Dental Management 101: Regularly Raise Dental Fees

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Half of dentists have raised dental fees in past yearOnly half of dentists report having raised their dental fees in the past year, this survey found.

Raising dental fees regularly is basically Dental Management 101, but actually implementing regular fee raises is difficult for many dentists – especially in a tight economy.

Here’s how the responses broke down:

  • 50% have raised fees in the past year
  • For 31%, it’s been over 1 year
  • For 15%, it’s been over 2 years
  • For 3%, it’s been over 3 years
  • For 1%, it’s been over 5 years (Ouch!)

"The cost of living rises nearly 3% every year. If your fees are where they should be and if you don’t increase your fees to AT LEAST keep up with the cost of living, you are losing," pointed out a prosthodontist. "We’ve been increasing our fees 3-5% once every year and have had no complaints. I think most of our patients haven’t even noticed the fee changes. When they are in regular, small increments like that, it’s easier for patients to accept."

“Usually we raise fees annually, but with current economic climate, we're actually giving financial incentive (reductions) instead of raising fees,” said one dentist.

"Recession and competition for same patients might make me rethink raising fees," agreed a California dentist. "My patients are actually leaving for less expensive dentist prophies."

Raise your dental fees regularly

  • “I took a management course that suggested raising fees every 10 months. This way you get one extra raise every 5 years. Good idea."
  • “Smaller increases more often create less hassle than larger ones every few years.” (New York dentist)
  • “I did not raise fees for 2-3 years at a time, but found I was getting too far behind and the increase was too large at one time.” (General dentist)
  • “JUST DO IT” (West Virginia dentist)

This year is really tough

  • “Couldn't do it for 2009. There is consumer price deflation, and so many of my patients are struggling.” (Georgia dentist)
  • “I usually raise fees yearly, but this year we have done what we can to maintain last years fees on most procedures.” (Michigan dentist)
  • “It's different this year.” (Connecticut dentist)
  • “I may not raise fees next year.” (Periodontist)
  • “It may be tough to raise fees any appreciable amount next year.” (Georgia dentist)
  • “With the economy being poor, I tend to raise only certain procedures slightly, and leave most as is!!” (General dentist)
  • “Hesitant due to price decrease in other services and products.” (Maine dentist)
  • “In today's economy, it doesn't seem right to be raising fees, however…” (New York dentist)

Monitor fee surveys

  • “I get the Zip code fee analysis. Any fee below the 90 percentile, I raise to the 90 percentile on an annual basis. If it is above the 90th percentile, I usually leave it alone.” (Kentucky dentist)
  • "I get my annual fee survey for the local zip code and try to stay in the 70th percentile.” (General dentist)
  • “I raise them every year based on several independent surveys. The insurance companies use actuarial tables that have to be 10 years behind!” (General dentist)

Keep up with inflation

  • “The cost of living rises nearly 3% every year. If your fees are where they should be and if you don't increase your fees to AT LEAST keep up with the cost of living, you are losing. We've been increasing our fees 3-5% once every year and have had no complaints. I think most of our patients haven't even noticed the fee changes. When they are in regular, small increments like that, it's easier for patients to accept.” (Ohio prosthodontist)
  • “Everything else goes up (except insurance reimbursement), so why not raise my fees?” (Pennsylvania dentist)

Insurance can dictate fees

  • “Delta Dental and other insurance companies make it tough to raise fees and are getting much more aggressive about dictating fees…. I dread the yearly confrontation!” (California dentist)
  • "It does not matter much if you accept insurance plans. They set the fees anyway."
  • “The more I raise fees, the more I write off due to insurance companies not keeping up with PPO schedule increases.” (Ohio dentist)
  • “Would like to know how others are faring, but I have raised neither fees nor salaries in 2 years. Delta has done likewise!” (Rhode Island dentist)

Patients aren't having it right now

  • “My wife is also the office manager. She has to collect the money. She says how can you raise fees in this economic environment?” (Dental professional)
  • “I really feel the need to do so, but feel that to do so in these economic times would send the wrong message” (Kansas dentist)

Lowering fees?!?

  • “Usually we raise fees annually, but with current economic climate, we're actually giving financial incentive (reductions) vs raising fees.” (Maine dentist)
  • “We will raise some fees and lower some others to be able to let patients know that we are trying hard to keep our fees are fair as possible.” (General dentist)

Dentists are postponing

  • “In the past I have raised fees every three years, but with the economy I decided to wait until April 2010. This will have been 5 years since my last fee change.” (General dentist)
  • “Usually every year, but…"

Being sensitive to the current economy

  • “Lowered fees to 80th percentile for 2009 but intend on raising them to keep up with dental supply, lab, staff, and other dental office inflation.” (Texas dentist)
  • “I haven’t raised fees recently due to the economy.” (Virginia dentist)

Losing patients over fees

  • “Recession and competition for same patients might make me rethink raising fees. My patients are actually leaving for less expensive dentist prophies.” (California dentist)

Fee adjustments

  • “We evaluate our change in costs to do business every 6 months and adjust fees accordingly.” (Texas pediatric dentist)
  • “I also am aware of special situations in which I may delay a fee increase, but if my costs go up, I can't put off fee increases too long.” (Tennessee dentist)
  • “I have been able to keep my fees down by increasing efficiency.” (Pediatric dentist)
  • “I try to stay competitive with others in the area” (General dentist)

How do you compete with insurance clinics?

  • “It is hard to raise fees when the corporate dental offices like Dental One and Pacific Dental will open an office and then offer severely reduced fees on services. They have Wall Street behind them and don't have to really struggle to open an office. I am so glad that I am not having to start a new private practice with the likes of these out there today.” (Texas dentist)

 

Note: Survey sample included 218 respondents.

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