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Are You Charging Too Much for Whitening?

I want to share a true story that happened a few years ago.

I had just graduated from dental school and was an associate working for another dentist.  I was responsible for generating my own patients, so I was trying all sorts of networking groups.  An opportunity arose for me to purchase a table at a health and beauty trade show.  Desperate to get more new patients, I quickly paid the $250 registration fee, packed up some business cards, put on my best suit, and headed out.

I was advertising our ZOOM! in-office whitening package, which we sold for $800.  That seemed a little bit much to me, but the dentist I worked for believed very strongly that was how much we should charge.  His rationale was that it took 2 hours of chair time, plus the cost of materials, therefore $800 was quite reasonable.

The health and beauty trade show was packed with people!  I was so excited.  I just knew I was going to get a lot of new patients.

But people just took one look at my booth and walked by.  So there I stood.  For three hours.  Alone.

Soooooooo bored.

When the event ended, as I was packing up my business cards and brochures I struck up a conversation with a vendor in the booth next to mine.

She asked the question I was dreading.  “So… did you get any business?”

“Not a single person.  No one was interested in whitening, I guess,” I replied.

“Well, I think I know why,” she confessed with a smile, “There’s another dentist here and he’s offering that ZOOM! stuff for only $300.”


After I calmed down, I realized that other dentist was totally right and I was wrong.

There are two reasons you should not charge too much for whitening:

(1) Whitening is a loss-leader. The loss-leader concept has been around in business for a long time.  For a formal definition, check out this link.  Yes, you could charge a fee that truly compensates you for your time and materials, like my former boss believed.  But a better business strategy is to charge a fee that is attractive to potential patients even though it won’t completely compensate you for your time.

Think of whitening as part of your marketing strategy.  How much would you spend on an advertisement?

(2) Whitening is a commodity. Our fees can vary for our services which have our personal touch.  We do our work (fillings, crowns, implants, veneers, etc.) differently and to varying degrees of skill.  So our fees can and should vary along with them and patients will decide if you are worth your fees.

But whitening is different.  The ZOOM! that I offer is exactly the same as the ZOOM! that anyone else can offer.  My personal touch is nowhere to be found.  Unlike other services we offer, whitening is a commodity for which patients can shop around for the best price.


So how much should you charge for whitening?  Find a fee that covers the cost of your materials (not your time) but is still competitive with your area.  Look at advertisements in the paper and listen to commercials on the radio for other dentists.  Charge too little and you’ll lose money on the deal; that’s always bad business.  But charge too much and you’ll be just like I was at that health and beauty trade show: all alone.


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