Last updated on July 16th, 2021 at 11:15 am
What should you be charging for your services?
It’s a question we ask ourselves at a number of points in our career. And when it comes to how much you should charge, what “percentile” you should be in, etc. it’s one of those things that don’t have an exact “this is it,” type answer.
So, I figured I’d provide my thoughts on the subject to help make things easier.
First off you have to remember this one important thing:
YOU have to feel good about the fee that you’re charging.
To start, you can’t believe or think that you’re overcharging patients. But you’re also not going to feel good about if you’re undercharging “just to get business.” You’re going to find yourself working 5 or 6 days a week with no profit.
So my first bit of advice is to just go to Google and type in “national dental fee survey” and several services should pop up on the screen where for $100, $200 or something like that you can get a schedule of fees for your zipcode. Here’s a few links you can check out directly: The ADA’s and Wasserman Medical.
I did that early on in my practice and here’s how I worked it out:
My crown and bridge and restorative fees were usually in the 80th or 90th percentile for my zip code.
Now how is it that I felt good about charging at that higher end? Well, I delivered.
Beyond attentive and excellent clinical care, my whole office provided excellent customer service to my patients from the moment they walked in the door. I communicated openly and honestly with them, listened to their concerns, and they didn’t have to wait.
That’s worth something.
On crown and bridge, I got gold back in seven days and I got porcelain back in ten. To pull that schedule off, I made a deal with my lab person. The lab was two hours away and every Tuesday and Thursday he hired a retired gentleman to drive to my office and pick up and deliver, which actually cut out multiple days for UPS to deliver.
So you may have to get creative, but I felt that’s why my crown was worth it. And on average I was charging probably about 25% more than the other dentists in my area.
(Related: How to Create First-Class Customer Service in a Dental Office)
I had a family practice – we saw the whole family, adults and kids. On pediatric fees I tried to keep them in the 60th to 70th percentile for my zip code. I really like children and I had some sympathy for parents with two or three kids because that can add up very rapidly.
I did the same thing (60th to 70th percentile) with my prophy and perio (scaling and root planning) fees. I kept those fees kind of in the average range. If somebody’s going to start to compare, that’s a number that they can easily remember and they see it twice a year.
And I always like to make it easy for patients to come in for hygiene and checkups, as that’s how people are able to maintain their oral health consistently and these exams are where I would find a lot of that restorative work that needs to be done.
Don’t Join the “Race to the Bottom”
With that in mind, let’s take a minute and look at the idea of having extra-low fees – in other words, trying to compete on the basis of the fee alone.
If you’re into this – I’ve got some bad news: There can only be one “cheapest dentist in town.” Most of the time you’re going to lose that race to the bottom.
But in maintaining that race to the bottom, oftentimes the doctor doesn’t look at what it’s actually costing to produce and deliver that service. And this factor is KEY when it comes to setting fees. You have to be able to cover costs – but also making a profit wouldn’t hurt either, would it?
I recently spoke with a dentist that was getting $250 for a partial from a union plan. This doctor’s spouse came in and did a cost analysis and found it was costing them $350 to make it – now that wasn’t just the lab bill, it was also the number of visits, the staff time, etc. So, every time this doctor did a partial on this plan, they lost $100! That doesn’t make sense financially.
While you’re margins might not be that bad, I would encourage you to figure out how much it really costs you to do a procedure. There are staff that need to be paid to schedule it, the chair has “rent” attached to it…you can figure it out and narrow this down to as much as you feel comfortable with.
The point is, I wouldn’t be comfortable with being the lowest priced dentist in the area, because generally you’re just going to end up working harder for less.
My experience is that patients will pay for quality and they will pay for service.
So charge what you believe you’re worth and I suggest you set your fees a little bit at the higher end and then that puts the pressure on you. I felt that I kept the pressure on me – and my office – to have the absolute best customer service and product that I possibly could.
That’s my advice. Hope it helps!
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