New Kid on the Block: Ritual Dental

This all started because Arman Ozgun had a chipped tooth. The longtime Battery Park City resident and tech entrepreneur went to several dentists to see how it could be repaired, and all three had a different suggestion — including one who recommended a root canal. So he consulted his two oldest friends from Istanbul, Nihal Bicakci and her husband, Hirant, who have three dental offices in Chicago. Transparency, he said, was the challenge to be solved in their field. That was the start of discussions that would lead to Ritual Dental.

“As a patient you don’t feel like you have the information you should have,” Armand told his friends when they first started talking. “I like science. I like data. Dentistry, it’s very opaque — there’s not much transparency and we don’t feel empowered to make decisions.”

“Sometimes in tech there is this arrogance that we can solve every problem,” Arman went on. “But I think there are some businesses that can benefit from technology, that can benefit from data, and that’s missing in dentistry in a major way.”

To back this up a bit, Arman moved here from Turkey in 1998 for a job in game design and went on to found two companies in the biomedical informatics sphere, living here the whole time except for three years recently, when he was recruited to Meta to be the product lead for the company’s development of virtual reality products for commerce and health. Nihal came to the States a couple years later for graduate work in prosthodontics, or porcelain construction, at the University of Illinois. When she took her boards in New York, she and Arman were roommates in BPC.

Fast forward a couple decades, and Arman and his chipped tooth arrive in Chicago to pitch the pair this idea of combining oral health data with dental care. The practice they came up with tracks markers for oral health — the microbiome of the mouth — that are predictors for gum disease, cavities and halitosis, and patients can see that data on their digital charts. They also use artificial intelligence as an assist for evaluating X-rays; studies have shown that providers are more accurate with AI as a first layer of analysis.

“Oral diseases are caused by pathogens in your mouth, and we can predict what’s at risk before those diseases happen,” Nihal said. “We want to use technology better for the service of the provider, so we can spend more time giving care to patients.”

The practice is multi-specialty — they don’t want their patients to have to leave for any dental services — and on staff they have two dentists, including Nihal, a pediatric dentist, a periodontist, two hygienists and three dental assistants. Arman’s wife, Natasha Awasthi, serves as the head of digital experience.

That’s partly why they decided to open their first Ritual practice in Tribeca. “We know the neighborhood and we understand what the community needs. We didn’t want to bring something that doesn’t fit to the community,” Arman said.

They also made some interior design efforts to make it local: each of the eight rooms are named for Tribeca streets; the design theme was inspired by the iron garden gates of Washington Market Park across the street.

“Hopefully it looks like a neighborhood place — I think that’s important,” Arman said. “You always have a better chance of success working in places you know, where you see people you know.”

This is the first practice. Expect to see more.

Ritual Dental
321 Greenwich | Duane & Reade
Monday to Friday, 7a to 7p
Saturday, 9a to 5p