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  • Writer's pictureWarren Bobinski

How to find the cheapest dental supplies

"YOU are responsible for your own success and your own failures. When you realize and accept that and amalgamate that into your work ethic, you will always succeed! As long as you BLAME OTHERS for the reasons you aren't where you want to be, you will always be a failure."

She is my everything...

I have always been proud of a job well done. My first ambitious career choice (at 15 1/2) was to be a produce clerk!

1983 was the year, and I was working my way up the employment ladder. Taking every shift I could possibly work after school and weekends. Pretty much full time work to help me buy my first car, a motorcycle and even move out on my own before I even graduated from High School!

This was one of the first places I learned about marketing....and business! First I learned that Superstore would not compromise quality. When I stacked my produce, the presentation had to look shelves looked like this...

Produce shelves

I was SO PROUD working the Saturday night shifts - the HARDEST shift of all!! That was the Shit-shift. Where you had to completely dis-assemble the entire product department to clean and sanitize. It was a hard, all night shift that started at 10pm and ended the next morning when the store opened....but I LOVED IT!

The first lesson I learned is that PRESENTATION was EVERYTHING! The customer would have a great experience picking their product!

The product that wouldn't "make the grade" and make my shelves look pretty, I cleared out. This was my second lesson....who would buy this bulk reduced product that was starting to rot, was compromised?


These were local, family owned restaurants. I never ONCE saw the HIGH END or FRANCHISE owners (that I know of...but I am telling a story and trying to make a point so I could be full of shit here too....)

Most interesting was they didn't just buy ALL the produce sell offs...they would be the first in every Sunday to grab the reduced meat prices, the dented cans.

These local restaurants were some of the first places I would take a girl on some of my first dates...and I learned the lesson. Sometimes it's not worth the compromise of quality to create the end product.

Gross Profit Margins and COGS

Restaraunt markup is typically 3-4X the cost of food. Getting produce next to expiry could possibly reduce the COGS by 20-30% - sound familiar? Trying to reduce the COG is IMPORTANT, but more important is UNDERSTANDING the end result.

When YOU go out to eat, do you assume your favorite places generally use the "farm fresh" "direct to table" produce? It's a trend, and it's a good one.


I'm not saying it's 100% of the time, there will always be someone around to challenge the way I think - and I appreciate that! I'm pretty stupid, but my taste buds sure didn't lie - especially when I visited the above restaurants and I KNEW what I sold them....

What is your COGS??

If you are a restaurant, do you take a chance to serve a bad meal with compromised meat or produce? Why not?


The reviews from a bad taste in the mouth can last a long time, and are hard to answer to. These are businesses where the COGS is 25-35% too!!

Dental supplies are 6%. Or 5, or 4.

What chances are you willing to take on your ingredients?

We aren't serving food either. We are a HEALTH CARE PROVIDER. With a system that is set up and regulated. With Manufacturers that continue to advance the profession with better and better products. Re-investing the profit to hire better trained educators and representatives. To secure that chain from manufacturer to end user. To comply with medical device licences, to have the ability to recall a product with possible defect and track the product right from the source to the end result.

A little different than food!

Yet I keep hearing people HAMMER on dental supplies as the scourge of the business!

Is there a lack of transparency? We can do better as suppliers - thats for sure. I have written at length on the subject, and have spent 73,000 of my career trying to show EXACTLY what my friends and customers are paying for when they use my services.....

Yet there is always an "expert" that comes along, that will be gone next year likely, that tells them they HAVE TO hammer and reduce their produce costs in order to be profitable.

74% labour.

I met with your accountant Friday. He ALSO told me your supply costs were out of hand!! Labour costs were well aligned and production was phenomenal - so he was trying to keep his job by pointing out to his client possible areas to increase profit...

He said "I have seen other clinics supply costs at 4%, so you really should be able to reduce your costs"

His client was running 6%. My friend. The same friend who is taking home 50% of the gross income. The same friend who had 24% labour costs and yet was one of the highest paying clinics that I have consulted. That means for every dollar they charge 74% is LABOUR COSTS!

TIMEfactors - what a SMART business understands

What my friend understood - what good restaurateurs understand is quality matters! He would NEVER compromise his TREATMENT by offering a product that had a questionable lineage. The fee guide he uses is built upon the cost of the product being in the range he is comfortable with.

Instead he focused on finding EFFICIENT products! Techniques that would ENHANCE his ability to perform at the highest levels. Like an athlete with his protein - in order to perform, the diet is not an area to compromise! As a matter of fact to perform at ELITE levels - his consultants, and lifelong friend was ALWAYS watching for better product.

Product like BULK FILL materials, LED curing lights (I told you I have been around for 35 years!), Rotary endo, obturation systems that deliver specialist like results, self etch bonding agents, SE multipurpose cements. They learn advanced techniques for surgical procedures, using digital xrays and imaging. Enhancing the patient experience and reducing chair time with efficient scheduling. Understand the procedural costs (COGS) compared to the results they get.

They have REDUCED failures, and have a waiting list of patients. The FIXED costs are more of a concern - and they take EVERY opportunity to add trained team members. Extend hours, and accommodate the long referral list of patients.

They run on time.

The TEAM ALWAYS attends CE. Every associate gets CE paid for by this owner - as long as the vision aligns with the clinics mantra.

Supply costs are 6%....they don't even think about supply costs! The supplies they use have REDUCED procedural time and RESULTED in INCREASED PRODUCTION!!


#1 Good for the patient - proven scientifically and with street credibility

#2 - Good for the business - efficient, reliable results.

My TIMEfactor formula is simply about evaluating the products you are buying. Most important - does it create a better patient experience and end result while increasing your ability to profit?

Grey Market. I've done that!!

If you are a business owner importing grey market supplies from over seas - I have been there! I started in this business just like you - DOMINION DENTAL SUPPLY (later Sinclair Dental in Canada) was a small family business. We wanted to COMPETE in the times when a 5% discount from supplies was unheard of! We KNEW we could buy product and make 30-40% GP and compete with the "Big Guys" (Ash Temple, Canadian Dental, Healthco).

We learned our lesson back then! Several times we imported "Johnson and Johnson Dispersalloy". What we found is the mixing times for the overseas product was different or the product was compromised (or was it even pure?). We had NO IDEA what happened - but this was a $20,000 lesson to the business as we took back all the faulty product. But what happened to our business and reputation?

Several more times we tried to import product that was SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper overseas. The product we imported WAS NOT KNOCK OFF, we bought form overseas dealers that had a lower wholesale cost. Black Market simply didn't exist in the 80's when I started. It was truly gray. The problem happened over and over, and finally ended with a lawsuit from a dentist who had harmed his patient with a faulty material.

This is well before the Social Media age. I think the quality of the Grey Market is likley better - but I am concerned about what has become the BLACK MARKET. I can easily find product on "Alibaba and eBay" or with a few clicks find overseas sources for products that could be imported. The problem is multi-fold.

In my days of "Grey market" it was a LOT of work to find sources! I'm talking about the 1980s BEFORE internet! Before Fax! When you had to consult the library to find business bibles of overseas companies that may be able to help you.

Ultimately, learning how to resource from overseas became a valuable tool in my career! We were able to succesfully find sources for the "name brands" we wanted to import.

Now ANYONE can simply bypass the "buyers groups" and "direct" by going right on eBay, Amazon, Alibaba - cut out the middle man and import the product yourself to save money!

I found Optibond for as little as $1 a bottle, stock up!!

I am being facetious of course.

You don't run a restaurant! Who is the person DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE for the quality of the product coming out of your clinic? How PROUD are you? The COGS should be more representative of the QUALITY and OUTCOME while keeping LABOUR in mind and efficiency.

But you HATE the "big companies"?

I grew up in the world and started my career with this mad on. I really wanted to change dentistry and become the biggest, badass dealer of supplies in the world! I also wrote several blogs about "FIRE YOUR DENTAL REP" and how to buy direct from alternative companies.  I was one of them!  I WAS that "grey market" guy.... What I learned at the end of it all?

Relationships matter.

In my career as a "dental supply salesman" I learned ALL THE OTHER THINGS matter MORE than just the cost of supplies. There are SO MANY ways a "full service" company pays it's way at a clinic.  Many of those reasons are the same reasons your patient should NOT go to a foreign country to get the work done - the same places you MAY JUST BE sourcing some of your supplies from....

They talk about the "business of dentistry" and SOME reps get it...others only deliver donuts and another nickle off cotton rolls. The MAJORITY of reps, like the MAJORITY of dentists do not compromise quality for the end result.

Forget the "Big Company". To me the company I work for NEEDS to supply the products I want to my friends. I NEED certain things...competitive pricing, access to the highest quality materials, education on materials, overnight delivery, the ability to help my customers when their equipment isn't working.

On my own, I supply the local CE courses (subsidized by Schein). We provide support for charitable ventures. I appraise clinics, I understand the business very well. I am the local resource for dentists that are graduating and looking for places to work. The resource for RDA, Hygienist, Denturists, Associates - you name it!

When you ask most reps what they do, do they say sell dental supplies?

Personally I help advance the profession. I work to encourage others to pursue an education in dentistry, dental assisting, hygiene, dental lab. From there I help them advance their careers with opportunities to work at well established clinics. I help those clinics from the conception, through set up, leasing, purchasing, associate contracts and placements. I help clinics with practice managment, human resources, manage supply costs. Train new products, techniques. Offer CE. My network includes the captains of the industry. The disruptors. A large and influential educational network. My career has started and ended as a lifetime member of the majority of clinics I work with.

I get paid to sell cotton rolls - and my customers pay maybe 6% of their overhead to have my FULL SUPPORT on their team.

Where do you think you get your cheapest dental product from?

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