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Find a Fair Fee

business communication compensation data mindset practice financials/metrics team verbal skills Dec 09, 2022

It’s so easy to get caught up in the grind, working day after day, only to realize that come payday, the money you make is less than the effort you’ve put in. So many factors influence profitability, and one of the most common ones I come across is that you aren’t setting your fees correctly. Your fees are so important to your dental practice, but practice owners often don’t think about why a fee is what it is. There are many components that play a role in establishing a fee, and it’s important to consider them all. Don’t do it the way everyone else does it—do it the right way.

Get Your Mindset Right

When I start working with a client, one of the first questions I ask is, “How do you set your fees?” When the response is along the lines of “I don’t know,” then I know what the problem is. There’s this inherent problem with fee structures in which we don’t look at what it actually costs to provide that service to the patient, choosing instead to pick a fee out of the air. There are many factors to consider when setting your fee, such as the:

  • Materials
  • Technology
  • Team’s expertise

It’s critical to make sure you account for them, because otherwise you’re undervaluing the work you do. Like Kirk says, it’s about creating value for the patients by putting “a fee to it that helps your business be profitable, you feel good about it, and appropriately matches your expertise.” 

Back it up with Data

But how do you make that happen? Arbitrarily raise your fees until you think they’re high enough? Of course not—your fees still need to be fair, so use statistics to back them up. We like to use the National Dental Advisory Service Fee Report Book because it provides such great information. It’s a phenomenal resource for checking the average fees in your area—you just plug in your zip code, and it shows every ADA code with a range of fees from the 40th percentile all the way to the 95th percentile. See how your fees compare, ask yourself where you want to be on that scale, and think about what you can do to reach that point. 

Let’s say your crown fee is in the 40th percentile at $900, and you want to get it up to the 60th percentile. That means increasing it to $1,199, but can you just do that outright? I would say go for it because it’s what we call a “flexible fee.” A flexible fee is one that a patient doesn’t regularly see, so you have more room to make a tangible difference and increase the impact it has on your practice. On the other hand, an inflexible fee is one that a patient regularly sees, such as for a cleaning every six months. With those, you must be careful about increasing the fee, because that can make a big difference for the patient. 

It's a Team Effort

Bear in mind that changing your fees isn’t something that just happens—there are steps, and they involve your team. The first thing you want to do is put a date on the calendar for a team meeting, because your team needs to know what you’re going to do, and why. They need to be behind you, because when you raise your fees, what’s ultimately going to happen is the patient will ask a team member why. Give them the tools to move forward with confidence, because, like Kirk says, “When your team members are fearful, it’s being translated.” They need to be able to use verbal skills to create value, because it's not something the patient inherently sees. For example, they don’t know what a beautiful crown is supposed to look like, so your team should explain that because of the high quality of materials and the scanner you used, it’s going to look more natural, feel better, and last longer. However, those benefits have a price that’s reflected in the fee increase. The key is to present it before they sell it, like describing a meal at a restaurant to a customer. 

It's likely you’ll meet resistance from patients when you raise your fees, but if you plan ahead, it’s easier to handle it. I recommend writing your top 10-15 procedures on index cards, and then jotting down the top three benefits for that procedure on the back. Not only will this equip your team to explain why the procedures are important, but it will also ensure that they’re all aligned with the same responses. The patient will probably talk to multiple people about it, so it's crucial that they hear the same thing from each person. 

One of the biggest challenges I see with our clients is that they don’t know what their fee schedule is or when they last touched it. This isn’t a “set it and forget it” situation—you need to regularly have team meetings to discuss your fees. I recommend having a discussion every six months just so everyone is up to date. It doesn’t mean you’re going to raise your fees twice a year, but it’s good to pause and see how the fees are playing into your business plan so you can make adjustments as needed. 


Our clients always think that if they raise their fees everyone will say no, but most patients don’t run away when you raise your fees. You can’t let the fear of a potential response push you into inaction; you need to trust in yourself and your team to do what’s right for the practice. Because this is such a crucial component to your practice, it’s important to get it right. It’s also a complex matter, so if you’re struggling to understand it, don’t try to do it on your own. Schedule a call with the ACT team and let our coaches help! You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and the work you do is valuable, so don’t let improper fees keep you from having a Better Practice, and a Better Life! 

Christina Byrne is the Director of Operations at ACT Dental

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