Quit Selling Toothbrushes

First off, I guess I have to apologize to all the toothbrush reps out there giving awesome lunch and learns and free toothbrushes to your whole team. You see, a couple weeks ago I came to the realization that, from a business perspective, selling electric toothbrushes in my office was a terrible decision.

Until recently, I was selling a name brand electric toothbrush package for $120. I was paying my team 25% of every toothbrush sold (profit sharing-another topic for another day) and making a whopping $20 a toothbrush. Retirement here I come!!!!

Face it. Your office can’t compete.

Meanwhile, a quick Amazon search found me a very similar name brand electric toothbrush for $50 with 6,000 5 star reviews. SIX THOUSAND!!! Now why would I sell them in my office when personally I would just get it delivered to my door-step for half the price in two days? Seriously, it’s the same toothbrush without 35 different adjustable heads and a timer! And just to be clear, before I get yelled at for being anti-electric toothbrush, I am a huge fan and use one myself…but guess what? We don’t sell electric toothbrushes anymore and here is why…

Honestly, this post was never meant to be about toothbrushes. It was meant to be about encouraging dentists and their teams to look beyond incremental growth and look at what it would take to significantly grow their practices. I see to many doctors getting caught up in these ticky tack services that at the core are good services and provide some increase in production, yet they will miss the ways that they can significantly grow their practices. I am a numbers guy, so go with me on this little case study.

You are a solo doctor practice doing $750K a year and you have 1500 active patients. You do general dentistry with the occasional specialty procedure here and there. (AKA: most docs!) The toothbrush rep or some consultant comes to you and says, “Doc, I got a way for your team to increase production by $20 a patient and you don’t have to do a thing!” So you and your team totally buy in and you sell 500 toothbrushes that year! Sounds like a new car is in your future…not so fast. So you don’t profit share like I do and you make $50 a toothbrush. You just made an extra $25,000 dollars. Not bad, that’s like a fully loaded Hyundai Sonata! Yes, that is a good thing, but it’s not a great thing and here is why…

This is what adult ortho can get you!

So instead you get smart and you take the same energy into motivating your team to buy into adult orthodontics. Lets say you profit $2000 a case on adult orthodontics and your team convinces 30 people to go through with treatment. For those that suck at math that is $60,000 dollars. Now we are talking like a fully loaded F-150 King Ranch (ask me how I know)! And lets be real, if you can convince 500 people to buy a freaking $120 toothbrush you shouldn’t have a problem convincing 30 to straighten their crooked teeth.

Now, let me explain one other point to this that I really believe seals the deal. No disrespect to our team and patients, but I believe that most people in general have a limited amount of information that can be shared and accepted during an appointment. If you’re a hygienist and you have to check medical history, update radiographs, probing chart, clean the teeth, talk about little Bobby in the 4th grade and how Susan’s wedding went last month. Do you really have time to explain to them about improving their oral health, why they are going to break a tooth if they don’t crown it, that we can straighten their teeth, talk about their spouse’s snoring, and why they should have an electric toothbrush? Oh and lets throw in adult fluoride right before they leave! Remember, most think we are just trying to take their money so I would gladly prefer to refer them to Amazon for the toothbrush instead of them thinking I am making some huge profit off of them. Then we can devote our time to the services that Amazon can’t deliver (currently) that actually do have some financial impact on the practice as a business!

Yes, in a perfect world every team member could wade through each patient and decipher what treatment would be best for them. However, most of us dentists suck so much as a leader that we can’t hire those people, or fire the bad ones. So we’ll definitely struggle to train them to do sell dentistry. Therefore, I believe cutting out the things that can muddy the water such as selling toothbrushes and allowing our teams to focus on the things that not only have a potential to impact our patients in a significant way, but also the business side of the practice is the best thing we can do.

So ultimately my point is I want everyone to start thinking about the big picture. How can I work less, make more, and take more vacations, because selling 500 electric toothbrushes isn’t going to get me there. And neither are adult fluoride, custom whitening trays, and a myriad of other products we sell in the office. Implants, veneers, full mouth cosmetic cases, oral appliances for obstructive sleep apnea, adult orthodontics, and similar procedures will get you there and can have just as positive effect if not more on your patients!