Unbranded: The case for alternate dental supplies

In your life outside the practice, you’re constantly confronted with the choice between name brands and alternate brands — from orange juice to cough syrup to tissues to appliances. While you could pay less for one carton of 100 percent juice than you’d pay for another, the idea that you should get “the best” for your sick spouse at home likely sways your choice.

Whether you’d consider that “other” carton generic, private label, house brand or alternate, the difference may be more in your perception than in the product. How much does your perception of quality and value factor into your purchasing decisions? And what steps can you take to determine the best selections, both for your home and dental office?

Many practices turned to alternate-brand dental supplies during the economic downturn. When they found better per-unit pricing for disposables and infection control products and were satisfied with the quality, they began exploring alternatives for other product categories. At the same time, alternate brands were seeking to enhance their products’ packaging and usability to better compete on the shelves. Now, the selection of high-quality, lower-cost dental supplies is broader than ever.

At tdsc.com, a site built to deliver dental supply savings to CDA members, the online catalog features 25,000-plus products — a wide range of popular brand-name favorites and alternatives. Shoppers can use a “compare” tool to quickly evaluate similar products’ prices and features.

"Not all alternate brands are created equal,” notes Ashley Reich, the site’s e-commerce category manager. “However, we carry many products that are apples-to-apples in terms of ingredients and function while beating brand-name prices." 

For example, a package of brand-name color-changing sterilization pouches that retails for $16.95 is only $9.83 at tdsc.com; however, the site’s alternate option — in the same size and made of the same indicator material — is $4.99 per package. Choosing the materially equivalent alternate option brings the per-unit price down from 4.9 cents to 2.5 cents.

When calculating the price difference between equivalent products, be sure to do so on a per-unit basis — and don’t assume that the highest savings percentage will always be on the largest number of units. Because tdsc.com only carries products from vetted vendors that offer both brand-name and alternate products, it’s easy for shoppers to explore the catalog and make side-by-side comparisons.

Of course, price alone isn’t the deciding factor. Just as you’d scrutinize your purchase of alternate-brand cough syrup more than you would tissues, take a look at active ingredients and product specifications. Start with trusted suppliers and solicit feedback from your peers to learn firsthand about the products they’ve successfully substituted.

Your supply list should continue to iterate and evolve, reflecting innovative products and competitive alternates, as well as new practice protocols, procedures and preferences. Assess your supplies on a regular basis and be open to trying new products.

To compare prices and product details for a broad selection of dental supplies from authorized vendors, visit tdsc.com.

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Searching for better prices can seem like a daunting process, even with the convenience of 24/7 shopping sites in place of brick-and-mortar stores or paper catalogs. How can you efficiently evaluate your ordering and find ways to save? Ask an expert to do it for you. CDA’s newest subsidiary, TDSC, an online source for dental supplies, has a team that will research and compare prices for members through a no-cost, no-obligation service.