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Auto shipment value in hygiene

July 1, 2011
Customized 'freebies' can create raves among patients

Customized 'freebies' can create raves among patients

by Anastasia L. Turchetta, RDH

Recently, I viewed a post from a friend on Facebook who said, "I just had my teeth cleaned, and all I got was a toothbrush and sample size tube of toothpaste." The responses ranged from "At least you got something" to "Is that all?" Can you imagine what my friend's opinion may have been if she had received a complimentary bag of sample products customized to her personal oral care needs?

Yes, it costs the practice to purchase home-care product samples, which patients perceive as "freebies." The costs may be particularly high if the practice is not on an auto shipment plan. In a down economy, you may believe that an auto shipment program is not financially beneficial; however, this article will address how an auto-shipping plan can work for you to save your practice money, and provide new product samples for your patients' needs.

Auto shipment plans work because you have control of your practice's needs. In fact, automatic toothbrush plans are so popular that some companies report they are responsible for 85% of toothbrush sales. The plans are a convenient process and save your team time by not having to place an order each month.

Chart 1: Comparison of costs associated with automated shipping plan vs. inventory control without one.

To customize your plan, assess the number of patients each hygienist sees per week and determine how frequently you want to receive a shipment. For example, a general practice that has one full-time dental hygienist will see approximately 2,100 patients per year. Depending on the plan, this office could save close to $450 on toothbrushes, $800 on floss, and $300 on interproximal cleaning aids per year.

Chart 1 is based on one full-time dental hygienist practicing in a general practice setting.

Depending upon the company and program, a wide variety of free products are available based on the volume of toothbrushes purchased. Products such as floss, flossing aids, and interproximal cleaners may be part of your free goods options. In addition, some companies also provide free bags, brochures, and retail coupons for your patients' benefit. Imagine the savings for large group practices and public health programs.

The previous example did not discuss the customary tube of toothpaste. Many companies offer samples of toothpaste to practices, but the majority of the time toothpaste is not what will benefit patients the most. When customizing a patient goody bag, a patient may gain greater value in specialty products that can assist with a problem area or provide an easy solution to a challenging concern. The generic toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss is a recommendation of the past.

When customizing an auto shipment plan with a company, ask yourself a few questions specific to your patient base:

  • What type of toothbrush is best? Adult and child toothbrushes can have at least four selections and styles.
  • Which options are realistically going to be used by my patients for interproximal cleaning? GUM Soft-Picks are very popular with all patients.
  • What type of tongue cleaner will benefit the majority of my patients?
  • What are the best recommendations for pain management products to treat canker sores or cold sores?
  • Should I provide denture/partial brushes or specialized brushes?
  • What are the mouth rinse options?
  • What about probiotics, orthodontic needs, and implant care products?

One concern with an auto shipment program is the possibility of excess inventory and lack of storage space. Most often, the customer service department is able to adjust your shipment schedule and decrease excess product. One company, Sunstar Americas, Inc., provides advanced shipping notices that alert the dental office that an order is scheduled to ship in 30 days. This service provides the office the opportunity to review the order and modify the quantity if necessary. These advanced shipping notices are available via email, fax, or regular mail.

The same company also offers a new service named "Call First." With this program, a customer service representative will call you personally to alert you to the automatic shipment and make any changes needed. If you are beginning a new automatic program or have a new team member who will be in charge of ordering, be sure to contact your sales representative to schedule an onsite visit to review your program.

Today's hygiene protocol is customized to incorporate appropriate time for screenings, treatment/therapy, and home-care education. With an automatic program, you are able to select the specific home-care products of the greatest benefit to your patient.

Consider an auto shipment program; the benefits are clear: free shipping, free imprinting, free goody bags, retail coupons, and a cost savings of approximately 20%. Automatic shipments provide more time to continually perform optimum oral health care. Soon, your patients may be posting about the innovative samples and valuable coupons they received from their recent dental visit!

Anastasia L. Turchetta, RDH, who has 26 years of clinical hygiene experience, challenges dental professionals to continually raise the standard of patient care. Her weekly video blog on YouTube, "Anastasia's Hump Day Happenings" ( ) answers questions from the general public on oral health topics. Anastasia also spends time as an independent consultant, working with several companies to develop website content, continuing education programs and in-office or remote training for dental hygiene departments. Her memberships include the American Dental Hygienists' Association and the National Speakers Association.

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