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Is it time to raise the fees in your dental practice? How to tell

April 6, 2017
Dentists often do not want to raise their fees for fear it will drive away patients. In fact, raising fees will actually increase patient confidence because they'll know the practice strives to stay up to date.
Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management

Dentists often do not want to raise their fees for fear it will drive away patients. In fact, raising fees will actually increase patient confidence because they'll know the practice strives to stay up to date.

I bet you can’t remember the last time you raised your fees. It’s just not something you think about that often. Your patients seem happy with the prices you’ve established and you certainly don’t want to give them a reason to look for a new dental home. So you’re content to keep your fees exactly where they are.

While this seems like a good way to encourage patient loyalty, keeping your fees the same year after year might actually have the opposite effect. Think about it. If you never raise your fees, how can you afford to invest in the latest technology or make upgrades to your practice? Keeping your fees steady holds back your practice, and that ultimately hurts the overall patient experience. When patients don’t have a positive experience, that’s when they start looking for a new dental home.

The truth is, patients expect you to raise your fees. As long as you keep the increases reasonable and you focus on delivering exceptional care, they won’t think twice about paying a little more for your services. A small adjustment of just $4–$5 per procedure each year won’t hurt patients’ pocketbooks, but it will go a long way in boosting your bottom line. That extra revenue also enables you to invest in training, technology, and practice upgrades.

Still not convinced you might need to raise your fees? Here are a few ways you can tell it’s time for an adjustment.

Your fees are the lowest in your area—This makes your practice a target for price shoppers who are more concerned about finding a good deal than a good dentist. Your fees send a message about your practice, so while low prices might attract more first-time patients who never come back, you’ll struggle to find those high-quality patients who accept treatment and refer.

You have no idea how your fees compare to other dentists in your community—I see this happen a lot. Dentists set their fees without knowing what other clinicians in their area charge. Does this describe you? Then I suggest you take time to do a little research. If you find your fees are a lot lower than other dentists in your area, it’s probably time to increase them.

It’s a good idea to contact your Chamber of Commerce to collect information on your area’s demographics and income level. These are important factors to consider when you’re determining or adjusting your fees. You can also do some research online or contact your local dental society for more information about fees.

When adjusting your fees, remember that while it’s important to keep them in line with the community you serve, they should also reflect the level of service your practice provides. If your goal is to become a high-end, high-tech practice that offers exceptional customer service and patient care, your fees should be higher than an old practice that hasn’t made any updates in years.

Your fees are all over the place—I’ve worked with dentists who set their fees too low for certain services and too high for others. There’s no consistency, which just confuses and annoys patients. Instead of using this seesaw structure, I suggest you base your fees on your financial goals and on data from the community you serve.

You’re falling short financially—Speaking of goals, if you’re not meeting your financial goals, that’s probably a sign you need to raise your fees. If you don’t have specific goals, now is the time to set them. Think about what you want from your career and the life you’d like to lead. From there, figure out how much revenue your practice needs to get you there. Once you have these goals set, you’ll have a much easier time establishing fees.

Like it or not, developing a fee schedule is key to practice success, but it’s something most dentists don’t want to talk about. If you really want to grow your practice and meet your full potential, I suggest you establish a solid fee for each service you provide, and then plan to adjust those fees twice a year—2% the first time and 3% the second time, for a 5% total increase each year.

Following this schedule will ensure you’re bringing in enough money to meet your goals and invest in your practice. Trust me, if you provide exceptional care and show patients the value of the services you provide, small fee increases will not scare them away. This will actually help keep them loyal to your practice.

Need more guidance on how to establish a solid fee schedule? You don’t have to do it alone. Contact me and I’ll walk you through it.

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Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service, nation-wide dental practice management company. Contact her at (877) 777-6151 or at [email protected].
About the Author

Sally McKenzie | CEO of McKenzie Management

Sally McKenzie was CEO of McKenzie Management, a full-service, nationwide dental practice management company. For over 30 years, Sally immersed herself in techniques, systems, and methods to improve the performance of dental practices. She was a dental auxiliary, dental business administrator, and dental educator for several years prior to founding McKenzie Management in 1980.

Read more about her legacy in the dental profession from Chris Salierno, DDS.