Aug. 18, 2010
Author Karen Davis explains why the convenience of purchasing consumer goods from a dental office is too convenient to ignore.

by Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH

In dental practices all across the country on any given day, patients are asking their dental hygienists about some type of oral health product they’ve read about or seen on TV. Patients often look to the dental professionals for their opinion and either a thumbs up or thumbs down on certain products before purchasing. Dental professionals must research a lot to stay abreast of the rapid changes in technology and products available for consumers. Consumers want to enhance or improve their smiles, and the market for related products is growing exponentially.

I’d like to share an experience I recently had upon visiting my dermatologist. I was actually there to have a mole removed. But once that procedure was completed, I asked him for a recommendation for a full body moisturizing lotion. I had already invested a small fortune on products that seemed only minimally helpful.

I asked the question leaving the field wide open, simply inquiring for his professional opinion. Not only was he quick to answer with a very specific recommendation, he also took the time to explain why he recommended the product (because of its chemistry and ability to be absorbed into the skin more effectively than many other products on the market).

When he told me what he recommended, I had heard of it but had no idea where to purchase it. So I asked him where I could get it. He told me of three options. I could purchase it online, and he gave me the Web address. He told me of two pharmacies in the area that stocked it.

Then he said, “Or, you can buy it from us today. We keep it in stock as a convenience to our patients.”

Want to guess which option I chose? I left there that day with product in hand and felt like I had gotten more than I expected. I knew I would have the procedure completed, but was especially pleased that I not only had an answer to my question, but also left the visit with the solution in hand.

Have you ever considered how much our patients must appreciate it when we not only speak with authority about products we believe in, but when we provide the extra convenience of keeping the products on hand for their purchase? Whether we’re recommending the Sonicare Flex-care+, a specific interproximal cleaning device, or products with 5000 ppm fluoride for daily use, patient compliance increases when we can open up the product chairside and explain or demonstrate important details of daily use for home. It also ensures that they will actually end up with the product that we’re recommending!

Many patients leave the dental practice with the good intention of purchasing what we’ve recommended. But they show up at their next visit having “never gotten around” to following up on our recommendation! Keeping products on hand to dispense directly to patients either at your cost plus applicable tax, or with a minimal markup for practice profitability, really is a service benefit for your patients.

Well, I’d like to share the reality of what happened with my next visit to the dermatologist, because it is probably not unlike some of our patients’ experiences in our practices. By the time I returned for the doctor to examine how the site had healed, not only was I ready to purchase additional products for myself, but I also wanted to purchase the product for my daughter. Evidently, it is a popular product, because they ran out of it earlier in the day before my appointment. They reminded me, however, that I could purchase it online, or visit one of the two pharmacies that kept it in stock.

So I left the appointment empty-handed, but with good intentions. Upon leaving the dermatologist’s office, the reality of going to some other place to purchase the product, or remembering to order it online once I got home, became a low priority. I didn’t actually follow through for several weeks.

This experience taught me that I want to provide products for added convenience, increase patient compliance as a result of using the products, and I want to make sure I keep an adequate inventory stocked, so that I don’t run the risk of disappointing a patient looking forward to making a purchase during their regularly scheduled visit.

If you are not currently stocking products you recommend to your patients, I encourage you to consider answers to these questions:

  • What assurance do you have that patients will actually purchase products you recommend once they walk out the door of your practice?
  • If they do purchase recommended products outside of your practice, what assurance do you have that they will actually use it as recommended?
  • What obstacles do you need to investigate and/or eliminate in your practice to be able to provide the convenient service of dispensing products for your patients?

Our patients’ good intentions often don’t translate into actions. Take time to stay abreast of products that truly can impact your patients’ oral health. Determine as a team what products you believe in and why, as well as which ones you want to make available for patients to purchase. In today’s hectic and busy marketplace, this one convenience communicates to your patients that not only are you anticipating their needs, you are also prepared to meet them.

Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH, is founder of Cutting Edge Concepts, and is a practicing dental hygienist in Dallas, Texas. She is a trainer with The JP Institute and an international speaker in the dental profession. Karen serves as an independent consultant to Philips Oral Healthcare, Inc. She received her bachelor of science in dental hygiene from Midwestern State University and can be reached at [email protected].