To Sell or Not to Sell

Author: Andrea Kowalczyk, RDH, BS– – Dental Hygiene Performance Coach – Enhanced Hygiene

Offering Oral Home Care Products in the Dental Practice

Has your practice or group struggled with the matter of selling oral home care products in the office? Has there been disagreement on which products to sell, or if you should sell any at all?

In today’s consumer driven economy, offices will need to decide if they are going to offer oral health care products for sale. Some examples of these products include; prescription strength fluoride paste, chlorhexidine rinse, teeth whitening strips, power brushes, breath products, water flossers, and xylitol. There are pros and cons to selling or not selling each, and the fact that there are so many to choose from in each category does not make the decisions any easier! Let’s see if we can take the some of the guess work out of this common dilemma!

First, the Benefits:

Convenience: Offering products at the office is convenient for patients. There is no extra trip to the store or pharmacy, which many patients will neglect to make. Once out of the office, folks tend to turn their attention to other things.

Safety:  You know what they are getting; you won’t worry that they are using a substandard or inferior product.

Effectiveness: Patients receive personalized instruction; a benefit when the product is technique sensitive, such as a power brush.

Compliance: Increased patient compliance. Patients are more likely to commit to using products they purchase from a professional.

Practice Builder: If the product works well for the patient, it’s an effective marketing tool for your practice. “Dr. Smith sold me these white strips, and they worked great! You should go and see him!”

Increased Revenue if products are priced properly.

Consider Potential Pitfalls:

If the staff is not adequately trained on the benefits of a product, they won’t recommend it, and the product will collect dust in your inventory closet.

If the staff does not believe in a products effectiveness, they won’t want to recommend it, and if they do recommend it, they won’t sound convincing.

Too many types and brands of products are less likely to move. Staff has too many indications and specifications to remember, and patients will be confused.

Overpriced products do not sell well.

Now that we’ve explored some advantages and disadvantages of selling oral home care products, what is the final answer? Only your group can decide that, but allow me to shed some light on the subject based on my experience: Selling products out of the office is a good thing, if you sell the right ones. How can you be sure you are recommending and dispensing the right ones? Consider the following:

Compliance is Key: Ask if compliance important for the proper use and effectiveness of a product? If so, then you should dispense it. Prescription strength fluoride is an ideal product to dispense out of the office. It requires a prescription if not purchased from you, it requires some verbal instruction, and proper compliance is critical. The same would be true for CHX rinse.

Personalized Instruction: If detailed personalized instruction is warranted for a product, consider dispensing it. If a patient has no experience with a power brush, they will need some education and perhaps a demonstration on how to use it to its best advantage. Power brushes are great for those who have poor homecare, orthodontics, limited ability to perform homecare, and those who have periodontal disease or high plaque loads.

Avoid products that must be purchased fairly often. An over the counter mouthwash for fresh breath, in my opinion, is best left off the list off of products dental practices should sell. The same is true for OTC strength toothpaste. Patients can likely get these cheaper in the supermarket than we can sell them for. It is perfectly acceptable to offer patients recommendations and coupons, however.

Pick One: I advise that practices pick one product in each category, and commit to being experts on it. Patients will be confused if you offer two brands of power brush or whitening formula. They will wonder which is superior. Telling patients it is a “personal preference” only adds to their confusion and implies that neither brush has distinctive qualities.  When you offer one brand or line, you can develop a relationship with that manufacturer and get superior staff training and pricing.

Educate staff: Whichever products you choose to offer, ensure staff knows it backwards and forwards and believes in its effectiveness. Have lunch n learns to educate staff, and encourage questions. Offer employee discounts on products you sell, so that staff can try products for themselves.

Price it Right: Ensure your price is reasonable and attractive for patients, and at the same time, that you are making a profit after figuring in time for patient education and any provider incentives.

Dispense only to patients of record: I advise against dispensing products to “walk ins” or those who are not patients of record.

I hope that this break down takes some of the uncertainty out of choosing the right products to dispense out of your practice. If done with careful consideration, dispensing certain products can benefit your patients and your practice!