Dental Practices Can’t Upsell – Can They?
by Julie Weishaar
February 15, 2023
dental practices upselling

Not all Dental Practices are created equal, and not all provide the same services.

When most people think of going to the dentist, they think about getting their teeth cleaned and cavities filled, and when one is a little older, crowns and root canals also come to mind.

These essential preventative and restorative dental services are usually covered by dental insurance, such as Costco dental insurance.

Then there are tooth extractions, and gum surgeries, which some dental offices do within their practice and don’t require the patient to visit a specialist often recommended by their “regular” dentist.

Cosmetic dental services, such as teeth whitening, veneers, and smile makeovers, are becoming very popular.

They often cost a pretty penny and are usually not covered by dental insurance companies.

I am not a dentist and have not checked the prices of these cosmetic dentistry services.

Upselling Opportunities

But if I were to venture a guess, I would assume they are pretty costly and bring in excellent revenue for the dentist providing the services.

Those dental practices that provide preventative, restorative, and cosmetic dental services have an opportunity to upsell the cosmetic services – an opportunity of which they might not even be aware.

Consider the Following Scenario

Janice had just moved into town and become friends with Alice next door.

Alice recommends Doctor Smith for Janice and her family to use for their family dental needs because she really likes Doctor Smith.

Janice takes her family to visit Doctor Smith, and everyone is happy.

One day Alice meets Janice in the supermarket and is pleased to show off her new veneers.

Janice is impressed and decides she wants to get veneers, too, so she asks Alice where she got hers.

Alice tells her that Doctor Armstrong in the next town over does a great job and is reasonably priced.

Janice visits Doctor Armstrong, gets her veneers, and everyone is happy, except Doctor Smith when he sees Janice and Alice at their next annual dental checkup.

Doctor Smith also provides veneer services, so why would two of his patients go elsewhere to get their veneers?

Ensure Your Current Clients Know About Your Other Offerings

Janice and Alice were surprised to hear that Doctor Smith also provided these cosmetic dental services.

Doctor Smith explains that this information is readily available on his website.

The problem, of course, is that neither Janice nor Alice had ever visited Doctor Smith’s website.

Why should they have? Janice didn’t need it because she chose Doctor Smith based on a personal recommendation from Alice.

Alice chose Doctor Smith based on a personal recommendation from her sister-in-law.

Doctor Smith’s fatal flaw was that he assumed his current patients knew about all the services his dental practice provided.

This assumption caused him to lose at least two, more than likely much more, sales.

Missed Opportunity

He did not realize that he could upsell his services to current patients.

It has been said that it costs six times as much to get a new customer (or, in this case, a patient) as it does to upsell a current one.

This is especially true in this scenario, where people learn to trust their dentists and develop a personal relationship with them.

Dentists have a captive audience and a loyal patient base from which to reach.

Doctor Smith would be doing himself a favor by sending periodic email newsletters containing valuable information to his patients.

He can also highlight some of his other services to make them aware of all of his offerings.

Not everyone likes to receive emails, but that issue is solved quickly because Doctor Smith must comply with the legal requirements of providing an opt-out clause.

Assuming that current clients or patients know what all your offerings are because they are listed on your website can be the cause of many lost sales.

Don’t Forget About SEO

Another vital role for dental practices is to pay attention to their website SEO.

Most dental practices ignore three crucial SEO components: technical SEO, local optimization, and gaining inbound links.

Videos are another powerful element of your dental practice’s SEO plan. Use every tool available to be sure current clients (as well as prospective ones) know about all the services you offer.

Originally published April 9, 2011. Republished February 15, 2023 to update content.

Dental Practices Can’t Upsell – Can They?

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  1. Catarina Alexon

    Dentists should definitely send newsletters to their patients. If not, what happened to the dentist in your story can easily happen.

    By the way, my brother in law is in charge of dental education in Sweden and according to him, most tecniques for whitening your teeth will gradually ruin the enamel. So be careful what you do unless you are prepared to get a new set of teeth when you get older.

  2. Keyuri Joshi

    Curiously, I never receive emails or newsletters from my dentist. Instead, the group has brochures and hardcover books in their waiting room explaining their services. Then, when you get in the chair, there is a TV on mute which outlines additional services. I always ask them to change it to the Food Network!
    Julie, your point is well taken about letting clients know the breadth of services. It seems like a no-brainer but many are guilty of it… Hmmm, I better take a look at what I’m doing!

  3. Julie Weishaar

    Hi Keyuri, that is probably because your dentist knows you do NOT like emails 🙂 The brochures and hardcover books are a must in a waiting room – in my opinion – except if there are other more interesting things to read! LOL about asking them to change it to the food network – do they? Sometimes things that seem so obvious are actually overlooked right?

  4. Susan Oakes

    I would have to say on a sample of 1 (me) I would not be interested in receiving emails from my dentist. The thing about dentist, physios and others who have primarily face to face encounters with their patients or clients is that they have their attention when they meet. It is the perfect opportunity not only to discuss but to provide samples or information.

    The move to cosmetic dentistry has been happening for a while and I don’t know about America but in Australia with fluoride in the water the number of cavities have fallen dramatically and you are right cosmetic dentistry is a money winner.

  5. Sherryl Perry

    I agree with Susan that the best time for my dentist to educate me about his services is when I’m actually in his office. I agree with Keyuri that I would not want to watch their advertising while in the chair. To me, when I’m waiting to check out, that’s the best place to reach me with marketing materials on the counter. I think the lesson to be learned here is that there’s no one best way to reach everyone and that you need a variety of marketing tactics. Thanks for the reminder Julie.

  6. Julie Weishaar

    @ Susan: I am with you actually – I don’t want emails from my dentist either (especially since I am WAY overdue for a visit). The point here as I am sure you are aware – is that to ASSUME that your patients/customers know about all your offerings specifically because you have them posted on your website is not a good assumption 🙂 You are right on target that the time to get our attention is when you are face to face or when your mouth is full of all their “stuff”. Funny story to share. When I was in High School, I was in the musicals. So I am sitting in the dentist chair, mouth full of dentist “stuff”, and my dentist says “So, I hear you are a thespian”. Can you just picture my reaction not having known prior to this what that word meant? LOL

    @Sherryl. Ditto – when sitting in the dentist chair, the last thing I want to watch is anything about dentistry – in case you can’t tell, I hate going to the dentist 🙂 Yes – that is the lesson AND that having information on one’s website does not mean that everyone has seen it.

    Thanks ladies for your comments!

  7. Susan Oakes

    Glad you didn’t bite fingers when he asked you Julie.

  8. Dana

    At minimum, the dentist should provide the flyer about their service if not the newsletter.

  9. Julie Weishaar

    Hi Dana,

    I agree – relying solely on having their services on their website is not a wise business decision. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  10. Julie Weishaar

    Hi Tammy, You know what they say about when we “assume” right? 🙂 Good point about Facebook – I think we forget that unless we are sending our “message” to someone’s as a message (and often even then) – statuses come and go above the fold in FB – and are included with so many others – oftentimes our messages are not seen – even by people we are friends with off of FB.

  11. TK Goforth

    Hi Julie! This is a good one! I have not done the newsletter thing yet, and that’s something that I am working toward. It’s funny how much a person assumes that others know what you are “into”, since we are posting it all the time on facebook, etc… However, I very often have friends ask how I can get ahold of my product, etc. Something I will be seriously looking into the next few weeks. Thanks again for the reminder!

  12. Cheryl

    As a dental patient and as someone who has spent many years working in dental practices the best place to market your services to patients is while they are present with you. I still think practices need to have web sites that contain all the information for those times when I want to know more about a service before I actually talk to them about them. Just my 2 cents… 🙂

  13. Julie

    Thanks for yoru “2 cents” @Cheryl 🙂


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