to hold our mouths open for an indefinite period of time as a looming invader picks, sticks and probes is downright uncomfortable. Such procedures have been likened to a mild form of torture.

Until soon.

Until Awestruck Dental’s device comes on the market. The device won’t eliminate all the reasons for dental aversion – syringes and drills are still in play – but it will help, particularly in one significant area.

With the help of the Telluride Venture Accelerator, an initiative of the Telluride Foundation, the Telluride-based company is in the process of developing the JawDropper, a device that will eliminate or at least dramatically lessen the jaw discomfort and pain experienced by millions of patients during a dental visit. Once fully realized, the plan is to outsource the manufacturing and distribute the product via digital marketing initially, but management will remain in Telluride.

Awestruck Dental was founded by Dr. Dick Fulton, who practiced radiology at St. Mary’s in Grand Junction for 30 years and was Chief Radiologist for 15 years. He is the company’s CEO and president. Last count, Fulton holds 40+ patents in all.

Fulton previously founded four medical device companies, which resulted in several licensing deals. Artemis Medical (a breast biopsy company) was sold to Johnson and Johnson. The licensing deals with three major medical device companies have resulted in thousands of units sold every month. Fulton recently founded Capture Vascular. Its primary product, Megavac, is designed for more effective blood clot removal in heart attack patients. The product has received extremely positive feedback from leaders in the industry.

“I have been inventing medical devices for 15 years. On one trip to a dentist, I experienced profound discomfort and pain while having a filling put in place and could not keep my mouth open because of the pain. The bite block made matters worse. At one point, I placed my index finger over my lower front teeth and pulled down to give the dentist exposure. This action relaxed the spasm in the muscles and the rest of the procedure was comfortable. In discussing this challenge with others, I found that most everyone experiences some discomfort (perhaps not as severe as mine) on dental visits. I then decided to gather a ‘Telluride Team’ to pursue an invention that would address this problem and, at the same time, support TVA’s goal of diversifying the local economy. The goal of my newest company is to help other people (patients and the doctors caring for those patients), to engage local residents in that process of helping others, and to reward all those engaged financially. I call this approach to business ‘Conscientious Capitalism.””

Fulton’s Telluride team includes Dr. Karen Gaines, DDS, MSD in product development as Scientific Advisor; CPA/CFO Robert Bledsoe; Mark Kozak for strategic development; Dr. Scott Leune, DDS/Chief Dental Officer; Jim Segermark, medical device consultant; and Jim Berkowitz, digital marketing director (also for Telluride Inside… and Out).

Awestruck Dental is a direct outgrowth of Fulton’s earlier TVA experience. It all began when the doctor/entrpreneur was one of the gifted mentors of the freshman class.

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to Dr. Dick Fulton tell his story (in brief).

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