These days so many dentists we come into contact with, and especially the small, solo practices, seem to find themselves caught "between the hammer and the anvil," so to speak. On the one side, they are committed to delivering the highest level of healthcare service to their patients, while dealing with the realities of a post-pandemic culture. On the other side, they are struggling to save costs on dental supplies in today's turbulent times.
It's our business to be aware of the challenges that dentists face, and we're here to help – and so to that end, we've put together a few key ideas on how to save on dental products, especially while buying dental supply products online.
There are two main things to consider here:
1.) The pros and cons of well-known brands, and
2.) How to be a savvy spender.
Why Consider Alternative Brands?
Faced with what seems like a bewildering range of choices across the spectrum of dental supplies, a lot of dentists always opt for the name they know, without a second thought.
Big, well-known brand names, like 3M, for example, have spent years creating trust in the market. Many of these big brands have a well-oiled marketing machine, with a single aim: Keeping only that brand name in the front of the buyer's mind – and this is true whether you are buying your dental supplies online, or the old-fashioned way.
Typically, a busy dentist has a lot on his plate, so there's seldom time to consider, to shop around, or to compare prices and benefits. The risk of using sub-standard dental supplies is unacceptable – so a lot of dental professionals simply make the easy choice – but that usually comes at a cost.
How significant is that cost?
Over more than four decades in the dental market, we've seen this cost range between 30-50% in unnecessary spending. Far too often buyers are choosing exactly the same quality of product, but paying more than they need to – simply because of a brand name, or because of slick marketing. Quite often these buyers are on the payroll and don't have an invested interest in saving money.
Let's put that number into perspective:
According to a benchmark study in 2017, based on a survey that calculated the average costs and earnings for a single dental practice, the amount spent on dental supplies averaged $71,498 or 7.2% of collections. Using only a conservative 30%, that would amount to a saving of $21 449.
How does that compare to your own averages? It might be time to consider alternative brands and become a savvy spender.
How to Become a Savvy Spender
In a previous post, we shared a couple of useful, general guidelines for cost-saving in a dental practice. Here, though, we are going to focus only on buying online dental supplies.
It all starts with developing sensible buying strategies – in other words, a little bit of forward planning.
As a dentist, military-style Logistical planning is probably not your priority, but the goal is to implement a simple system that is proactive, instead of reactive. Let's illustrate this…
It's a busy Monday, and the practice is buzzing. The waiting room is only just able to accommodate the mask-wearing patients, in line with social distancing health guidelines, and the staff are all on their toes – and then you're informed that you've just opened the last batch of impression material.
You send someone to the storeroom for the next box, which you are sure is there, but alas, all that's left is an old box that has been on the shelf too long, and the expiry date is two weeks ago.
Someone didn't follow the first-in-first-out procedure, and of course, there's the old finger-pointing game, but there’s no time for that. A recent delivery was short, and the person responsible for ordering hasn't followed up, and so it's up to you to make an emergency call to make sure you don't run out by Wednesday. You end up paying more than double for a top brand, plus additional priority shipping rates…
Now, these things do happen, even in a practice that runs like clockwork – but when this type of reactive buying becomes a regular thing, you're sure to be wasting thousands of dollars.
Having a proactive system, and strictly enforcing the simple logistical principles, makes all the difference. Such a system includes some common-sense supply rules that every savvy business owner needs to enforce:
Keeping tabs of stock on hand, quantities coming in, and quantities going out, and clearly defining and assigning that responsibility to a qualified staff member,
Setting appropriate reorder points for each supply item. Then ensuring that a suitable minimum trigger point is in place for each new order, based on supply lead times, and taking delivery times into account – for example, it may take two weeks, on average, from the time of order to the time of delivery, or it might take only a day. Based on that information, plus your average usage, you set your best reorder point.
Enforcing First-In-First-Out (FIFO), and training staff to remember to check the dates when receiving stock, packing on the shelf, and when issuing stock from the storeroom,
Keeping all supplies in one central, controlled space, rather than all over the practice.
Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities for the staff that buys and places orders, and possibly incentivizing cost-saving initiatives, (within clear quality boundaries).
Identifying the best make of product to order each time, plus a list of acceptable alternatives if that brand is not available.
Enlisting the help of a Dental Supply company to help you streamline the process, and one that can get to know your ordering habits, to help with proactive planning.
In the long run this translates into savvy spending. It cuts out wastage and saves on premium delivery rates.
But beyond that, and more importantly, it gives you the time and peace of mind to make those key purchasing decisions – choosing the right products, balancing cost and quality – and that is where the real savings on dental supplies really accrue.
To put that into practical terms, please consider the following examples, which our regular dental clients have tried and tested for many years:
MARK3 Varnish 5% Sodium Fluoride w/ TCP 50/bx
This Sodium Fluoride Varnish has a resin-based formula, containing Tricalcium Phosphate, and compares favorably with the top-selling brands. It has a 60-second application time, delivering exact fluoride for effective desensitization.
Each box contains 50 unidose packages, each with 0.4ml of varnish and one applicator brush.
Now compare that to similar products:
3M™ Vanish™ 5% Sodium Fluoride White Varnish: 50 pack - $121.25
Duraflor Varnish Unidose 32 x 0.5ml Bubble Gum: 32 pack - $79.95
DuraShield CV Clear Varnish Strawberry 50/Bx. 5% Sodium Fluoride Varnish: 50 pack - $82.65
A quick calculation will show you what you could save over the course of a year, based on how much of these products you consume, and your typical purchase price…
VPS Impression Material 4/pk - MARK3
Each PAck contains: 4 - 50ml cartridges
Vinyl Polysiloxane, VPS Impression Material is another good example. This product by MARK3 is an easy-to-handle, stable, and odor-free cartridge system, on par with other big brand names.
And compared to similar products:
Genie VPS Impression Material - Light Body: 2 X 50 ml - $31.25 ($62.50 for 4)
3M ESPE Express VPS Impression Material 4 X 50ml - $73.50
FLEXITIME Impression Material 2 X 50 ml - $44.95 (89.90 for 4)
Dental Cements and Liners
ProGlass One Kit Powder & Liquid Glass Ionomer Luting Cement
This cementation bond for metal inlays, onlays, posts, and orthodontic brackets delivers excellent bond strength and integrity for long-term restorations. The product ranks right alongside the competition.
And compared to similar products:
GC Fuji 1 Luting & Lining Glass Ionomer Dental Cement - $89.95
Surgical Carbide Burs FG - Cargus
For surgical carbide burs, the watchwords are blade configuration and concentricity. This product by Cargus is tested for all parameters - size, shape, and integrity - to the highest quality standards.
Compared to similar products:
SS White Burs Carbide FG 100/Pk - $249.99
Crown and Bridge Materials
MARK3 Temporary Crown and Bridge Material
Ease of use, combined with a tough, long-lasting quality, make the Mark3 temporary crown and bridge material a solid option. It combines the best mechanical properties for provisional restorations - and also saves costs.
Contains 1- 50/ml (75gm) Cartridge plus 10 Mixing Tips
Compared to similar products:
DMG Luxatemp Automix Plus Temporary Crown & Bridge Material - $223.10
Dentsply Integrity Temporary Crown & Bridge Material - $152.95
House brand PPE products
Disposable Lab Coats Knee Length 10/pk
PPE equipment is something that has always been important, but even more so in today’s world, with heightened public awareness of personal protection. Are you spending too much ensuring the safety of your staff and patients?
Premium SMS Lab Coats come with Knit Collar and Cuffs, and a snap front. They are sufficiently durable and fluid resistant. The design ensures they are breathable, Latex-free, and fire retardant.
Compared to a competitor:
Medflex Original Lab Coats - Blue Medium 10/Pk. Snap Front with Knit Collar: $84.00
Full Chair Plastic Sleeves 29x80
Dental chairs take a bit of punishment in a busy practice - so these full chair sleeves help to prolong the life of your equipment. They handle the wear of surface disinfectants, which are so essential for asepsis and cross-contamination control.
This alternative by Mark 3 compares well in every way with competitor brands.
How does that compare?
Starryshine Dental Chair Covers - Full Length, 48" x 56", (box of 150) - $45.00
PacDent Armor 29" x 80" Clear Plastic Chair Sleeves, Roll of 125- $38.00
Pinnacle Chair Sleeve No-Slip 48" x 56" Plastic Full Chair Covers, Box of 150 - $45.90
As you can see, the potential for cost-saving is huge. A savvy dentist needs to make those purchasing decisions, and have a strategy that cuts out wastage and unnecessary spending. It’s our business to make that easier for you, and we would be happy to help you compare the numbers and find the perfect solution.