One week after Barclay McFadden sold his software business, he found himself at the dentist for a regular cleaning.
His hygienist was bone tired that day, she told him. Her child was sick and she woke up at 2 a.m. texting 15 colleagues to find a replacement. It's next to impossible to find a fill-in for a hygienist on such short notice, she said.
"I was sitting there baffled that this was the best process available," said McFadden, an entrepreneur who lives in Mount Pleasant.
So he started researching the problem. Hygienists generate between $1,300 and $1,500 a day for a dental practice. When they call in sick or take a vacation, their absence poses a significant revenue loss for the practice unless those appointments can be rescheduled.
McFadden learned that temp agencies can fill in some of those gaps, but the agencies are expensive to use. Most hygienists typically use a special Facebook page to find a replacement, but the process is imperfect.
In March, McFadden will launch a new online service called Biteline to address the problem. Hygienists and dentists will pay $5 a month to use the website, which has been designed to alleviate the process of finding replacement employees. He declined to disclose how much he has invested in the start-up.
"I’ve designed the software to be simple, fluid and as effective as I possibly can," McFadden said. "The beauty about the Charleston market is there is it’s a large enough metro area so that this service could be very beneficial."
He assembled a team of dental professionals to launch the new service, including hygienist Kimberly Pieper and Dr. Jay Bargainer, who owns local dental offices in the Lowcountry.
Pieper originally launched a Facebook page to help hygienists find emergency replacements, but the platform is imperfect. Facebook posts are easily lost on the website, she said, and social media offers no way to vet quality replacements. She hopes Biteline will solve both of those problems.
Dr. James Dickert, who owns West Ashley Family Dentistry and is not affliated with Biteline, said he believes such a service could be beneficial.
When a hygienist can't come in, Dickert said he either cleans the patient's teeth himself or his staff must reschedule appointments at the last minute.
"That doesn’t tend to go over real well," he said.