While you may not think about shopping for X-ray holders when you’re filling cavities, your supplies are necessary to your practice. If you keep your office well-stocked with supplies from reputable manufacturers, you can keep your patients smiling and feeling confident in your work.
Before we get into the basics of buying supplies, let’s consider what the term “supply” refers to. The American Dental Association’s Center for Professional Success defines dental supplies as “items priced less than $500 per item.” Anything above $500 is considered equipment.
Examples of basic supplies include instruments, disposables, infection control products, personal protective equipment, composites and impression materials — all of which you can order online or through a sales representative. Depending on where you go to buy your supplies, you may be able to order everything in one visit.
This chapter shows you where you can purchase dental supplies, things to consider when selecting a supplier and tips for selecting time-saving purchasing software.
Where to Order Dental Supplies
Traditionally, dental offices purchase supplies from distributors or dealers by contacting a sales representative. Some dealers have walk-in reps who will go into your office and promote their products. One advantage of working with a walk-in rep is they can answer your questions and make recommendations. On the downside, meeting reps during the workday can take time away from your patients. Also, not all sales representatives are eager to help you make the best choices.
Other dealers have dedicated telesales account managers or non-dedicated customer service representatives through whom you can order supplies. Finally, some dealers only allow you to order supplies online.
You may also obtain what you need directly from a manufacturer if the company allows it. To go this route, visit the manufacturer’s or distributor’s website and see what products are available to purchase online. Typically, you’ll need to create an online account before you can see the product’s total price and place an order. Once you have accounts with the different suppliers you’re interested in, you can jump between each one’s website to compare prices and find the best deal.
If searching for supplies online or calling sales reps sounds too time-consuming, you can use software instead, which will do most of the work for you. Dental supply purchasing software lets you order supplies from a comprehensive catalog or any supplier you wish to work with.
For example, procurement software like Method allows you to compare prices and place orders from multiple suppliers on a single platform, so you don’t have to waste time surfing the web. If you’ve already built a relationship with a supplier, you can invite them to communicate with you through the platform so that you can stay organized and on top of your orders.
What to Consider When Choosing a Supplier
If you hop online to shop for books or T-shirts, you could spend days wading through suppliers. Search for dental supplies online, and you’ll also be inundated with options — and some are not so trustworthy.
How do you narrow your options and keep your sanity at the same time? It takes research and maybe a cup of coffee to know who you can trust for top-quality dental supplies. You’ll want to consider the following factors when deciding where to buy supplies for your dental practice:
- Customers’ feedback: Read customers’ reviews of the dental supply company and look for patterns. For instance, do most reviews mention poor customer service? Or do people complain of low-quality products? If so, you probably want to reconsider. To start your review search, you can read Google reviews customers wrote. You can also search for feedback left on the Better Business Bureau’s website or the supplier’s Facebook page.
- Qualifications and reputation: Research the supplier’s qualifications and reputation. In doing so, consider how long the company has been in business, what organizations it’s affiliated with and whether it’s an authorized distributor. Make sure to avoid gray-market suppliers. Gray-market suppliers sell items that may have been handled improperly, have passed their expiration dates or are made merely to look authentic.
- Product options: Does the supplier offer equipment sales and service along with supplies? Does that matter to you and your staff? Consider if you want to work with a supplier who has everything you need to run your practice.
- Warranties: Consider if the supplier provides warranties. Although the distributor itself may not offer warranties, it should pass the product manufacturer’s warranties to you.
- Brand quality: Ensure the supplier offers a range of well-known, high-quality brands. If you’re unsure about the quality or authenticity of a product, ask the supplier. If the supplier doesn’t respond clearly or hesitates to address your concerns, it’s time to look elsewhere.
- Payment options: What payment options does the supplier offer? Are these options convenient and secure? You should be able to easily find the payment options and payment terms on the supplier’s website.
- Shipping fees and delivery options: Check the supplier’s shipping fees and delivery options and consider the amount of time it’ll take to receive your products. If you’re not comfortable with how a company ships its items, compare it to another supplier and see if it’s a better fit.
- Customer support: Does the supplier offer adequate customer support? And will you have a dedicated account manager who understands your practice’s needs? Your supplier should feel like a business partner you can depend on.
- Website usability and security: Check out the supplier’s website. If the website is cluttered, hard to navigate or filled with spelling errors, you might want to close the window and move on. Also, ensure the website is secure. Look for the padlock in the URL bar, and click on the lock to check its certification.
- Stock levels: Does the supplier typically have the items you need in stock? If you see many out-of-stock or unavailable items on the supplier’s site, consider if they’re worth your time and money.
- Price: You can also substitute products with lower-priced, high-quality alternatives. Some premier manufacturers can be much less expensive than major household brands, so the swap could be highly impactful.
Top Suppliers in the Dental Supply Market
If you’re not sure where to begin your search for a supplier, we’ll help you get started. Here are four of the industry’s top names:
- Henry Schein: Henry Schein is a Fortune 500 company that has been around since 1932. With Henry Schein, you can be sure to find supplies and equipment from established names.
- Patterson: Patterson is another Fortune 500 company that sells dental supplies and veterinary products. Patterson provides an extensive inventory along with technical service and equipment repair.
- Benco Dental: Benco Dental is a family-owned business that focuses on the customer experience. This full-service company offers everything you need, including supplies, equipment, repair solutions, and coaching.
- Darby Dental: Darby Dental is also a family-owned business. It’s been distributing dental supplies since 1948 and stocks over 40,000 different products.
Tips for Buying Dental Supplies
Have you found a few dependable suppliers? If so, here are general tips to help you buy quality supplies while sticking to your budget:
- Compare prices: Always compare prices between products and suppliers before you confirm an order to ensure you get the best deal.
- Order what you use: Focus on buying products that your practice normally uses the most. That way, you don’t leave excess capital sitting on the shelf.
- Research the manufacturer: Are you thinking about trying a new brand? Research the product’s manufacturer first to ensure you’ve found a good company and haven’t stumbled upon an inferior product.
- Confirm the product’s quality: Make sure the product meets your quality standards and your patients’ expectations.
- Place a small order: Before placing a large order, consider starting small to ensure it arrives on time. If the supplier fails to meet your time needs, you’ll know to look elsewhere.
- Request samples: Consider requesting samples from the manufacturer or distributor to try new products before buying them.
What to Consider When Selecting Procurement Software
Comparing prices between websites and researching manufacturers might not be at the top of your to-do list. After all, you have patients to care for, and you probably would like to go home at some point, too. Here’s the good news — you can use software to simplify the process and maintain a work-life balance.
Dental supply procurement software reduces the time it takes to research products and compare prices because it keeps everything in one place. Procurement software can also help you manage inventory efficiently, so you can always have what you need and avoid ordering excess items.
To choose an online tool for buying dental supplies, such as cloud-based purchasing software, look for the following features:
- A large dental supply catalog: Dental supply purchasing software should help you get anything you need to care for your patients, so you don’t have to spend time shopping around. Ensure the program provides access to thousands of dental products, and you’ll enjoy shopping all in one place.
- Real-time pricing and availability: With real-time pricing, you can easily monitor what different suppliers charge as you compare prices. You can then use this data to negotiate with suppliers and save money on must-have supplies. Real-time availability is a big plus, too, because it ensures you only order items that are in stock. In other words, you can say good-bye to backorders.
- Simultaneous ordering: Opt for software that lets you order from various suppliers simultaneously. For instance, with Method Procurement, you can include items from multiple suppliers on a single request. Once the orders are approved, Method automatically sends them to the suppliers.
- Inventory management: Purchasing software should include an easy-to-use inventory management system. When inventory management is integrated with procurement software, you won’t have to think twice about what to order next or when.
- Receiving process: An electronic receiving process with barcode scanning takes the grunt work out of inventory management. With a streamlined receiving process, your staff can spend less time in the supply closet and get back to focusing on patients.
- Reporting: Comprehensive reporting functionalities present real-time data regarding requests, approvals and order statuses. Reporting ensures you have total visibility of the purchasing process, allowing you to make improvements where needed and reach your goals.
- Budgeting tools: Consider if the software offers budgeting tools to help you stay organized and keep your supply spending in check. Setting and sticking to a specific budget helps you better manage your finances and make cost-effective decisions.
- Approval process: Make sure the software’s approval process provides oversight of what and how much is being ordered. With a transparent approval process, you won’t have to worry about duplicate or unnecessary orders.
- Access controls: Access controls allow you to restrict access to certain tasks based on an employee’s role. For example, you might let one person place orders, someone else receive orders and a third person pay the bills. Access controls can make the ordering process more efficient and reduce the likelihood of employee theft.
The Benefits of Using Procurement Software to Buy Supplies
Even though shopping online for dental supplies has its perks — like 24/7 access — it can be time-consuming without purchasing software. Procurement software makes it quick and easy to comparison-shop whenever it’s convenient for you or your staff. Here are more benefits to using purchasing software:
- You’ll stay updated on various suppliers’ current prices.
- You can order supplies any time of day, any day of the week, and you don’t need to work around a sales rep’s schedule.
- You can shop for supplies whether you’re in the office or at home.
- You’ll have access to greater product variety and detailed descriptions.
- You can make informed decisions fast.
- You’ll spend less time requesting quotes and purchases.
- You can ensure you always have necessities in stock.
- You’ll enjoy a more convenient and efficient buying experience overall.
At Method, we understand that finding the best dental supplies at the right price can be challenging. Our software streamlines the process and helps ensure you’re getting the supplies you need at the prices you want. Request your demo today to see how our Method is your success.
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