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The End of Tooth Whitening

September 12, 2011

Filed under: Marketing — Tags: , , , — Barry @ 11:02 PM


There was a time when tooth whitening was all the rage.  Everyone wants white bright teeth.  Dental practices focused on bleaching…big companies jumped on the bandwagon and created tooth whitening products from toothpastes to white strips to tooth whitening gels.  Tooth whitening systems  became big business…and dentists considered it their domain.

We bought lights and made deals to buy bleach in bulk.  Tooth whitening in dentistry became as common as dirt.  Today we have created the ultimate dental commodity.  Dental practices still charge upwards of $600 to bleach a patient’s teeth.  This is in spite of the fact that in many states people can go to the local mall and get the same procedure around $99.

Cruise ships began offering whitening services as well.  Through it all dental practices kept charging the higher fee as a “profit center.”

Well things are changing faster than going from A3 to A1.

In my book The Art of the Examination I wrote about the forces in dentistry that have made our services into commodities.  The forces I wrote about were dental insurance and advertising.  Today we have the new social e-commerce sites like Living Social and Groupon that are offering services, especially tooth whitening for as low as $79.

I wrote about this in my last couple of posts.

I always wondered where we would be if no dentists accepted dental insurance…obviously that’s a dream.  So many of our colleagues have used dental insurance as a competitive advantage.

Well the same thing is happening with the Living Social and Groupon fascination.  I mean really…who doesn’t want a great deal?

Dentists all over the country are jumping on the bandwagon.  Patients everywhere are waking up to e-mails offering bleaching for $99 or less.  I know it’s a matter of time before we see Invisalign and veneer deals.

Dentistry’s founding fathers could not have seen this Darwinian competitiveness coming.  The phrase “all’s fair in love and war,”  doesn’t work for industries that are held to a higher standard…industries that are public trusts.

My feeling is that creating price wars through bitter competition can help the individual practice at the expense of the collective profession.

What’s your take?  The way I see it I wouldn’t be investing in a lot of bleaching supplies in the future.