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What Practical Strategies Can You Use to Control Dental Supply Costs?


For keeping an excellent bottom line, it is essential in this day and age to keep control of your dental supply costs. Of course, this is usually easier said than done, as having all the dental supplies you need is very important, and sometimes costing can come second. In our view, you should be focusing on minimizing your dental supply cost spend for the long-term health of your practice.

Recent research has suggested that a typical dental practice spend on average six to six and a half per cent of their total expense on dental supplies for the office. On the face of it, this doesn’t seem like a large share of the expenditure. But, it is common for a dental office to start off at 6%, then after a couple of years, the percentage spend can shoot up to around 10% if care is not taken. When it gets to this percentage, the bottom line will become adversely affected.

If you focus on reducing waste, this will in result in a lowering of costs and a subsequent increase in profitability. Whether your dental practice is a one-man operation or a practice that has 50 staff, these rules of thumb should apply to everyone.

So, without further ado, lets take a look at four different strategies you could use to control dental supply costs.

1.Introduce the 80-20 rule

Many of you will have heard of the 80-20 rule before. This is a basic economic principle that states that around 80% of the outcomes come as a result of 20% of the causes. It is also sometimes called the Pareto principle, and it is used to help businesses correctly proportion the necessary resources towards its most important factors. You may be wondering how this could be applied to the dental office? Well, think of it as a dentist using 20% of all dental supplies 80% of the time.

Taking a practical example with a general dentistry practice. They may use supplies which include cements, composites and impression materials, as well as anesthetics, 80% of the time. So, resources should be used on these essential materials, and supplies which aren’t used as much shouldn’t be purchased in bulk. This in turn helps to reduce waste and prevents too much money being held in dental supplies which are not being used. For the dental supplies that are used most often, we would also recommend that you try and negotiate bulk deals, which in turn will lower unit price. Central to the effective purchase of new supplies is to keep an accurate inventory of what is currently in stock within the practice, so as not to over or under order.

2.Establish a regular review process

Once you have established and thought out the 80-20 rule for your practice, we would then recommend that you introduce a monthly or quarterly review process. This will help with identifying issues that come up and allow you to make the necessary adjustments. Of course, there will be changes and differences that take place during a quarter as patient’s needs change. When your practice introduces this review process, it will allow the practice to control supply spending so it doesn’t affect the practice’s bottom line. We like to think of this process as a due diligence exercise to help you better manage your supplies and allow for more accurate and effective orders.

3.Try before you buy

We would recommend that you try and ask for sample requests from your regular supplier. This could then be integrated as a part of your order on a more regular basis. This will help you try out the latest products and see if they work for you. This will save you bulk buying products or supplies that you have never used before. The last thing you want to do is to buy products in bulk that don’t match what you need. It is important to be as selective as possible when you request samples. We’d recommend that you ask yourself the question of whether you need the product or if it is just a product that will be nice to have. During testing, it is important to involve your employees to gauge their own opinions. At the end of the day, your staff will be the ones using the products on a day to day basis.

4.Renegotiate supply contracts annually

It is important as a practice that you regularly renegotiate contracts annually to realize the best savings and prices. It usually takes a year of purchasing supplies to notice the reduced expenditure. If you buy in bulk, you have the power to leverage more competitive prices and negotiate terms that work in your favour, as suppliers will not want to lose you as a customer. Use this to your advantage. The best suppliers will take your comments on board and help you to identify ways that you could save money.

Work at it & reap the rewards

We know that the process of buying dental supplies can often be quite complicated. It will take time and effort on your part to begin the process and get into a new routine that saves money, but also works on a practical level in your practice. There will be “growing pains”, but if you overcome these, you will reap the rewards in the long run. If you even integrate one or two of these strategies for lowering the cost of your dental supplies, you will likely notice the benefits. If you make little changes, they can often result in large cost savings, which in turn will improve your profitability and your bottom line. Do you have your own ways of reducing your ongoing dental supply spend? Is there a strategy that works for you? If you’ve managed to reduce what you spend on dental supplies, then let us know, and we may feature you in a future blog post.