Grow your bottom line by expanding the right services

Jan. 1, 2008
You may recall a Saturday Night Live skit with the Coney Island restaurant that had “no Coke, just Pepsi..

by Mark Murphy, DDS

You may recall a Saturday Night Live skit with the Coney Island restaurant that had “no Coke, just Pepsi ... no fries, just cheeseburgers, cheeseburgers, cheeseburgers.” McDonald’s didn’t always have such a wide variety of menu items. It was many years before it added a breakfast menu, and currently more than 70 percent of its sales come from the drive-thru. The most recent expansion of products McDonald’s has made is the McCafe line of premium coffee drinks. McDonald’s has trained baristas, much like you would see at Starbucks, to make the lattes, espressos, and cappuccinos that we have come to crave. The main reason McDonald’s has chased this revenue stream is that coffee products are second only to iced tea in profit margins. It might interest you to know that McDonald’s makes more money off of its soft drinks, iced tea, and coffee than its hamburgers, french fries, and breakfast items.

In dental practices, some of us have begun to expand our products and services, and we now look at things like bleaching, TMD therapy, and Invisalign®. This expansion of services opens the door for general practitioners to focus on esthetics and treat occlusal disease and select orthodontic cases, but it also means significant revenue at a higher operating profit.

A great example of this type of revenue and services expander that you could choose for your dental practice is the immediate-load, implant-retained overdentures using the new mini-implants. Until the recent introduction of mini-implants, you had to have specialized training or leave the placement of implants to the periodontist or oral surgeon. With the introduction and FDA approval of the smaller, less-invasive implant fixtures, more general dentists can step into the implant arena.

One such company, Sterngold, has executed several strategies to reduce the entry barriers and overcome implementation hurdles for us. When I lecture about this protocol I often say, “If you do root canals and extractions in your practice, you can do this as well.” Although it is not exactly a parallel universe, the risk assessment and learning curve are actually easier. Here is what Sterngold does to help:

  • The company has a mentor program, where an experienced general practitioner visits you and oversees your first couple of placements, sort of like over-the-shoulder in dental school, but without the grades.
  • The program also offers 3-D CT scan technology and partners with a company that provides a CAD/CAM surgical guide (Implant Logic System) that makes it much easier to place the fixtures and avoid alveolar nerves, mental foramina, and other untoward sites.
  • The company gives you a sophisticated, evidence-based risk assessment protocol and helps you choose the right patients and cases.
  • The surgical kit, prosthetic kit, and surgical handpiece can all be paid for with your first surgery; the cost of entry has been reduced. Ultimately, the company wants to sell you implants, not start-up kits.

Another thing that is so enticing about these immediate-load, implant-retained overdentures is the potential high-profit margin. If we are using conventional implants, the patient’s total fee for a bar-retained overdenture with conventional implants can run $20,000 and up. For five ERA implant fixtures and all the parts to retrofit an existing denture with ERA attachments, dentists are charging anywhere from $3,500 to $6,000, with a 70 to 80 percent profit margin. Patients report good fitting, well-retained dentures and improved quality of life.

This type of procedure expands a better restorative solution to a segment of the 35 million or so edentulous patients in our country today, and helps overcome some access to care issues. This same company plans a multimillion dollar national advertising campaign to educate patients about this restorative choice. Just two cases a month could add $120,000 to production and up to $100,000 to your bottom line. Your patients can even finance it with CareCredit® or one of the other patient financing products.

The introduction of the right kinds of expanded services into our practices provides high-quality patient solutions to restorative issues that are also highly profitable for us. It helps us expand our field of services and gives us greater fulfillment and increased productivity at a time when we need it most.

Mark Murphy is a featured presenter for the National Dental Network and the National Lab Network. He lectures internationally on a variety of dental clinical and behavioral subjects. Dr. Murphy practices part time in Rochester Hills, Mich., and is the director of professional relations at The Pankey Institute. You may contact him by e-mail at [email protected] or visit

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