Close up of calculator
February 13, 2020
Dr. Sigrid Hader, PhD

How can I save money in my dental practice every day?

Searching for promotional deals or cheaper materials is an obvious way to save money in your dental practice. Although it can be fun to make a sport of the hunting process, is it the best way to save money? A recent study of a group practice indicates maybe not.

A 3M group practice study shows that material costs and dental equipment account for only a small proportion of the overall operating costs. In fact, material costs only account for 11%, and dental equipment was similar at about 10% of their total operational cost.

Operational Cost of a Dental Practice Infographic

The remaining 80% of overall costs are instead related to overheads such as paying for rent, mortgage and electricity, and for labor.

In the case of this group practice, the biggest cost factor is labor. This includes paying for the staff, performing dental procedures as well as the administration and reception tasks, accounting for nearly half (48%) of total operating cost.

What does this mean?

It means that the best way to save money in your practice may not be a result of finding cheap materials. Rather it might be to work with your team to develop an efficient practice that makes the best use of available time and resources and reduce the time needed to perform procedures:

  1. Reduce overhead costs: Efficiently plan the turnover of chairtime, so that there are only a few gaps in-between patients.
  2. Reduce the chairtime needed for each procedure: Using this group practice as an example, if they reduce time needed for a dental procedure by 10%, they can reduce their overall practice costs by 4.8% (10% x 48%), whereas the same amount of reduction of material cost only leads to an overall cost reduction of 1.1% (10% x 1 1%). If they can manage to reduce the procedure time needed by 20% it would result in close to a 10% (9.6%) savings of overall practice cost compared to only 2.2% of savings through a 20% of reduction in material cost.
  3. Get it right the first time: Do not lose time for repeats due to mistakes or complicated, non-standardized procedures. This saves time AND makes patients happy as they do not need to come back for corrections.

In summary:

By utilizing efficient procedures, the reduction in chair time could result in savings significantly greater than the savings that result from material cost reduction. Additionally, the standardization of products and procedures may result in less rework and frustration for you, your staff, and your patients!

Here are some tips how to achieve this:

  • Standardize procedures around selected materials and indications.
  • Train yourself and your staff on procedures and selected materials.
  • Follow the manufacturers´ instructions for use and step-by-step guides.
  • Choose high-quality materials that make procedures easy with reliable and long-lasting outcomes. E.g. materials that:
    • Reduce the number of steps needed (save time plus less risk of errors)
    • Allow for convenient handling and make application easy
    • Standardize the mixing process (e.g. automix materials, mixing machines)
  • Reduce stock choices and material variants to reduce confusion and mistakes.
  • Efficiently plan patient appointments and chairtime turnaround.

Try it and you will be surprised how effective standardization with good materials can be! It might make you feel in control and less stressed, and with less variation in procedures outcomes will hopefully be more predictable. With the extra time you can either enjoy more free time for yourself or see more patients and earn more. It´s your choice!

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